The University of Sydney, Australia’s oldest university, is spread over a number of large, sprawling campuses. Its teachers, researchers and students work and study all over Australia.
“When the University originally approached us around engaging on GitHub Enterprise, we immediately thought of a partner like DXC. That’s because of their broad skills around the GitHub solution and their ability to provide managed services.”
Sam Hunt Asia Pacific director, GitHub
The University offers a wide range of academic programs including art, nursing, social science, business, dentistry, IT, health science, natural science, engineering, architecture, medicine, music and law.
The University’s software and algorithm code repositories were big and sprawling too, and that was a problem.
Across its academic programs, many of the University’s researchers and students create, share and work with code. Unfortunately, the way they were storing that code was far from efficient. “We had fragmented code management systems all over the place,” explains Rai Fergusson, business program manager at the University. “We had people who had servers sitting under their desks, just to store their code. We also had people using storage platforms that are not really designed for code and version control.”
Something had to change — and it did. The University devised a plan to set up a single centralised code repository for all its staff and students. As Fergusson recounts, the plan called for three main requirements:
- Centralisation: A single code repository would serve the entire university community. It would be capable of storing code for all the University’s thousands of researchers and students.
- Ease of access: Access to the code repository would be open to all credentialled university members In addition, students enrolled in a subject would be automatically linked to the repository for that subject Administration would be offered via a standard directory service.
- Data sovereignty: Because protection of the University’s intellectual property is so important, the system would be cloud-based but it needed to keep all code inside Australia.
“Our students and academic researchers now have the best possible tools they might need to undertake their research — and that gives them a competitive advantage.”
Dr. Jeremy Hammond Director, strategic ventures, University of Sydney
A strategic partnership
To select a solution, the University formed an academic-led evaluation committee to review several code management systems. Ultimately, this committee selected GitHub Enterprise, the commercial version of of GitHub, the well-known software development platform. GitHub Enterprise includes tools for code hosting, code review, project and team management, social coding and documentation. GitHub Enterprise also offers high-level security and access control. It can be hosted either on-premises or in a private cloud using a public-cloud service. GitHub Enterprise is also battle-tested; it has been used by more than one million organisations worldwide — including Airbnb, IBM, MailChimp, NASA, PayPal, SAP and Walmart — and currently hosts more than 50 million projects.
The GitHub team, in turn, recommended that the University bring in DXC Technology as a premier regional partner on the project.
“When the University originally approached us around engaging on GitHub Enterprise, we immediately thought of a partner like DXC,” says Sam Hunt, GitHub’s Asia Pacific director. “That’s because of their broad skills around the GitHub solution and their ability to provide managed services.”
Indeed, DXC offered expertise in the tools that connect via APIs to GitHub to extend the developer environment, as well as experience in managed services and supporting customer solutions on a long-term basis. “This,” Hunt adds, “is just not something that GitHub can do.”
A contract was signed and the DXC/GitHub team delivered a fully managed service, hosted on the University’s private cloud, in roughly 12 weeks. “By university standards, that’s a very quick deployment,” Fergusson says.
“The University of Sydney views DXC as a trusted partner”, adds Dr. Jeremy Hammond, the University’s director of strategic ventures. “DXC advised us on architecture and design and implementation processes,” he explains. “That allowed our project team to focus on engagement with the academics, while they got busy with delivering the actual product.”
“The University of Sydney views DXC as a trusted partner.”
Dr. Jeremy Hammond Director, strategic ventures, University of Sydney
Engaged, secure — and impressive
The new GitHub-based system, officially dubbed the University Code Repository, is now online, providing a universitywide resource for code storage, management and review. It’s also being used for general collaboration — letting teams share work, discuss changes and get feedback — all in one place. It allows the University to keep its intellectual property safe and usable.
Use of the University Code Repository is free for all university members with credentials under the University’s UniKey authentication system. The GitHub system is fully supported by the University’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) service desk with help from DXC, with at-elbow training provided by the Sydney Informatics Hub. Security is provided by both the University’s firewall and secure shell (SSH) cryptography. Although the code can be accessed by users anywhere in the world, the data itself is stored on servers located in Sydney and controlled by the University.
Some of the projects now being migrated to the University Code Repository are extremely impressive. For example, the University’s EarthByte research group has developed a cloud-based web portal that serves as a gateway to a set of virtual globes. “The globes allow users to interactively explore the global gravity and magnetic field as well as seabed geology, making the amazing tapestry of deep ocean basins readily accessible,” explains Dietmar Müller, a professor of geophysics and director of the Sydney Informatics Hub, a core research facility. “The globes also allow us to share the output of high-performance computing models portraying the dynamic nature of Earth’s surface topography through time, allowing an interactive visualisation of the effect of surface tectonic plates acting like giant wobble boards as they interact with slow convection processes in the Earth’s hot, toffee-like convecting mantle.”
One next step will add the University’s School of IT, which has about 1,000 students, to the GitHub system as part of its core teaching curriculum.
The GitHub system also makes the University of Sydney the first university in Australia to have a site-wide code repository for all students and staff. “This genuinely sets us apart from our competitors and peers in the Australian market,” says Dr. Hammond. “Our students and academic researchers now have the best possible tools they might need to undertake their research — and that gives them a competitive advantage.”