Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Datacenter Dynamics: 20-21 November 2013

Tomorrow I'm heading to London to the Datacentre Dynamics Conference and Expo at EXCEL.

I'll be presenting a case study - The University of St Andrews Data Center Consolidation and Virtualisation Project. 

My presentation will cover:
  • some background about the University of St Andrews (located in a small fishing village in NE Fife!);
  • the challenges I inherited back in 2010;
  • how we've delivered our transformation agenda and ICT vision;
  • BYOD ecosystem;
  • our data centre build project
  • and what we've achieved and how we measure success

The agenda for the day is packed - and look forward to hearing from a wide variety of industry experts. 


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gartner Data Centre Summit 2013

I am delighted to be delivering an end user case study entitled "Transforming IT at the 600 Year Old University of St Andrews" at the 2013 Gartner Data Centre Summit in London on November 26th this year.

In this session I will look at our journey over the last three years and how our data centre has played a key part in underpinning the transformation. I will also look at how both server and network virtualisation has improved the resilience, efficiency and availability of core systems and services.

Full details of the event can be found here  http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/emea/data-center/

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Please support Action for Children - sponsor me!

Did you know that each year in the UK:

§  100,000 young people are homeless

§  1 in 3 young people will attempt to take their own life

§  1 in 7 young people will be sexually abused

On Friday night (4th October) I’m taking part in Byte Night to raise much needed funds for Action for Children - a charity who supports and speaks out for the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected children and young people.  Action for Children helps to prevent youth homelessness through early intervention by ensuring that young people across the UK are given the support they need before it's too late.

On 4th October I’ll be ‘sleeping rough’  to raise awareness and funds for this great cause. 

Byte Night is the IT industry's annual sleep out in support of Action for Children. Each year hundreds of individuals and teams (including a team from ITS) from across the technology and business community spend a night exposed to the elements in a bid to raise sponsorship and awareness of Action for Children's work to help prevent youth homelessness.

So, the purpose of my blog is to ask you to sponsor me - PLEASE!    Overall, the events across the country hope to raise £1m.  

To sponsor me, please go to our fundraising page: 

To find out more about Byte Night and the work of Action for Children, please go to:

Many thanks in advance for your support


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Virtualisation and Consolidation

One of the larger projects my team and I are involved in at present is one to consolidate the University's IT estate. Like any large organisation the dependency on IT has never been greater and around the clock availability of key systems is now an expectation (but not always a reality - see my blog post re. Outages!). With many buildings and a wide range of servers our aim is to consolidate as much as possible and reduce the distribution of servers and storage serving users across the campus.
Being a University we will always have an elements of distributed equipment however where it makes economic sense to do so we will aim to provide the service centrally. Good examples of this are systems such as email, authentication, storage, network services, telephony, etc.

Not only are we reducing energy consumption but we are also reducing our carbon output. I was recently interviewed by Graeme Burton of Computing and the article was published in this weeks Computing and can be found at http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/feature/2291483/driving-down-costs-and-carbon-emissions-at-the-university-of-st-andrews

Sunday, 25 August 2013

V3 Hot Seat

Earlier this month I was asked to take part in the V3 Hot Seat.  V3 are well known in the industry for their reviews of the latest products and keeping us up-to-date with the latest tech news.

Some of the questions weren't the typical ones I get asked as a CIO!  Such as, my favourite film and my favourite place to escape.  Nevertheless, it was great to be asked and I really enjoyed taking part. 


I've just read V3's article (posted today) about Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, who has announced he's going to retire within the year.  What a guy he is!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

