AUT tech park covers business, academic IT needs

When the 10-month-old AUT technology park was planning its IT infrastructure it had to consider the diverse needs of start-ups, established businesses and university researchers.

When the 10-month-old AUT technology park was planning its IT infrastructure it had to consider the diverse needs of start-ups, established businesses and university researchers.

The park, which was established by Auckland University of Technology to foster entrepreneurial activity and to support the university’s own R&D, has 27 tenants. These comprise 10 start-ups, eight businesses and nine university research projects or businesses run by members of the park’s advisory board.

Those just setting out include Parochus, which develops wireless applications, Zenago, which does content management and web design, Analog Media, which specialises in web-based applications, and Websol, which has built online collaborative platforms for AUT and the Wellington College of Education.

Established businesses include San Francisco-based GeoVector, which develops positioning technology for users of mobile devices. Among the university projects is the artificial intelligence centre, which has built an autonomous mobile robot.

AUT technology park business manager Kate Pender says the academic staff were put on a LAN with WAN access to the university’s main systems at its Auckland city campus. However, the university’s IT infrastructure wasn’t suited to the park’s businesses mainly because it is “locked down like Fort Knox” to protect it from the 27,000 students who use it.

Using existing double cabling (the building was previously tenanted by Fletcher Paper), a second LAN was put in exclusively for the park and Axon was called in to plan a strategy with the park’s occupants and the university’s IT staff to recommend services that could accommodate a wide range of diverse business needs. Axon now looks after the business LAN and liaises with the university’s IT group. AUT’s PC provider, Cyclone Computer, donated servers and PCs and Datastor has provided a tape library for free.

Business services include internet access, email hosting, SMTP mail, storage, network printing, backup and recovery, shared resources, collaboration on documents and security. A 10-tier pricing plan was also developed, meaning businesses could select a mixture of applications, support and services to suit. As part of its incubation programme, AUT provides some services free to start-ups on a case by case basis.

While AUT is a Novell NetWare site and uses Novell’s NDS directory technology, the park is implementing Microsoft Windows Active Directory to ease administration of the business network, which is connected to about 30 terminals. Active Directory will define who can access the park’s network and to what level, and user resources.

Axon consultant Darryl Grauman, who has been working with the park on designing the IT architecture, says planning and implementing Active Directory is a big exercise, which is why it has been slow to take off among large New Zealand companies.

Pender says AUT IT manager Calum MacLeod has “been brilliant at recognising we needed something different and getting it to work with the AUT infrastructure”. AUT IT technician Rob Jones looks after the technology park. Support calls are logged with AUT’s helpdesk and Jones determines which LAN is involved. If it’s the business LAN he passes the call to Axon.

Pender says Axon has been helping the park formulate usage policies for services on the business LAN — something the university has never had to deal with because staff and students can’t do anything they’re not supposed to.

AUT isn’t the only academic institution incubating and clustering businesses. Similar parks or clusters have been set up by Auckland-based Unitec, Victoria University, Massey University and University of Auckland.

Pender says each park is based on a different model to suit different businesses. Some take an equity share in start-ups or start-ups pay full cost for services.

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