Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Apache

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Computing in Higher Education

An academic lesson in operating faster, better and at a much lower cost

The irony about cloud computing in the higher education environment is that most schools have already been using it to some extent but may not even realize it.

Gmail is one example. Yahoo Mail is another. The fact is web-based applications, which many schools rely on for daily communication, don't always register with most people as being part of the cloud computing trend. But they are, given that they essentially fit the layman's rudimentary explanation of the cloud: where storage and computing capacity exist (provided by a vendor) so all that is needed on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone is a browser. There are more "technical details" to actual cloud infrastructure, platforms and delivery, but for the purposes here, we will stick with the basic view.

There's no question that cloud computing usage has exploded and will continue unabated. An article in the September 30, 2011 issue of Campus Technology stated that a new industry forecast is predicting that cloud computing will account for 33 percent of all data center traffic by 2015 - tripling the current percentage and about 12 times the total current volume.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that cloud computing is not only becoming increasingly popular in general but that it is growing in the education market, normally a slow adopter of new technology. While higher education has always been viewed as an innovative force in networking and high-performance computing, major corporations such as Apple and Amazon have led the way when it comes to basic cloud computing. Two critical motivating factors are catalyzing educational institutions to investigate the cloud concept as an option since cloud computing can:

  • Substantially reduce hardware, software licensing and personnel costs. This also saves on space, repair, and electrical costs.
  • Provide new capabilities as they come to market without incremental costs for equipment or support. The cloud now makes "keeping current" a much more viable option. This might include collaborative efforts such as allowing multiple admissions personnel to view the same student application simultaneously.

To these reasons one might add the explosion in mobile devices that pressures IT departments, including those in the higher education environment, to provide 24/7 computing that is accessible from anywhere with no downtime. To top it off, there is also the ever-increasing avalanche of data that needs to be stored and analyzed. Given their shrinking budgets and increasing number of applicants, schools do have a major incentive to investigate cloud computing as a cost containment solution - certainly a simpler, much more affordable and practical option than attempting to undergo major expansion and rehab of the technologies they already have in place.

What Makes Cloud Computing Right for Higher Ed
The advantages that cloud computing can bring to a college or university are far-reaching; from a cost perspective the benefits can reach across campus. Cloud computing can be used in everything from the internal IT organization using the cloud for business continuity planning, or storing archived copies of data off to a cloud storage area - even students' papers and music that can be stored and retrieved whenever they want.

In the specialized areas of financial aid, enrollment, and admissions, the cloud has proven to be particularly beneficial. In the face of rising applicant pools, these areas need processes completed faster, better and cheaper to keep up with the competition, as well as meeting their own budgetary goals. The cloud helps higher education move up on the cost benefit curve because it's not dumping more work on an already beleaguered IT staff, it's rather simple to implement, and the benefits can be significant. Especially for smaller schools, the cloud can deliver a high-end functionality very quickly that these schools couldn't normally procure on their own without significant investments in hardware, integration, administration, and consulting.

Before jumping in with both feet, though, some basic questions must be answered. One of the primary concerns is how does a cloud vendor deliver an agile business solution to a higher education institution that traditionally has focused on other priorities.

Second, there is a litany of questions, mostly related to issues of security, reliability, confidentiality, and regulations at both the state and federal level. The issue of security cannot be overstated in a cloud computing scenario. In fact, since the institution's information is no longer running inside the four walls of the campus, the first concern any legitimate cloud vendor has to address is security. Most cloud vendors have addressed the security and intrusion issues at least at the level that most colleges would have addressed for themselves, if not more. In reality, security is less about the nuts and bolts of how to protect the data than the idea that administrators must determine who actually owns the data and who has access to it. All this information is being put on these machines out there "somewhere"; thus, the college administrator needs to know who is administering these machines and who has access to them.

Another concern before a college decides to adopt cloud technology: it's advisable to evaluate applications and infrastructure for vulnerabilities and ensure that security controls are in place and operating properly. Setting up an active monitoring program that uses services such as intrusion prevention, access and identity management, and security event log management to identify any security threats to the cloud implementation is a must.

There may also be significant concerns about the university's culture and how it responds to the adoption of new technologies. More to the point, it can be a struggle for college administrators to acclimate to the concept of "letting go" of their data and applications. There's a psychological impact to the recognition that the information is no longer inside the college's actual physical boundaries; it certainly changes the way CIOs look at things. Their concerns become, "How do I protect myself, and how do I get this information?" as opposed to "How many people do I need to do more backups?" Good cloud vendors will have comprehensive and proven answers to these questions.

