Q&A: Onstream ICT manager, David Byrne

Byrne talks about server virtualization, application standardisation and why he has a love/hate relationship with the iPhone

David Byrne has been ICT manager at Tasmanian IT services firm, Onstream, for two years. His company provides support to Tasmania’s three state water corporations, Southern Water, Cradle Mountain Water and Ben Lomond Water.

What does an average work day involve for you at Onstream?

I had a role change four months ago to a more operational focus so a typical day involves running a quick eye over the service centre to see if there are any urgent problems that need attending to. I generally try to leave the first hour of each day free to deal with what’s happened overnight.

Because I have staff all over the state, I spend every two weeks travelling to see those staff. I’m very much a people person and like to meet face to face wherever possible.

What are some of the major challenges you face in the role of ICT manager?

As the workforce in general becomes more IT savvy, there are greater expectations placed on the IT department to be able to fix almost every problem presented.

There is a perception sometimes that the gap between the knowledge held by IT professionals and the knowledge held by the general community is closing, and to some extent that is correct.

However, the problems become more complex because people can solve the easy ones so they bring the hard ones to us.

What are some of the major projects you have been working on?

We’re trying to get standardisation across the three state water corporations with some applications. For example, each of the organisations has standardised on the same Geographic Information System [GIS] platform.

The contributing corporations had all manner of systems that were transferred in 2009 and there has been gradual work on identifying the different server and network platforms.

We’re also in the process of a desktop virtualization project involving 700 desktop computers. I’d like the company to be 80 per cent desktop virtualized by the end of the year.

What are the three biggest issues facing ICT managers today?

  • Bring your own [BYO] computing which is partly why we are looking at desktop virtualization.

  • Dealing with users’ expectations around what they can and can’t do inside the network.

  • The flexibility of server virtualization has brought its own problems. We went from 44 to 243 virtual machines because it’s so easy to create a new one. Once upon a time, you had to go through so many hoops to get a new server into the organisation.

What’s your favourite gadget?

My favourite and least favourite is my iPhone. It’s great when I need it but horrible when it’s intruding.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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