In with the IT Crowd - Press Release

By the University of St Andrews Press Office:
The University of St Andrews IT department has won two awards.
Steve Watt, Chief Information Officer at the University, was voted ICT Leader of the Year at the 2013 Holyrood Connect ICT Awards.  Appointed in 2010, he has begun a transformation project aimed at revitalising the St Andrews IT Services department and improving services for users.
Mr Watt fought off strong competition from shortlisted candidates from Edinburgh City Libraries, Edinburgh Napier University and the Crown Office.
At the same ceremony in Glasgow, the St Andrews department also won the Green Award – for “effective use of ICT to deliver environmental benefits.”
Again the team faced strong competition - in the form of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Scottish Government - to take the accolade.
The team also narrowly missed out on the night, in the competitive category of Project Delivery Award which went to South Lanarkshire Council.
Steve Watt said: “I was absolutely thrilled to receive this award.  Since taking up my post as CIO at the University three years ago, we’ve been on an incredible journey and this award further acknowledges that our strategy is focussed in the right direction.  IT provision in universities and the public sector is changing dramatically – and we need to embrace ‘Scotland’s Digital Future’ – supporting the transition to a world-leading digital economy.  At St Andrews we’re engaging with other educational institutions and public sector bodies to work together and we’re actively looking for opportunities to share knowledge and services.”   
The University of St Andrews, which is celebrating its 600th anniversary this year, is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. IT power management has a significant part to play in this.  Around 30% of the electricity consumed by the University is used to power ICT equipment, with a large proportion powered 24 hours-a-day.
The University redeveloped an existing building on a brownfield site into a state of the art data centre, which saves the institution at least £65K per year on its electricity bills. 
These latest successes add to a number of awards won by IT Services recently.  Earlier this year the department received an Honourable Mention for Facility Design Implementation in the Green Enterprise IT Awards 2013 and the department also became the first university in Europe to achieve Two Star Service Desk Institute accreditation.
Last year the department was a finalist in the UK IT Industry Awards.
 Notes to Editors
For image please contact the press office.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108/ 0771 414 0559.
Ref: (awards 31/07/13)
View the University’s latest news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/

(Steve Watt was nominated for the ICT Leader award by Dundee-based online technology company, brightsolid)



Saturday, 27 July 2013

Case Study - Staff Email

Brightsolid online technology specialises in the cloud delivery of business critical applications.  The Dundee based company currently host our staff email; delivering a secure, fully managed and hosted hybrid cloud environment.  Find out more here:


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ofcom report on communications

In 2011 Ofcom produced their first report on the state of the UK communications infrastructure following a requirement to do so by the Digital Economy Act 2010. The report was updated in 2012. This is a very fast moving area with the 4G rollout, superfast broadband and a variety of new digital broadcast services only a few of the current programmes underway. For anyone with an interest in this area the report is well worth a read. I've a specific interest in the Scottish perspective as a resilient and fast communications infrastructure is vital in underpinning the sharing of services across organisations or to support different ways of working for University staff and students. A link to the report is provided below.


Friday, 19 July 2013

Office of the Future

In developing a strategy ive been looking further at what the Office of the Future might look like and in looking around it looks like there is significant change in workplace design and indeed a move towards no fixed office space.
There is a growing trend towards more "touch down" spaces which are becoming more common in all verticals.  Also there is a recognition that workplace design is crucial whether this be in a fixed, mobile or flexible approach.

Significantly to cater for the 1.3 billion mobile workers predicted by 2015 (IDC Group) several large hotel chains are introducing work spaces and its quite clear that hotels are no longer just places to sleep. For example Marriot have introduced “Workspace on demand”, Westin have introduced "Tangent" and Hilton also a similar solution. In all cases power provision is key along with decent wifi along with flexible furnishings etc. Likewise in Higher Education there is a growth in flexible learning spaces.

With regards to fixed office space there is also some major changes in the way some organisations are approaching this.  From my research ive found that Office Space is the second largest cost for most companies and its generally only used one third of the time. Accenture is one organisation that has abandoned permanent offices in favour of a more mobile. Interestingly management consultants have predicted for a while the demise of office space however I think technology is only really caught up in the last year or so making this approach more workable. Although there have been many succesful home working programmes true mobility is only really become possible as wifi has become more ubiquitous and more devices small and personalised.

With the rollout of 4G and a move towards wireless network roaming the next 12 months will again provide more technological underpinning of mobile working placing very different demands on IT departments. The need for a changing model of service delivery has never been greater.


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Enterprise Mobility Summit - 11th June 2013

I recently particpitated in a Panel Discussion at the Computing Enterprise Mobility event in London. The topic was - Enterprise of the future - what will the office of the future look like?

This is a question that is relevant to all industries and may even need the term "office" defined as it can mean different things to different people especially as the workforce continues to become more mobile and our personal and work lives merge.

 The Panel focussed on the following questions and the views were interesting!
  • Which is the primary work device of the future - desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, ultrabook, hybrid or some combination of all of these?
  • Will touch-screen functionality migrate to desktop and laptop platforms?
  • How does a bespoke Enterprise App Store benefit businesses?
  • Will a user-centric EMM strategy help to increase security and reduce costs?
In higher education I'm generally seeing a tablet device being used as a supplementary device to a fixed pc or laptop and the smartphone becoming the norm for students to own. At present touch screen technology is moving rapidly to become dominant on laptops however other than in the consumer market I'm not seeing this moving to the fixed desktop pc environment. 

