Dr Peter Lawrence, the newly appointed CIO at the Department of Defence, admits he has "one of the larger and more complex CIO roles in Australia at the moment." --
But it's a role he should relish given he has plenty of experience managing IT operations at large enterprises such as the ANZ Bank, Origin Energy and Royal Dutch Shell.
What is different, however, is the requirement for Lawrence and a 2000-person IT team at Defence -- the largest he has worked with -- to be reactive and flexible enough to support the operational needs of the Australian Defence Force wherever and whenever it decides to deploy forces.
"Because it [Defence] is in Australia's national interests, it brings a slightly different business focus to it," he says.
"We have to make sure things work and they work first time -- [such as] satellite communications and other things that we need to do in those operational theatres -- because the forces are operating in those areas rely on those things to do what they have to do. It gives you a sharp need to be able to get it right... it's not optional."
Perhaps one of Dr Lawrence's biggest challenges will be the need to solve Defence's that result from massive amounts of data that is generated by multiple systems used on the battlefield.
According to Dr Lawrence, several Defence projects are helping to address this problem. Firstly, Defence's Terrestrial Communications initiative is providing a more modern, scalable domestic voice and data network, supporting 100,000 users at more than 330 sites in Australia and enabling Defence to run 10Gbps links into its largest bases.
The current phase 3 of this project -- announced last November -- enables users to connect to Defence networks at any time, including wirelessly and provide desktop-to-desktop video conferencing on the Defence Restricted Network and the Defence Secret Network.
"We are [rolling out] and the centralised processing tenders in the market, which follows the data centre migrations, is all about delivering more [compute and storage] capacity for us in a more centralised way."
In November, Defence shifted its large systems running 125 core applications from a data centre in Canberra to a new primary data centre in Sydney, as part of its data refresh project, which will be completed this month.
Overall, Defence is reducing its number of computer rooms from 280 to 10, which along with the next-generation desktop project will save the department around $400 million.
"[This] moves us into more of a private cloud, virtualized environment, [which provides] more flexibility and the ability to scale [capacity] up faster than we do today," says Dr Lawrence.
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