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IT as a Service, One Cable to the Desktop, Zero Downtime

October 13, 2011

Photo by capturedbychelsea, re-used under a Creative Commons licence

There was news overnight about Barwon Health becoming the first Australian implementation of Cisco’s new Virtualisation eXperience Infrastructure (VXI) – which will allow the organisation, part of South West Alliance of Rural Health (SWARH), to provide a virtual desktop to all staff.

I first spoke to SWARH’s executive officer (then CIO) Garry Druitt over ten years ago, not long after SWARH had started to deploy IP telephony – again, one of the first organisations in Australia to do so at any scale. He said some really interesting and visionary things back then about IT.

Two ideas I remember really vividly.

Ten years ago, Garry said that when he thought about IT, he didn’t think about technology, he thought about a service. All he was looking for from IT was for it to deliver him a service.  That’s becoming the prevailing attitude in IT today with the rise of cloud computing, but back then it was a pretty revolutionary concept.

The second goal that Garry had back then, which looks like finally becoming a reality with the implementation of Cisco VXI, was that he wanted just one cable to connect to the desktop providing all the organisation’s communications needs. This from The Australian article – ‘With around 8000 Cisco IP phones already deployed across the region, SWARH will turn these into hosted virtual desktops via Cisco’s Virtualisation Experience Client – a device attached to the back of the phone.’

I spoke to Garry again in 2008 for an article, and he had a new challenge – “how can ICT deliver systems with zero downtime?” He was a little more realistic about his expectations: “we need to be able to recover immediately to a point in time five minutes ago.”

It looks like the VXI implementation will go a long way towards delivering that operational resilience. Again from The Australian: ‘Garry Druitt said the health service would benefit from “a highly resilient environment to support its critical applications with no loss of service greater than five minutes and no loss of data for more than five to 10 minutes”. “That might sound like a lot, but in reality large complex networks around the world may go out for hours, and we can no longer afford that to happen.”

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