Australian university reaps agility in IT overhaul

Upgrading and configuring some 6,500 desktops later this year will finalize the University of Adelaide’s A$2 million (US$1.48 million) IT transformation project aimed at unifying its disparate infrastructure.

Martin Barbary, the university’s strategic initiatives manager, told Computerworld the organization’s IT architecture has been changing for the past two years and involved everything from back-end systems to identity management.

“We have a desktop SOE and will enforce that, but a lot of it is about the meta-directory implementation and consolidated security,” Barbary said. “We will have same sign-on but not necessarily single sign-on.”

The PeopleSoft student administration system will remain as the “master, unique identifier” for everyone at the university and data will flow through a meta-directory to a “multitude of systems”.

Novell’s Nsure and eDirectory products will be used but NetWare will be dropped and Microsoft’s Active Directory will become the main directory server.

“We will still use [Novell’s] Zenworks to make management of clients easier, but people will start authenticating against Active Directory,” Barbary said, adding the Novell systems will be swapped to a NAS environment. “We purchased an EMC NAS after a full evaluation. This backs onto the EMC SANs.”

The last significant project remaining is the desktop refresh, slated to begin in the second half of the year. This will see about 80 per cent of all desktops upgraded to Windows XP and the remaining 20 per cent split between Mac OS X and Linux.

“We will support Macs and Linux as part of new environment we are putting in and there are very good business reasons to retain those environments,” Barbary said, adding that the benefits for an organization aren’t achieved if you use only one operating system.

Thin clients were considered, but the university didn’t see them offering a “huge number” of benefits though Barbary said the environment being set up could easily switch to thin clients.

“It’s a very comprehensive change of lots of underlying technology,” he said. “It’s a very complex environment we have with hundreds of applications [and] it takes a huge number of hours to coordinate that. We started the centralization process about three years ago, so support is now central.”

Rather than using a large integration partner, the university is working with several – including Commander and Kaz – for various tasks.

“We’re using expertise in the local marketplace for Linux,” Barbary said. “Commander and Kaz also have quite a bit of Linux and Mac experience; Commander is doing the Nsure implementation.”

Barbary said the desktop rollout is just “one advantage” of what the transformation project will achieve.

“Setting the right strategy for the organization is the main deliverable,” he said.