Once these hurdles are cleared, there are baseline technology questions that must be considered. These questions depend on the technology inside the campus or the technology that's necessary to move to the cloud. In terms of the IT organization, you're potentially talking about major change and modifications to the operating environment they have been accustomed to and are comfortable in. This includes the infrastructure vendors they select, the maintenance agreements that they have in place, and technology questions from storage to networking to computing capacity. Also, on the IT side, it's critically important to consider integration: if these business applications are being moved off campus, how do they integrate back to campus?

From the business side, there is a big impact on the user community; how big depends on the equipment and systems already in place. There are campuses that are still using green screen terminals off of a mainframe to do their work. In moving to the cloud, these schools are changing from older PC-based platforms to more up-to-date ones capable of running browser sessions and multiple windows. The ROI in making these changes is significant, but there can be a great deal of legwork depending on the current environment.

While the benefits of cloud computing in a college environment can be substantial, there are pitfalls that must be avoided. The primary pitfall to be aware of begins with the actual choice of the cloud vendor. Because the field is relatively new, it's easy for small-scale, back-of-the-garage outfits to start up a cloud business and position themselves as a knowledgeable cloud vendor. Consequently, the question becomes, does the cloud vendor really understand your business and do they have the wherewithal, certification and demonstrated success in the educational environment to ensure that your information - as well as your business applications - are being managed properly?

The SaaS Analogy
The introduction of software as a service (SaaS) provided an analogous situation.

Organizations had been focusing the bulk of their attention on their data center, including its physical layout and equipment. But the emergence of SaaS required a different mindset. All of the vendor data centers would have raised floors, halon fire extinguishers, etc. But those requirements pale in comparison to how the vendor operates, how they protect data, and who has access to the servers. Those were the real critical questions that had to be asked and answered for the concept to take off - just as they are today in the cloud computing arena.

What about the legal process when the cloud is brought in? Lawyers are always involved in the procurement of any software or services, so they certainly have a role. But with cloud computing, it does shift the kinds of protection they might look for in the contract. Because the college is placing business-critical data in someone else's hands, the contractual obligations are different. There are questions about the viability of the system, how often it's updated, how long the data is stored, is the data deleted when the vendor says they're going to. In essence, when buying software on a campus, it's all about the license agreement; with a cloud vendor, the focus shifts to the service agreement and the protection of privacy, records, and information.

Switching to a cloud computing scenario can begin with "baby steps" in order to allow the school to become comfortable with the change. For example migrating more localized applications like Inquiry or CRM to the cloud allows campuses to achieve financial savings since the on-site system infrastructure - a costly and sometimes unwieldy element - is eliminated However, the big payoff is in the more comprehensive enrollment management areas where the value proposition for admissions and financial aid can include a major improvement in operational efficiency enabling a dramatic impact on incoming class demographics and a compelling ROI.

The benefits can be huge, and there are plenty of ways to "get your feet wet" in the cloud that can enable an environment of business agility and cost reduction, a combination not seen before in education.

More Stories By Bob Burke

Bob Burke is president of FolderWave, Inc. (www.folderwave.com), a cloud-based company offering products and services designed to significantly improve complex, high-volume time-dependent process and data management operations in many operational areas in higher education. He can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
What is the best strategy for selecting the right offshore company for your business? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, will discuss the things to look for - positive and negative - in evaluating your options. He will also discuss how to maximize productivity with your offshore developers. Before you start your search, clearly understand your business needs and how that impacts software choices.
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
As people view cloud as a preferred option to build IT systems, the size of the cloud-based system is getting bigger and more complex. As the system gets bigger, more people need to collaborate from design to management. As more people collaborate to create a bigger system, the need for a systematic approach to automate the process is required. Just as in software, cloud now needs DevOps. In this session, the audience can see how people can solve this issue with a visual model. Visual models ha...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ANSeeN are the measurement electronics maker for X-ray and Gamma-ray and Neutron measurement equipment such as spectrometers, pulse shape analyzer, and CdTe-FPD. For more information, visit http://anseen.com/.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable? Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, will answer these questions and demonstrate techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busine...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, will discuss some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he’ll go over some of the best practices for structured team migrat...
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
First generation hyperconverged solutions have taken the data center by storm, rapidly proliferating in pockets everywhere to provide further consolidation of floor space and workloads. These first generation solutions are not without challenges, however. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Wes Talbert, a Principal Architect and results-driven enterprise sales leader at NetApp, will discuss how the HCI solution of tomorrow will integrate with the public cloud to deliver a quality hybrid cloud e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.