Universities Modernisation Fund
Shared Services and the Cloud Programme
In February 2011, HEFCE provided £12.5 million of funding to enable universities and colleges to gain efficiencies and perform better through shared services and cloud computing.
The University Modernisation Fund Shared Services and the Cloud Programme, managed by JISC, completed its investment in March 2012. It has since received a further sustainability fund until March 2013. This updated briefing paper provides an overview of the services and support that now exist through the programme: their progress, benefits, and links to further information.
What is ‘the cloud’ and why is it good for the sector?
Cloud computing delivers to institutions a broad range of virtual resources, including shared services with others, at a fraction of the cost of designing, building and managing their own locally. It also allows users to collaborate on joint projects.
There are three major services provided by the cloud. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides access to virtual servers, data storage and computing power. Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides virtual tools for users to develop and host their own applications. Software as a Service (SaaS) provides end-user (eg student) access to applications online.
JISC’s programmes cover these three services, with projects geared to supporting research, learning and teaching, and providing cloud-based interoperability between institutions.
As cloud computing becomes a more reliable and secure solution, it is emerging as a powerful ally at a time when institutions are facing unparalleled demands to provide the highest quality student experience, be ever more cost efficient, deliver world-class research, and perform well on a highly competitive global stage. Against these challenges, and when compared to in-house investment and capability, cloud computing can deliver:
Significantly more computing power with potential long-term cost benefits
Access to proven, high-quality hardware, software and systems, and their ongoing update and maintenance
Shared services for administrative functions that can be potentially more effective and cheaper
What’s in the UMF Shared Services and the Cloud Programme?
The programme is providing cloud services and support under two main activity areas: shared IT infrastructure and shared services for administration.
Shared IT infrastructure:
Shared Services for administration:
The creation and maintenance of an ‘Enterprise Service Bus’ (ESB) within the cloud that can connect cloud-hosted applications to systems hosted within institutions. Delivered through JISC Advance Nexus , the ESB platform has been selected and built, and is in production at the University of London Computer Centre.
A specialist JISC Advance team to support institutions in procuring cloud-based administrative services.
is an initiative offering three key, and interlinked, cloud services: IT procurement, an integration service based on the use of an Enterprise Service Bus (see above), and contract management of the RMAS framework agreement. The service is in place and able to offer institutions a strong value proposition relating to improved efficiencies and reduced costs.
A research management and administration service (RMAS) that provides cloud-based modules to support universities’ research programmes.
The RMAS project
delivers efficiency savings by allowing institutions to integrate existing systems with new RMAS modules hosted in a secure and trusted HE
cloud. The RMAS procurement frameworks are now in place, with suppliers selected, approved and on board. The procurement service provides a fully compliant alternative to the OJEU process, enabling faster, easier and cheaper procurement for institutions.
Support for electronic resource management, including the management of licensing information. Knowledge Base+
is a shared UK academic knowledge base service. It is due for deployment in the summer of 2012, and already has verified lists for 30 publishers covering 12,000 titles, including core journals subscribed to by the academic community. The database will cover all ‘subscribed resources’ from a higher education perspective. That includes publication information, holdings and rights, subscription management, organisations, licences and evidence such as usage statistics across all UK academic libraries.
A service for the secure distribution of electronic documents, including the HEAR (Higher Education Activity Report).
Due to launch in summer 2012, Project DARE
will provide a system for the secure online delivery of degree certificates, transcripts, Higher Education Achievement Reports and other student data and documents. The service provides significant cost, time and resource savings by automating the current paper-based process.
Next steps for institutions interested in JISC’s cloud activities
Further information on the UMF Shared Services and the Cloud Programme can be found on our website.
Institutions interested in procuring administrative systems or making use of the national ESB should contact JISC Advance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Institutions with a need to refresh or replace a datacentre should contact the JANET Brokerage at email@example.com.
Links to further information
The JISC-funded Digital Curation Centre is working in depth with selected institutions to develop skills and capacity for research data management services.
'Cloud computing increasingly attractive to universities', JISC news report.
Using cloud computing for research: introduction, briefing paper, report and project plan.
JISC’s Flexible Service Delivery programme provides broader guidance on effective practice in service delivery, including the use of the cloud and shared services.
The Research infrastructure programme supports institutions with the development of research-oriented applications and services within HE shared infrastructures.
InfraNET is a European Commission funded programme to support integration between e-infrastructures in different countries, and lead the harmonisation and coordination of various national efforts.