IG15 Conference review

by Karl Grocock, Technology Operations Manager, University of Leeds

IG15 was opened with a Welcome from John Cartwright (UCISA Exec Chair and Director of Computing Services, University of Liverpool), outlining how the changing environment of HE is having a real impact on infrastructure:

  • How there is increased pressure on funding, needing to be both more efficient and effective with innovative solutions.
  • How this also presents opportunities for the infrastructure teams through the procurement, implementation and retirement of the infrastructure.

He went on to suggest that the pace of change is not fast enough in the sector, and that we now need to be more agile. The keynote speaker, Alison Vincent, CTO, UK&I, Cisco Systems Ltd, outlined why Every institution should have a Hybrid Cloud Strategy. As well as aligning more closely with the business, she also highlighted that shadow cloud is rampant and insecure, and that 93% of cloud access is unknown to IT (October 2014 survey).

She added that the IT role has to become more of a broker and orchestrator, better understanding of what can be set free, and what needs control.

The Conference then split for breakout sessions with presentations covering research data, network performance as well as an infrastructure road trip! Already Twitter traffic from the morning sessions showed just how useful delegates found the sessions. The exhibition was also open and was very well attended throughout the Conference.

After lunch in the exhibition, we had the first two supplier showcases. Hitachi Data Systems provided a view of archive services for research data highlighting that metadata bridges the gap between infrastructure and information, this being the most important metric element of the next 20–30 years. The second session was from NetApp with The Data Fabric: transforming the management of data which echoed the importance of metadata in data management.

Next were more breakout sessions, the only downside being that delegates had to make the difficult choice of which one to attend!

The penultimate session was from Iain Fiddes, UCISA IG Vice Chair, who outlined what the UCISA Infrastructure Group is all about, which is quite simply to develop best practice and information sharing across the sector.

The last session was the excellent Infrastructure Question Time hosted by the inimitable Adrian Ellison. With a varied and informed panel, delegates had an engaging and enjoyable final session.

Day one was concluded with a drinks reception and an exceptional dinner with plenty of opportunities for delegates to network.  

 ABOVE: Karl Grocock 

Day two commenced with a presentation from UCAS who outlined their new operation. They see themselves as a truly digital business, providing learners with an ecosystem of interactive applications and services, and also aiming to give providers the best possible experience.

Jim Roche, Lenovo, told delegates how the main issues with research computing are storage, data management and cost efficiency. This presentation was followed by Anna Shipman from the Cabinet Office who gave an engaging presentation on the work of the Government Digital Service, starting with an overview of gov.uk and what they have been doing, their agile approach to development and their aim of commonality across sites.

After two supplier showcases from Q Associates and Siemon we had a session from Amanda Ferguson, Infrastructure Services manager at Nottingham Trent. Amanda showed us that although it will be automated and hybrid the future will also be cloudy! Key takeaway was to make sure that the infrastructure team is ready, and if they’re in the Change House to try and keep them out of the Cellar of Despair!

Paula Vickers, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director of IT at Middlesex University, then told delegates of her journey to the cloud, demonstrating that having all services in the cloud can work.

Finally, Milind Govekar, Managing VP of IT Operations at Gartner UK, concluded the formal presentations with a view of the future for infrastructure teams, and how half of the audience will be working in a digital enterprise… with the other half playing catch-up!

Dave Thornley, UCISA IG Chair wrapped up IG15, reflecting on what had been a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating conference and also took a final opportunity to thank all of those involved in its planning.

The Conference presentations and webcast recordings are available for review on the UCISA website

A lively debate and commentary on the Conference is available on Twitter using hashtag #igconf15