IT Center Blog

The IT Center Picture Puzzle: IT Center Management

July 12th, 2023 | by
Photo of the IT Center Management and interviewers

Quelle: Eigene Darstellung

#MeetMeWednesday: Our blog series “The IT Center Picture Puzzle” is drawing to a close, and to cap it all off, we have a particularly interesting interview in store for you. This time, the IT Center Management, Professor Müller and Mr. Bündgens, answer our questions. They talk about their daily tasks as well as about exciting projects and developments that will soon take place at the IT Center.

By the way, the key word we were looking for was “leadership”. Could you guess it? Find out more in this article.


Who Is Behind the IT Center Management? How Long Have You Held the Position?

Prof. Müller: Behind the IT Center Management is the Managing Director on the one hand and the Director of the IT Center on the other. First of all, my background: I studied physics in Stuttgart and I also grew up in the region. At that time, I was deciding between Stuttgart and Tübingen for my physics degree, and the decision then fell on Stuttgart.

After my time in Stuttgart, I went to Dresden and worked there in a high-performance computing center. At that time, I was already deciding whether to focus on high-performance computing or to take a broader approach, because the Center for Information Services and High-Performance Computing (ZIH) in Dresden is also responsible for WLAN, telephony, and so on. I then decided in favor of dissemination and accordingly I had also had good prerequisites to apply in Aachen. And it was always very important to me to take my family with me. This means that they had a veto right and always had to be convinced that the new place is even more beautiful than the old one. Accordingly, I have been here since 2013 and hold the professorship for high-performance computing and the IT Center Management.

Mr. Bündgens: If I look at my professional curriculum vitae, at least, it is very strongly connected with the IT center, data center or computing and communications center. It has changed names several times. I myself started my Mata training (mathematical-technical assistant) on September 1, 1999, at what was then the Computing Center. The training still exists today, but is now called “MATSE training” (mathematical-technical software developer). After finishing the apprenticeship, I completed a dual study program in mathematics at the FH Aachen in Jülich.

During this time, I worked with a 50% position in the computer center in the department of Thomas Eifert and dealt with databases, among other things. Until the old cave, which has since been torn down, came along, which stood before the reconstruction approximately where CLAIX 2018 is now. Then came the request whether I would like to stay longer in the field of virtual reality (VR). And so I stayed in the IT Center until today, then really also worked for many years until 2012, almost 10 years, in the area of VR with Prof. Torsten Kuhlen. During that time, I also helped build the (still) current Cave. And then, in the course of all the IT service management activities and implementations, I came more into contact with the rest of the data center operations. I then also took over the position of IT Manager Services when the IT Manager roles and positions were introduced. I have now been in the role of General Manager since 2014. So much for my background. In addition, I also completed my master’s degree in 2012/2013 via the second educational path.


What Are the Main Tasks That the Managing Director and the Director Perform on a Daily Basis?

Prof. Müller: After Daniel Bündgens said he stays at the IT Center because there are exciting tasks, I could say “in the abstract” that my job is to make sure Mr. Bündgens has exciting tasks. My tasks have a lot to do with the large, primarily national projects. That is, where do new opportunities arise for such projects? How do you strategically manage the projects we already have now? Where do we need to align ourselves in these projects? Which tasks do we take on and which do we not? For example, the Ministry of Culture and Science regularly asks if Aachen could do various things for the state. If I agree to these requests, I naturally have to discuss them with Mr. Bündgens. In the process, we clarify what needs to be done and what we can really accomplish. What does the timeline look like and what financial resources do we need for this? That is a large part of my job, to have such discussions and set such course. And also these national projects usually have their own governance structure, which means there are various committees there where such directional decisions are made. This involves questions such as: In which direction is the project going and how do you set priorities? At the moment, this is already a large part of my time. Of course, this is in addition to my “side job” of a professor, giving lectures and doing reviewer work. Also in this field of work there are regular requests to do review activities for state concepts and for larger third-party funding applications of others. Finally, through my own activities, I would like to fulfill the version of being the best computing center in higher education in Germany.

