The Workspace Program aims to provide a contemporary computing environment, including end user desktop devices and a foundation that supports the ANU 2020 vision. This environment will be an enabling platform for staff and students in pursuit of excellence in teaching, learning and research.
The ANU IT environment is a hybrid model and is managed by Information Technology Services (ITS) and local IT staff within the various Colleges and Schools. The current state of the ANU desktop environment has highlighted the need for improved processes and tools to manage future desktop refresh cycles, development of a managed operating environment, improved application management and deployment as well as robust asset management.
ANU established an initial project in 2013 to address these various challenges. This early attempt focussed on desktop refreshes from older outdated operating systems and relied heavily on third party providers for all components of the work. A business case describing a new vision and approach for the strategic lifecycle management for desktop and laptop computers for the University was developed in 2014. It was endorsed by the University Information and Communications Technology (UICT) Governance Committee on 13 October 2014. This is known as the Workspace Program, a major transformation program, comprising both discrete and interdependent projects and is anticipated to be delivered in a phased approach over 2 to 3 years.
Key objectives of the Workspace Program can be summarised as:
- providing an enhanced desktop computing experience for the end user to facilitate teaching, learning and research outcomes
- providing services, tools and processes for the provision and maintenance of a Managed Operating Environment (MOE), including application management, for each of the Windows, Mac and Linux platforms
- providing financial savings through coordinated approaches to full lifecycle (end to end) computer hardware and software licencing procurement and associated support practices;
- having accurate and timely desktop computing asset data
- developing a flexible support model, including relevant policies, procedures and processes to support the diverse range of administration, technical and academic requirements across the University.
- improved and flexible desktop computing experience
- reduced IT environment complexity
- improved asset and licence management
- better adherence to standards, and legal and regulatory obligations
- more opportunities for value-added services
- financial savings through streamlined purchasing and process efficiencies.
Below are the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to the Workspace Program:
Q. Many expensive instruments run only on proprietary or specific software, which is not often updated to run on the latest operating system, or may be undesirable (not fully compatible/less useful/more expensive) if so, would these machines be exempt from Workspace project?
A. The Program is only focusing on end user computing hardware such as desktops and laptops that staff and students uses on a daily computing basis. Equipment which is dedicated to operate research equipment is not included in this Program. However, staff should check with their local IT support staff to ensure there are no other support factors which need to be taken into consideration.
Q. I'm a researcher in the Science Colleges, how does this affect me?
A. As the University moves forward with the Workspace Program there will be a need for interaction with researchers and research machines to allow hardware and software status to be collected. This will enable the University to manage its computer lifecycle and to be able to make sound business decisions based on accurate data about ANU hardware and software assets. Exemptions will be allowed where there is a risk of the agent interrupting the research workflow. Alternative provision of software and hardware data through a manual process may be required for these types of machines.
Q. Is the replacement and update schedule negotiable so as not to interfere with major projects?
A. The asset lifecycle policy has not yet been developed. However, it is envisaged that end user computing hardware used on a daily basis would be refreshed on a regular basis. Equipment which is dedicated to operate research equipment is not included in this Program, and would be refreshed on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Can older versions of software be retained where desirable?
A. Older versions of software are generally no longer supported by the vendor, often with no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates for them. In many situations, older versions of software cannot operate on current hardware platforms. Wherever possible, the University aims to minimise its exposure to unsupported software. However, for a demonstrated business, research, or academic requirement that an older version needs to be retained, then there are options of minimising the University’s exposure. These range from working in a virtual machine through to isolating the machine exposure to the Internet/Campus Network.
Q. Are we going to be prevented from using older machines (eg, privately-purchased machines of visitors and retirees connecting to the ANU intranet?)
A. The University encourages users of all personal computer equipment connecting to the campus network to secure their personal devices. These measures range from physical security (adding PINs to smartphones and tablets) through to keeping systems and software up to date. The University hosts update servers for both Microsoft and Apple OSX operating systems and software as well as Sophos anti-virus software—available for Microsoft Windows, Apple OSX and Linux/Unix—free of charge for all personal computers, including home computers. Wherever possible, the University aims to minimise its exposure to unsupported devices. Personal unsupported devices may be prevented from connecting to the Internet/Campus Network.
Q. What is the point of having Desktop Standards ?
A. The standards were developed balancing the University desire to advance its overall information technology capabilities and a need to preserve existing investments in information technology. The University offers support of several platforms in the University, and having a list of standards will help in the setup and compatibility with other systems and applications and the ongoing support requirements. See https://services.anu.edu.au/information-technology/software-systems/end-user-computer-hardware-standards for more information.
Q. What about Macs and Surface Pros?
A. The Workspace Program is developing standard offerings for Macs and Surface Pros. These will be available for purchase via the Service Desk in Q3 2016. Due to the limited demand of these items and the frequency of changes to models and internal components, no stock will be kept on campus. The expected delivery times for these items are between 5 and 10 business days on approved orders.