There appears to be wide spread adoption of EMM across a range of industries primarily to manage an end user tablet or smartphone within the organisations specific policies. 

I'm watching this area with interest as ever as its moving at a pace which impacts on the supporting backend infrastructure. Likewise from a facilities perspective there is an increasing move towards demands for touchdown areas with power and flexible learning spaces rather than what has traditionally being provided.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Byte Night 2013

This year, a team from IT Services at the University of St Andrews (including myself!) are taking part in Byte Night to raise much needed funds for Action for Children.

Byte Night is the IT industry's annual sleep out in support of Action for Children. Each year hundreds of individuals and teams from across the technology and business community spend a night exposed to the elements in a bid to raise sponsorship and awareness of Action for Children's work to help prevent youth homelessness. Action for Children helps to prevent youth homelessness through early intervention by ensuring that young people across the UK are given the support they need before it's too late.

Your support would be greatly appreciated!  We have a fundraising target of £2500.  The 'sleep-out' takes place in Edinburgh on 4th October 2013. 

To sponsor us, please go to our fundraising page: 

To find out more about Byte Night and the work of Action for Children, please go to:

Thank you!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Holyrood's 2nd ICT Conference: 18/19th June 2013

Last month we submitted two entries for the inaugral Holyrood Connect Awards which take place in June. 

“The Awards aim to recognise, promote and commend the significant achievements of public sector ICT professionals in Scotland. The Awards aim to encourage practitioners to develop innovative and creative ICT solutions, sharing best practice and rewarding innovation and progress for ICT initiatives that are really working.”  Will Peakin, Editor of Connect Magazine

We're delighted that both of our entries have been shortlisted, which is again testimony to my staff who deserve this recognition. 

· Green Award – Effective use of ICT to deliver environmental benefits (shortlist:  SEPA, Scottish Government and University of St Andrews). 

· Project Delivery Award - Service Desk Institute Certification (shortlist:  South Lanarkshire Council, Visit Scotland, East Lothian Council and the University of St Andrews). 

The awards ceremony takes place on 18th June 2013 in Glasgow – and forms part of the ICT Connect Conference on 18/19 June 2013, which I'm looking forward to attending. 


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Computing Enterprise Mobility Summit - 11 June 2013

I'm delighted to have been asked to participate in this years Computing Enterprise Mobility Summit in London in June. 
Adapting and keeping up with the pace of change can be a real challenge and the growth in this area will change the IT landscape as we know it. 
In a University environment it's difficult to shape the strategy in terms of enterprise mobility - as the students will bring whatever device they choose - and will have an expectation that we'll support it.  So our strategy has to be to - flexibility.   In that context, BYOD nothing new to IT professionals in universities - we're good at that with students, but for staff it's a big issue in terms of security of data. 
From a business point of view - for support staff, teaching staff and researchers, etc,  CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) can present more of a challenge.  The ideal model - give staff a small range of devices they can use and tell them these are the platforms we'll support.   Easy!  The reality is very different!  
At St Andrews, we're becoming a more collaborative and mobile workforce - and there are a range of platforms out there that can enhance the way we work together and make us more efficient - or just make us available 24x7??
The increasing use of Mobile Apps to interface with core business systems is driving a direction towards the handheld device becoming the critical business tool going forward - whether it be a smartphone, mini tablet or something in between - this has yet to be seen.  
The agenda for the Enterprise Mobility event is excellent and I'm very much looking forward to taking part. 
Panel: "Enterprise of the Future: Office of the Future"
On my panel, I'll be alongside the CTO of the BBC, the Head of IT for Shelter UK and the Director of IM & T for Royal Free Hospital, London.  I'm sure it will be a fascinating discussion. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Digital Scotland Roadshow

At Edinburgh Conference Centre
Recently I presented at a Digital Scotland Roadshow on the delivery of IT transformation at the University of St Andrews. The audience was from across all areas of the public sector and related bodies.
We all face a huge challenge at present trying to deliver efficiencies whilst also trying to keep up with ever increasing consumer (citizen/student/employee. etc) expectations.
I'm very impressed by the various Digital Scotland documents and working hard to ensure there is general alignment with these within my own strategy documents and operational plans.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

IT Apprentices... we're recruiting more

As you'll have seen from previous posts, my IT Apprentices are a very welcome addition to the department.  I was so impressed, I asked the University if I could recruit more - and they said yes - as they too recognise the real benefits these young people can bring to an organisation.  Not only do the Apprentices learn from us, the IT professionals - we learn from them. 
QA have recently published a case study about our success story at St Andrews. 


