Infrastructure Optimisation Using Cloud for Higher Education

This post was originally published on ThoughtsOnCloud on February 13, 2013

In my previous blog post I discussed the benefits of using cloud in each of the three pillars of a higher education organisation – administration, education and research. In this post I cover the optimisation of the infrastructure that underpins all of these pillars.

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A university typically runs an IT environment similar to any small and medium sized enterprise (SME). It might run process management software, web portal, collaboration software, HR and finance software, student relationship management software, and on multiple operating systems, all interlinked by using an enterprise service bus (ESB) with service-oriented architecture (SOA), open standards, and a common security directory.

This business is not really the university’s core business. The university doesn’t want to maintain the skills to run these systems, and, more importantly, doesn’t want to worry about the underlying operating systems and databases. Ideally the university would have an empty data centre and for these products to be managed by a cloud service provider (CSP). The university would retain responsibility for the business function, such as the custom nodes of the ESB and the process management work flows. The CSP would upgrade the products when necessary. With well developed component architecture, the university could purchase these various components from separate CSPs and connect the components with cloud broker software, also available on the cloud.

Universities might want to own their own software licenses for the normal workload but there will be peak periods where more CPUs are needed than the software licenses allow (for example, student registration is used far more in late August and early September, so currently they have to pay for this peak capacity all year). With cloud, universities can potentially pay for this excess on a pay-as-needed basis.

In this environment, provisioning is more important than ever, that is, universities might benefit from IBM SmartCloud Provisioning with the Hybrid Cloud Integrator plug-in to provision to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and manage the images. Although, IBM SmartCloud Enterprise does have a good portal and APIs.

Service wrappers for management of middleware and the database can be added or universities can continue to do it themselves and adopt the extended services as these services are made available as standard options in future releases.

As described in my previous post in the student administration section, multiple institutions can benefit from sharing services and data centres in community clouds.

Staying with private cloud, shared between faculties, dynamic infrastructure that measures, predicts and manages a cloud can offer virtualised resources, delivered with elastic scaling and benefiting from economies of scale. In moving its own development infrastructure to cloud, IBM achieved an 84 percent annual saving of $3.3 million by reducing hardware, labour, power, and software license costs.

At North Carolina State University (NCSU) a multi-institute Virtual Computing Laboratory (VCL) serves 30,000+ students and staff and has reduced software license costs by 75 percent. NCSU now makes VCL available to 250,000 users through partners in North Carolina and beyond. The software was donated to the Apache foundation by North Carolina State University and IBM.

Through the IBM Cloud Academy, IBM collaborates with K-12 schools and higher education institutions to integrate cloud technologies into their infrastructures, sharing best practices and working together on the transformation.

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