@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, David Paquette, Roger Strukhoff, Liz McMillan, David Sprott

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.

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Penta Security is a leading vendor for data security solutions, including its encryption solution, D’Amo. By using FPE technology, D’Amo allows for the implementation of encryption technology to sensitive data fields without modification to schema in the database environment. With businesses having their data become increasingly more complicated in their mission-critical applications (such as ERP, CRM, HRM), continued ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their online busine...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudbric, a leading website security provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudbric is an elite full service website protection solution specifically designed for IT novices, entrepreneurs, and small and medium businesses. First launched in 2015, Cloudbric is based on the enterprise level Web Application Firewall by Penta Security Sys...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, will contrast how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He will show the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He will also have live demos of building immutable pipe...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
So you think you are a DevOps warrior, huh? Put your money (not really, it’s free) where your metrics are and prove it by taking The Ultimate DevOps Geek Quiz Challenge, sponsored by DevOps Summit. Battle through the set of tough questions created by industry thought leaders to earn your bragging rights and win some cool prizes.
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
Governments around the world are adopting Safe Harbor privacy provisions to protect customer data from leaving sovereign territories. Increasingly, global companies are required to create new instances of their server clusters in multiple countries to keep abreast of these new Safe Harbor laws. Is it worth it? In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Adam Rogers, Managing Director of Anexia, Inc., will discuss how to keep your data legal and still stay in business.