[LINK] Education ICT Clouds

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue Mar 22 15:37:04 AEDT 2011

Hi all,

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 vendor’s own servers.

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has committed to moving to 
Blackboard’s 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. That’s not going to 
solve all of the problems but for me, it’ll 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, there’s 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 vendor’s 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.

Blackboard’s 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 Microsoft’s Live at edu or Google’s 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.

"There’s 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 doesn’t work."


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