Mr. Bündgens: And if I may continue by way of addition, my task is primarily to work internally and to ensure that new tasks as well as existing business are organized. This also includes providing the tasks with financial possibilities and creating personnel framework conditions. In addition, a large part of my job is to hold many regular meetings with the department heads. This involves preparing and following up at least some of the regular meetings, such as a management round or strategy days. In recent years, there have been times when we have had to deal with various crises, such as Corona or the energy crisis. Various task forces have been formed on the subject of energy and emergency preparedness. These are typically tasks that I am in charge of, but of course I don’t handle them alone. Most of the time, a team of different people comes together to work on these issues. There are university committees in which we as the IT Center are also involved, such as the IT Committee, which coordinates and exchanges information with staff councils and data protection officers on IT issues. These are regular meetings that I attend every two weeks.

I am also responsible for organizing the content of our steering group meeting, which takes place three times a year, adapting the content to current developments, and coordinating the content with the chairs. And then, of course, I also regularly look at our internal finances so that we don’t go broke or that the money we’ve applied for somewhere actually gets to the respective place. In general, many of my tasks are in the financial area. And when it comes to HR processes, I work closely with the FPO department, since that’s where the technical responsibility and knowledge are anchored.

And what does our day-to-day work look like? Most of the time we have meetings, which are increasingly taking place in person again. In addition, our day, i.e. that of Mr. Müller and me, usually begins together with a daily meeting from quarter past 8 to 9 a.m. together with our management assistant Aliki Charalabidou, where we get an overview of the appointments of the day. Thereby, we prepare ourselves with regard to content, such as this interview. We also check what has arrived in the management mailbox and what other important topics we need to discuss.


What Current Projects Are on the Agenda This Year? What Developments Can the Employees of the IT Center Look Forward To?

Prof. Müller: Projects that are just starting up: analogous to my job, I’m thinking of the large national projects in the areas of National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) and National High Performance Computing (NHR). In the case of NFDI, the third round has just started with NFDIxCS or Base4NFDI, where we recently learned that we are the only project in Germany that is being tackled to establish a basic service in the area of identity management. But also, the other projects, which we received from the BMBF last year, will keep us busy this year. With NHR, the first major procurement is coming this year and hopefully will be delivered. Some of our staff will be busy taking delivery of the computers, setting them up in the computer room with the manufacturer, and then moving them into operation. We will then understand what it means to be a national high performance computing center.

Another issue that perhaps we haven’t addressed in a big way is that we have grown a lot and some of it is becoming more and more difficult to be accommodated spatially. Therefore, our goal is to provide relief so that we have a good office situation again. The project is now taking shape, which means we have seen the first floor plans, but a concrete time schedule is still pending. There are now also more concrete discussions about the new Campus West building project.

Mr. Bündgens: The Building and Data Center Management department is currently still busy with the new building. I think we can definitely look forward to the fact that there will hopefully soon be spatial relief at the IT Center.

Another topic that will occupy us a lot is cyber attacks on universities and how to deal with them. This is very complex and I think it will become more and more important for all of us at the IT Center. Be it the issue of multi-factor authentication or a changed and more stringent security process and more specifications and restrictions. That always presents a tension: Security, convenience, cost. You always deal with these aspects, but in favor of IT security, convenience restrictions or higher costs have to be accepted in some places. In the event of an actual cyber attack, there is no longer any comfort, and the costs are even higher. On the other hand, we can look forward to many social events this year, such as the company outing or the summer party.


There’s Definitely a Lot on the Agenda for This Year. Before We Get to the Last Question, I Would Like to Ask Another Question About It Security, but That Is Perhaps Too Big for This Interview.

Prof. Müller: Yes, it’s a big topic and it’s an exciting task. I think the recognition of what we are doing there is also given and great. I recently gave a lecture on cyber security and the interest was greater than ever before. But also, the awareness of the fact that we have not yet been hacked to the extent that has happened in other universities is no luck. That’s also thanks to a lot of work by competent people. The university council members have also clearly expressed and seen that.


