[LINK] ICT Predictions 2009

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Fri Jan 9 09:18:44 AEDT 2009

At 10:39 AM 6/01/2009, Bernard Robertson-Dunn wrote:
>Tom Worthington wrote:
>>  ... will reduce the number of servers  needed  ... government 
>> data centre space the Gershon Report found in Canberra, will be 
>> reduced to about 100m2. ...
>I find this hard to agree with. IT budgets typically have 50-80% 
>spend on just maintaining existing
>systems. ...

Apart from data centre consolidation, another Gershon recommendation 
was to cut the ICT budgets to get agencies out of the "business as 
usual" way of working. Agencies will then be forced to think about 
new ways to do things, such as consolidated servers.

>... The effort to rejig existing systems would have to come at the 
>cost of new system
>development or increased IT budget, neither of which makes sense in
>terms of return on investment or departmental priorities. ...

The idea is to impose government priorities, which may differ from 
those of individual agencies. Left to their own devices the agencies 
will want to spend more, saying that everything they already do is 
essential and they can't afford to change how they do it.

I suspect that the cost of maintaining an assortment of old equipment 
is high compared to the replacement cost. One anecdote told by Mark 
Monroe, Director of Sustainable Computing for Sun Microsystems at his 
ACS talk in Canberra 12th August 2008 
was about a supercomputer which was found in a Sun data centre in the 
USA. The obsolete high power consuming machine was found to now only 
be running a web server and was replaced with a small box.

We could also have some "Business process improvement" 
<http://tomw.net.au/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=261> which could 
see money saved elsewhere by better use of ICT. As an example, in 
university libraries I see copies of government reports being thrown 
away. The system seems to be that government agencies pay to have 
reports typeset for high quality printing. They then pay to have 
copies printed and sent out. Publicly funded libraries then pay 
someone to take the received reports out of the envelopes and throw 
them away. The librarians then direct researchers to the electronic 
copies of the reports on the agency web site. The library pays the 
cost of the researchers downloading download large, poorly formatted 
PDF versions of the reports (the agency also pays extra for serving 
up the bloated PDF files).

Apart from appealing to the vanity of agency heads, the typeset 
reports have not value. It would seem to make a lot more sense to 
format the reports for efficient on-line reading and just print a few 
readable, but not pretty, copies for those people who really need them.

>In addition, the skill sets required to completely change the 
>IT  infrastructure do not exist in current IT departments.

The impediment to changing the infrastructure is not a lack of skill, 
but a lack of will. Setting up virtual machines so fewer servers are 
needed is something they teach at TAFE 

>I predict that the realities of IT system management along with 
>pragmatic cost/benefit studies will trump any ideological 
>requirement to make major changes to existing data centres. ...

I predict that the reality that the budget is not there to keep 
wasting money will impose change. This might require some people to 
give up their little IT empires.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University  

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