[LINK] Education ICT Clouds
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue Mar 22 15:37:04 EST 2011
It appears that Australia's universities are moving to a cloud based ICT
service in a big way for their respective students. Certainly, for email
and, apparently, also increasingly for their Learning Management Systems.
For example, Swinburne in Melbourne, points out numerous advantages here:
And, apparently CAUDIT are surely positive regarding clouds for students.
(ie Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology)
It may be that such ICT directions have a place for Aussie schools also?
Whatever, in their somewhat one-sided article Computerworld are definite.
One can't help wondering however, where that would leave those ancillary
Aussie uni activities, such as Oz-teachers and Link mailing lists, which
perform such a valuable service for Australia? For instance, if unis are
to continue such 'socially important but outside-core-activity' services
then they might be hard to justify, and pay for, with such cloud systems?
Unis prepare for next Cloud wave
Blackboard managed hosting gains traction as universities contemplate
further outsourcing moves. James Hutchinson (Computerworld) 16/3/2011
Following a wave of migration to Cloud-based email systems for students
and staff, Australian universities are preparing for the next migration
trend, outsourcing instances of the popular Blackboard student resources
portal to the vendors own servers.
The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has committed to moving to
Blackboards hosted suite by the middle of next year, an 18-month
migration that will relieve the institution of 15 servers and offer
student support 24 hours a day.
"The Cloud version is quite attractive," outgoing IT director, Mick
Houlahan told Computerworld Australia.
"The teaching development unit developed a case the VC [the UWS vice
chancellor, Professor Janice Reid] is happy with. Thats not going to
solve all of the problems but for me, itll take a lot away."
In particular, he said the reduced maintenance concerns for university IT
staff would provide additional benefits.
"The biggest issue for us is our ability to support it - the demands are
almost infinite," he said. "If we have to do maintenance or there's an
outage, theres always complaints."
The move is one of several the university is undertaking to effectively
move physical data centres off-campus. Though Houlahan is relieving
control of IT systems to an as-yet-unannounced replacement, he said he
would expect not to have a data centre at UWS within five years.
Curtin University in Perth and RMIT in Melbourne became some of the first
in Australia to outsource the suite, with both going live in January this
year. Curtin CIO, Peter Nikoletatos, said the migration came as a
precursor to newer versions of the software and mobile-based projects
currently under way at the university.
"I would argue that [Blackboard] performance actually improved slightly,"
he said. "The other advantage is that it will reduce our scheduled
maintenance windows, effectively when the system is not available."
The Swinburne University of Technology has also migrated its instances of
Blackboard to the vendors managed hosting environment across its
university and TAFE students.
The University of Melbourne had explored a hosted Blackboard
arrangement "very seriously" following their move to outsource email and
spam control management. However, CIO Sendur Kathir said the solution had
failed to meet his criteria for such arrangements, which encompass
availability and disaster recovery; privacy and security; cost
effectiveness; and ease of integration. However, Nikoletatos said the
benefits outweighed any negative.
"If you approach this from a finance argument only, you may miss the real
benefits which are effectively the hidden costs," Nikoletatos said.
Blackboards managed hosting, which it has only begun offering in recent
years, is provided on Oracle infrastructure in Tier 4 data centres hosted
out of Australia, the United States and Europe. Service level agreements
at the top tier of service include 99.9 per cent uptime.
Most Australian universities have, since at least 2009, moved their
student, staff and alumni email to Cloud-based email systems hosted on
either Microsofts Live at edu or Googles Gmail solutions.
According to Houlahan, the progress of such trends among institutions
have been driven largely by the Council of Australian University
Directors of Information Technology (CAUDIT), the members of which shared
their experiences to the point of swapping draft agreements with
Microsoft and Google prior to migration.
"Theres a lot of that hand holding," Houlahan told Computerworld
Australia. "As time rolls on, you get a lot of feedback about what works
and what doesnt work."
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