What Does the Future of the IT Center Look Like?

Prof. Müller: The national projects point the way to the future. We clearly see our future task in these. Not only for RWTH, but also for other institutions in the state or throughout Germany. RWTH is continuing to develop, and the excellence strategy is a keyword here. Of course, we still want to be one of the best, if not the best, university in our field in Germany. Of course, topics such as digitization, research data management and high-performance computing also play a major role, as does security. As always, I am optimistic about the future. There are many tasks where we are well positioned and we will not run out of work. But I am also optimistic about the future in terms of recognition and our further development.

Mr. Bündgens: You can already say that our main goal is for the IT Center to continue to exist as an independent and professionally operating data center and also to offer corresponding development and future opportunities for all employees in the most diverse areas. This can only be achieved by adapting to this or by taking a correspondingly active role in the developments that are important for this type of data center in the higher education sector. That’s why the national activities. Of course, it is also a goal of ours that we are actively involved in all relevant core processes, whether in teaching or research. The topic of network renewal applications are also crucial infrastructure investments, so that a future-proof network infrastructure can be ensured. This also includes security systems, telecommunications systems. All of that is needed to ensure that we as an IT Center continue to be an interesting place to work in this way. And also sometimes a place to celebrate. After all, we are in the Rhineland, and part of that is celebrating.

Prof. Müller: I mentioned at the beginning that my job is to keep things exciting for Mr. Bündgens. That applies to him in particular, but of course it ultimately also applies to all the employees here. We also have many young people who want to develop and don’t want to do the same thing for the next 20 years. At least, I get the impression from many of them that this is exactly what motivates them, and we have to offer them interesting tasks. We also want to keep our finger on the pulse of the times. So far, we have succeeded in doing so and I believe that we will continue to do so in the future. After all, you also learn from other facilities. I also told you earlier that I was in Stuttgart, Dresden and now here in Aachen. And in Stuttgart, for example, the pull from industry was very strong. There are very financially strong industrial companies there, which of course have always poached good employees. We have that here, too, but perhaps to a lesser extent. And I won’t forget how one of my employees came back after two years in industry and said he actually earned more there, but here there were the bigger switches and more voltage. He pulled a lot of wires there, he said, but it quickly became boring, no matter what the paycheck therefore gave. And I imagine it’s similar here. I mean, especially good employees have alternatives and they have to consider how much they enjoy their work. Everyone has to find a compromise. That’s why we want to work together to ensure that the compromise is such that employees enjoy working for us.


We Would Like to Thank You Both for the Very Exciting Interview!

This concludes our series of pictures of the IT Center and our riddles about the respective departments, staff units and people involved in the IT Center, and we hope that we have been able to give you a better insight into the activities of one of the most important national data centers.



Responsible for the content of this article are Prof. Matthias Müller, Daniel Bündgens, Lina-Louise Kaulbach and Arlinda Ujkani.


2 responses to “The IT Center Picture Puzzle: IT Center Management”

  1. David says:

    Was für ein faszinierendes Interview! Es ist wirklich aufschlussreich, die Perspektive der IT Center Leitung auf ihre Aufgaben und die Zukunft des IT Centers zu hören. Die Herausforderungen und Chancen, vor denen sie stehen, sind beeindruckend. Besonders spannend finde ich, wie sie sich auf nationale Projekte im Bereich Forschungsdateninfrastruktur und Hochleistungsrechnen konzentrieren. Das zeigt, wie wichtig diese Bereiche für die Zukunft der Wissenschaft und Forschung sind.
    Frage an den Autor: Haben Sie weitere Einblicke oder Informationen zu den nationalen Projekten im Bereich Forschungsdateninfrastruktur und Hochleistungsrechnen, die am IT Center anstehen? Ich würde gerne mehr darüber erfahren.

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