Cloud Services for All Education

No application, service or data logging is immune from migration to the cloud.

It is not myth and we are all aware of “Cloud Services”. But what can and does this mean for the future of Education?

What has been the trend over the last 15 years?

  • More and more services from the web.
  • Virtual Servers
  • Infrastructure as a service.

Gartner predicts that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.3% through 2016, the fastest growing area of public cloud computing the research firm tracks. its around 150 billion dollar market now and will be 210 billion in 2 years time.

There is a trend away from scaling up to bigger and bigger servers to scale out.

Instead of buying a bigger server, you add more commodity servers, virtual machines or cloud instances behind a load balancer. Conversely, capacity can be easily removed when no longer required. You can pay only for your immediate needs. This is genuinely future proof, not just sales rhetoric because you can scale the provision transparently to the end user organisation.

The SQL relational database paradigm is under threat by the NoSQL document orientated data model.

The modern approach to application architecture is to scale out and companies like Amazon and Google can do this on a scale no school, college or university can get remotely near.

There are three significant problems in migration to infrastructure as a service.

  • There is a massive inertia in the legacy data stored in proprietary systems that will be expensive to migrate.
  • The work force is trained and experienced in their current systems and any initial cost to change are likely to raise a considerable barrier even though once the transition is made there will be very considerable savings to be made.
  • There are no policies in place that protect the data and its ownership when using cloud services because it “can be held” anywhere and the service provider policies do not always protect the end organisations.

Now is an ideal time to evaluate one or two organisations moving to infrastructure as a service as a Research and Development exercise to inform the mass migration that is bound to happen in the next few years. Rather than experiment with all or not at all take the opportunity to run a pilot as a purely learning experience.

The benefits of Infrastructure as a service is that it eliminates the need for local servers and their management. Everything from keeping applications up to date to backups is eliminated and managed remotely. It makes information more universally accessible and requires minimal on-sight technical support saving salaries.

In line with creating a research and development exercise we should develop a similar framework to JANET network and EDUROAM that supports a national effort for an UK Education Cloud service that is supported by government and industry but regulated by an independent body.

 

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