Steven and Peter working in our PC Clinic

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Green Enterprise IT Awards 2013

University of St Andrews receives Honorable Mention

Our Data Centre has again been recognised for it's Facility Design-Implementation.  The Green Enterprise IT Awards 2013 have given St Andrews an Honourable Mention in their annual awards.  Looking at the list of worldwide companies involved in these awards, I am, yet again, thrilled that the judges were impressed by what we've achieved in a small University in a small town in Fife!

The University of St Andrews, which is about to celebrate its 600th anniversary, expects to reduce its carbon footprint by some 6,800 tonnes over 10 years and has made a commitment to be carbon neutral for energy supply by 2016. Information Technology has a significant part to play in this.

The University has redeveloped an existing building on a brownfield site into a state of the art datacentre, using a modern twist on traditional design, to yield high energy efficiency, in a compact package, with detailed attention to noise abatement, thus gaining residential certification in a conservation area.

The datacentre has fully contained hot/cold airflow and indirect free cooling for the majority of the year. Exhaust air is used to heat the generator sets. Enhanced detailed telemetry has allowed a high degree of component optimization at part load and the efficiency improvements achieved, both in design and post-implementation, are relatively easily applied to legacy datacentres, and to optimize modern part-loaded facilities.

The datacentre is broadly designed to be resilient to single component failure, and has offered 100% uptime since construction.
A project group of involved stakeholders controlled the design and implementation and an operations board oversees ongoing continuous improvements. We are currently undertaking modifications which are expected to reduce our annualized PUE towards 1.2 despite being less than 40% loaded at this time.
The organization has received a BCS CEEDA Gold award for the facility and the design was used as part of the development of the BREEAM datacentre scheme.

More details: 

Friday, 8 March 2013

SDI Accreditation

Some of our Service Desk team with Howard Kendall, SDI's Master Auditor

St Andrews has become the first university in Britain to receive a prestigious award for its IT provision.
Two-Star Service Desk accreditation from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) is awarded to only those organisations which can demonstrate the best possible Information Technology Service.
The University’s IT service desk team, which logs between 2500 and 5000 incidents a month depending on the time of the year, can now evaluate its performance against an international framework of standards.
The accolade is a clear mark of success for the team which offers IT support to the University’s 2,000 staff and around 8,000 students through a single point of contact.
The University of St Andrews now shares the international quality mark with organisations including O2, Sodexo, Kent and Leicestershire County Councils and is only the second university in the world, after King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to boast the award.

Lorraine Brown, University Service Desk Manager, said: “Information Technology is a fundamental part of the day-to-day life of every member of staff and student at the University.

“We want everyone who uses our service to have a positive experience from the moment they arrive in St Andrews.

“We believe that our 2-Star-Certification proves our commitment to offering a great service and we aim to use the programme to further aid the continuous development of our IT services.”

The 2-Star-rating was awarded to the University of St Andrews following a six month rigorous auditing programme last year.

The  IT service was assessed in its leadership, policy and strategy, people management, partnerships and resources, processes, people satisfaction, customer satisfaction, performance results and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Howard Kendall, SDI’s Master Auditor, said: "It was brilliant to see a well-led team, strategically on a firm direction, and people that are clearly enthusiastic to improve.

“The project team approach to certification has borne fruit and communications, business alignment and peak demand resourcing have all improved as a result. The use of apprentices is particularly to be applauded.”


Friday, 22 February 2013

The Power of the Hashtag!

Yes, I'm a CIO and I know what's going on the technology world - big data, data centres, Janet 6, transformational IT, Cyber Security, BYOD, etc. etc.  But I have to confess, I'm not quite up with all the the social media lingo!
We work closely with our student community to understand their requirements and challenges from their perspective.   I meet with the Student President, Freddie, and his team monthly - it also gives us an opportunity to explain what we're working on - and why.   This week I found out the power of Social Media when Freddie started a #wheresdean frenzy on his twitter page.  On Tuesday a colleague said to me 'hashtag where's dean' and I had no idea what they were talking about! Dean is a member of my senior management team and responsible for the University's ICT infrastructure.  Over the course of a few hours, many photos of students looking for Dean were posted on the twitter pages.    The result... by Thursday - we have sorted out the student radio station server problems! Genius...    It's always great to work with such enthusiastic and supportive young people.

