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March 21, 2011

Virtualisation and the cloud - the Eduserv Symposium 2011

In my last post I mentioned that there was a 'Cloud solutions: risk or reward?' session at the recent JISC Conference in Liverpool. You can watch the three presentations that were made as part of that session by visiting the conference website: Paul Watson (Professor of Computer Science, University of Newcastle) giving a nice overview of work they have been doing to allow non-technical people to use cloud infrastructure more easily; Phil Richards (University of Loughborough) talking about the recent work that Loughborough have been doing with Logicalis; and Henry Hughes (Strategic Programmes Manager, JANET(UK)) talking about the new JANET cloud brokerage service.

Cloud infrastructure is clearly one of the big topics for academia in the UK this year, not least because of the recent UMF funding announcement from HEFCE/JISC (of which the JANET brokerage service (above) is a part). As a result, this particular JISC Conference session came hot on the heels of various other 'cloud' university events including one organised by UCISA that I reported on recently. What struck me while watching it was that we have rapidly reached the point where people are up to speed with the general principles of cloud infrastructure. We don't need too many more 'What is the cloud?' type sessions. What we do need are more sessions that get into the detail of cloud infrastructure, how it might be delivered and consumed in the context of academia, what business models are going to be sustainable, and so on.

This was quite a sobering thought for me personally because I'm currently in the closing stages of organising this year's annual Eduserv Symposium, an event that will focus on - yes, you guessed it - the provision of cloud infrastructure. That said, I think we have a pretty good line-up of speakers - see the symposium website for details - including an opening keynote from Simon Wardley (previously of Canonical and now at Leading Edge Forum) and talks by Chris Cobb (Pro Vice Chancellor, Roehampton University), Phil Richards (Director of IT, Loughborough University) and Kenji Takeda (Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton). I'm also pleased to say that our closing keynote will be given by Armando Fox, Adjunct Associate Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, UC Berkeley, who was one of the authors of the influential position paper, Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing [PDF].

As with last year, we'll start the afternoon session with a set of short 'lightning talks', this time covering what JANET, the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) and ourselves are doing as part of the UMF programme (given by Dan Perry, Kevin Ashley and Matt Johnson).

We have a stated set of aims for the symposium, namely that it will allow people to:

  • hear about the latest developments in the University Modernisation Fund (UMF) shared services in cloud computing infrastructure programme;
  • understand the strategic role of virtualisation and the cloud in the delivery of shared IT services;
  • find out about current and future directions in the provision of cloud solutions for compute and storage, both within academia and beyond;
  • cover the issues and challenges associated with these approaches and their impact on efficiency and cost effectiveness;
  • listen to practical experiences from institutions already workingin the area; and
  • network with peers who have a shared interest in these issues.

I'm really hopeful that the symposium will help us begin to move this debate forward, to inform Eduserv's thinking as we begin ro roll out cloud services, and to help shape the wider UMF programme. I appreciate that it is difficult to get concrete stuff out of a day like this but (as always) I'm really looking forward to it and think we have the makings of a great day.

The event is free to delegates and we have plenty of room. If you are interested in this area and want to get a good handle on what is going on, please sign up via the website. Oh, and we have a drinks reception afterwards which always helps with the networking!

Addendum: I very pleased to report that Terry Harmer (Co-Principal Investigator, Belfast eScience Centre) has also agreed to speak.

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