During the SURFnet 2014 Client Fair, SURFnet CTO Erik Huizer presented his views on the future of ICT in higher education and research: What are the challenges, and how are we going to meet them?
Change is imperative
Huizer’s view is clear: the future is about change. ‘Change is imperative, not just for SURFnet, but for education and research across the board.’ The way users work is changing, and as service providers we need to adapt. Huizer took a closer look at various target groups in higher education and research to demonstrate current and future challenges faced by ICT departments.
Online anywhere, anytime
Today’s students want to be online everywhere, all the time. They are digital natives: they cannot imagine a time when the Internet did not exist, even though it was not so long ago. And they also expect to have constant Internet access wherever they are. A challenge!
Researchers view ICT as a resource for carrying out their research as effectively as possible, and they want to maximise its potential. They are collecting more and more information (big data), creating increasing demand for storage and network capacity. We also need supercomputing in order to interpret all of those data effectively. Another challenge!
And let’s not forget the medical sector, which possibly presents the greatest challenge of all. There is the clinical side, where privacy (e.g. of patient information) must be protected, and the research side, where data sharing and exchange needs to be as free as possible. All within a single network. Challenges! Not so much in technical terms, but even more so as regards the ethical, legal and security aspects.
Where to store data?
The ICT environment itself is also changing fast. Just consider the following highlights:
- The democratisation of software development: these days anybody can turn a good idea into an app. Plus, the turnover rate of apps is high: they either take off or they flop, they are used and then disposed of. Should ICT departments go along with or take advantage of this trend?
- Edward Snowdon: His leaking of information has raised awareness about security and where information is stored. Google is now setting up a major data centre in Groningen, but take note: because the Google HQ is based in the United States, the data centre is governed by the Patriot Act. Research has shown that 93% of surveyed European CIOs want their data stored in Europe – and only Europe – from now on.
- Internet governance: who is in charge of the Internet? Of course nobody controls the Internet, but a lot of coordination is still required. Who is responsible? The approach used to be bottom-up, but since the Snowdon affair and the Arab Spring, government intervention has become increasingly common. Which is a bad idea, said Huizer, because it will lead to nationalistic behaviour, and if there is one thing the Internet is NOT, it is nationalistic. The Internet is global, and that’s how it should stay: open, accessible and reliable.
Developments at SURF and SURFnet
- Huizer discussed several developments at SURF and SURFnet that illustrate the challenges we are facing:
- The increasingly fast network, which we need to make more efficient instead of more powerful.
- Wireless-as-a-service: can we offer all mobile communication (WiFi, 3G, 4G, etc.) as a single service?
- Identity management: Are we moving towards not issuing users with identities anymore and using their own identities from channels such as Facebook instead? Are we moving from authentication to authorisation?
- Services: How can we compete with commercial app stores? We are already on track with SURFspot.nl, but further development is still ahead.
- Education: still needs major adaptations to meet the requirements of the 21st century. How can we ensure that the Internet fulfil
Organisation-wide SURF programmes
SURF is meeting these challenges head-on, and no longer through separate operating companies, but with organisation-wide SURF programmes implemented jointly by SURFnet, SURFsara and SURFmarket.
Cast off ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome
To organise all this, we need to cast off one very common phenomenon (among both men and women): the not-invented-here-syndrome. Often, whenever we see something new, we think: ‘That’s a clever idea, but we can do it better.’ We then proceed to create our own version. We need more collaboration in order to bring costs down and increase economies of scale.
Let’s do it together: federated
This means that SURF will not be taking care of everything, but that we will work together in a federated model. A senior secondary vocational institution that has created an online service, for example, could make it available to other institutions via a federated alliance. This will shift the role of ICT departments from one of control to one of coordination, thus ensuring their clients have everything they need. SURF can support these processes! View Erik Huizer’s full presentation.