Stronger together. The university has a huge and excellent IT Services team, like the helpful Dean here. St Andrews Radio offer high quality student broadcasting throughout the week, led by Kate. Alas, the STAR server has been expensive, slow and unreliable. Good thing Dean and his team are so willing to help then. IT get their power behind students, STAR get cracking support. Good teamwork guys.
Dean Drew, Associate CIO & Kate from STAR
(St Andrews Radio)
From Freddie fforde's (Student Union President) blog -:
"Stronger together. The university has a huge and excellent IT Services team, like the helpful Dean here. St Andrews Radio offer high quality student broadcasting throughout the week, led by Kate. Alas, the STAR server has been expensive, slow and unreliable. Good thing Dean and his team are so willing to help then. IT get their power behind students, STAR get cracking support. Good teamwork guys."

Wifi Provision in Schools

The provision of Wifi within Schools has again appeared in the headlines. If the decision as to whether wifi should be installed within a School is one made by the Headteacher it will always be balanced against other spending priorities. Enriching the learning process in our Schools to me is fundamental especially if we wish to continue to raise the aspirations of our children and stimulate curiosity and a deeper understanding. There is also a clear linkage with Further and Higher Education as there is an expectation now that Wifi will be everywhere. Its no longer a nice to have and maybe the point has been reached where it has become like power or water......


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Six Months On... The IT Apprentices

Peter, Sam and Steven (our IT Apprentices) have been with us for six months now…  here’s what they think about their time in St Andrews so far. 

Peter Woodbridge - Apprentice Web Developer

What I like about my job:  are all of the staff have been supportive and very welcoming, I have also enjoyed working with the web team as I'm always kept busy but never bored with the work that I have to do. 
What I don’t like about my job:  I honestly can’t think of any thing I don't like about working here. 
What I’ve learnt so far:  I have learned how to use basic HTML, how to co-operatively work within a team and I have also learned a lot in Microsoft Windows 7 and Cisco Networking. 
The support I’ve received so far:  I really enjoy being part of the web team as they are all very friendly, I have been supported     throughout the apprenticeship well and I have always been made to feel fully part of the team. 
Training from QA:  I passed both of the City and Guilds assessment's with relative ease. 
Career plans:  The short period of time that I have spent here has already made me want to pursue a career in IT.
Sam Foster - Apprentice Service Desk Analyst
What I like about my job:  I like how varied the job is.  Everyday I’m meeting new people and new problems!
What I don’t like about my job:  I can’t think of anything at the moment!
What I’ve learnt so far:  I could go on and on… so much! I think my communication skills have improved, along with my general        troubleshooting knowledge.
The support I’ve received so far:  All of the team are great.  They’ve sat down and taught me so much and are always happy to answer questions.  I really feel part of the team already.
Training from QA:  I’ve enjoyed the Cisco and Microsoft courses  - they’ve been fairly easy going, but realise that’s not even the        barebones of what I need to know. 
Career plans:  Although I’ve only been working in IT for a short time, I do feel this has helped to confirm that I want to pursue a career in IT. 
Steven Gonzalez - Apprentice Desktop Technician
What I like about my job:  I enjoy opening up the laptops/pcs to change a part, etc. 
What I don’t like about my job: tidying away cables after matriculation or waiting for data to transfer when setting up a new machine!
What I’ve learnt so far:  I’ve learned a lot about fixing hardware problems and my understanding of Windows 7 and networking has greatly improved.  I now know how to use a mac (never used one before) and how to service a variety of printers.
The support I’ve received so far:  I enjoy working with the team as you get a good sense of achievement when you have completed a task, e.g. matriculation.
Training from QA:  I have learned a lot from the Cisco and Microsoft courses.   Very interesting and a lot more to learn. 
Career plans:  This has confirmed I would like a career in IT—particularly in the hardware side of my role.     

About QA: 
QA are the lead apprenticeships provider on Microsoft’s ‘Get On’ pledge (announced by Alex Salmond last week) to create 2000 IT Modern Apprenticeships by 2016.

QA have just won 'Apprenticeship Programme of the Year 2013' from the Learning & Performance Institute for the second year running. 

I'm keen for us explore the possibilities of taking on more IT apprentices. 

Find out more here: