Cloud Computing and the power to choose
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  • 1. CloudComputing Power and the to Choose By Rob Bristow, Ted Dodds, Richard Northam, and Leo Plugge S ome of the most significant changes in information technology are those that have given the individual user greater power to choose. The first of these changes was the development of the personal computer. The PC liberated the individual user from the limitations of the mainframe and minicomputers and from the rules and regulations of centralized system management. Individual users could install PCs on college and university campuses without obtaining the approval of the central IT organization. For the first time, individuals could choose their own word processor, programming language, utilities, and more. As the number of personal applications grew, more attention to user-friendliness became a key selling point. 14 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010 C.J. Burton, © 2010
  • 2. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose Subsequent waves of change—the n College and university IT depart- much more storage space. They use their World Wide Web, mobile devices, Web 2.0 ments are struggling to deliver institutional e-mail account as a kind of functionality, and virtualization—contin- scalable, secure, reliable, and cost- stationery to show addressees that they are ued to benefit users as interlinked PCs and effective technology services in a time a member of a trustworthy institution—for other personal devices delivered informa- of shrinking budgets and growing instance, when they apply for an intern- tion and innovative new applications to demands for increased operational ship. Other examples include using cloud individuals connected via global networks. efficiencies. services to communicate with friends and In addition, the resulting industrialization n Students, faculty, and staff are bring- colleagues (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), to col- of information technology allowed generic ing a rapidly changing array of con- laborate on documents (e.g., Google Docs), services used by individuals—services sumer electronic devices to campus, to back up files online (e.g., Dropbox), and such as e-mail, chat, and the exchange of and they expect ready access to easy- to exchange documents, video, or photos documents, pictures, and videos—to be to-use mobile applications. without the intervention of system manag- provided on a massive scale. Today called n Large commercial IT organizations ers. Researchers are also starting to lever- cloud services, many of these—such as Wiki- are gaining significant economies age the elasticity that the cloud (or cloud pedia, Hotmail, and YouTube—were avail- of scale—in their infrastructure and computing) offers by using systems such able before the phrase cloud service was even service-delivery capacities —that as Eucalyptus and e-Science Central. coined. What is new is the delivery of these individual college and university IT departments simply cannot match. E-mail From the n College and university CIOs are be- Currently some 75 percent of colleges individual user’s coming intrigued by the possibility and universities in Australia and New point of view, the that some—and perhaps most—of the services currently managed by Zealand have moved their student e-mail to the cloud.2 Early in 2010, Macquarie only thing that the central IT department could be University became the first higher educa- matters is the moved to the cloud. However, many tion institution in Australia to also move power of choice. CIOs lack direct experience using its research, teaching, and administrative cloud services, fear the prospect of a staff e-mail to a cloud provider. services on an industrial scale through new form of lock-in by service pro- Student e-mail provision has been what might be called IT “factories.”1 Yet viders, and have deep and legitimate adopted in a number of U.K. institutions, the methods and techniques for deliver- concerns about information privacy with more examining this option. One ing these services do not concern the user. issues. university, having already placed student From the individual user’s point of view, n Colleges and universities are look- e-mail in the cloud, is looking to embrace the only thing that matters is the power of ing to their CIOs and their IT staff cloud solutions for all its IT requirements choice: the opportunity to choose among for strategic advice associated with where appropriate. In Scotland, another cheap (or free) competing services that are the institutional mission of teaching university is going through the tendering user-friendly, accessible from any location, and learning and research, yet at the process for placing its faculty and staff and within higher education, potentially same time, CIOs are often distracted e-mail in the cloud, in addition to its stu- more reliable than campus services. by operational issues associated with dent e-mail service. Colleges and universities around the running core infrastructure. In the Netherlands, the most popu- world are thus discussing, planning for, n Many core IT services are being lar scenario currently is to outsource and using cloud computing and cloud viewed as a utility service much like student e-mail. Anything else is con- services. The rate of adoption varies from electricity or gas. As commercial sidered too risky due to concerns about country to country, but the need for aware- providers enhance their capability privacy, ownership of the data, security, ness and preparation is universal. This and maturity in providing these core continuity, and so on. However, student article will examine cloud issues—both services, moving to a commercial e-mail is only one part of an institution’s opportunities and risks—by looking at provider becomes a more attractive e-mail, reducing the economic benefits of examples from four countries: Australia, option. outsourcing. Canada, the Netherlands, and the United In Canada, the move to the cloud has Kingdom. Examples progressed rather slowly due in large Some aspects of cloud services have be- measure to strict legislation governing the Drivers come embedded in individual practice. storage of personal information outside What are the driving forces behind the For example, many students forward their the country. The legislative restrictions current interest in cloud computing in college/university e-mail to their private apply to U.S.-hosted cloud solutions that higher education? Hotmail or Gmail account, which provides are institutionally provided even if they 16 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 3. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose are not institutionally mandated, but the Canadian University Council of CIOs their own workflows using Java, .net, or legislation does not inhibit individuals (CUCCIO), and assuming a successful Python. The system utilizes a collabora- from choosing to use the services. Indeed, conclusion to negotiations, the resulting tive model inspired by Facebook, with most students and many employees make contract will also be shared with CUCCIO users having the ability to form groups personal use of these services every day. members. These documents can then and share data and processes in fine- The privacy statutes vary from province form the basis for standard templates grained ways. The security model of to province, making it difficult for would- that can be used across the country. This e-Science Central works with this ele- be domestic cloud service providers to should result in faster and simpler adop- ment of the system, allowing research- aggregate national demand under a stan- tion of some cloud services and serve as ers to permit collaborators to see their dardized contract template. Nevertheless, the foundation for negotiation with other workflows and to comment on them. higher education institutions are cur- providers. The system also has a built-in blogging rently consulting with students and other tool, enabling the development of con- community partners in an effort to find Research versations. Once an experimenter has set an acceptable solution that will lead the Another opportunity provided by cloud up the workflow, he or she initiates the way to cloud services, beginning with stu- services is to support researchers in process, at which time the system sends dent e-mail. Wilfred Laurier University reducing the costs involved with com- the computational work either to New- plans to move student e-mail, calendar, putation. Only a small number of re- castle’s own servers or to the cloud, as and document storage to a cloud solu- searchers need capability computing—that appropriate. Although e-Science Central tion this summer. Dalhousie University is, high-performance computing (HPC) currently uses Microsoft’s Azure plat- is in the process of moving alumni e-mail systems with large numbers of cores. The form, the system can also be configured services (for life) to Google; its next step majority of researchers are well served to use Amazon EC2. It has about fifty is to explore migrating student e-mail to with capacity computing—that is, systems regular users across a range of scientific the cloud. Both institutions are motivated that share their computing power with disciplines, but Watson sees the system by a strategic direction to focus internal several and up to many users. This ca- as scalable to thousands in due course. efforts on technologies that address core pacity computing is exactly where cloud He also sees the potential for applica- academic activities while beginning to computing excels. Recently Microsoft tions like e-Science Central to open up disengage from nondifferentiating ser- and the National Science Foundation e-science to what he terms the “long tail” vices that can be offered more efficiently announced an agreement that will offer of researchers—those who at present are elsewhere. selected individual researchers and re- excluded, by geography or cost, from ac- The University of Alberta is taking search groups free access to the Windows cess to grid computing or HPC. a strategic approach to moving e-mail Azure cloud computing resources.3 This The Netherlands is currently build- services for faculty, staff, and students to initiative opens up a whole new spec- ing a national IT infrastructure for sci- Gmail. Institutional leaders have built trum of opportunities for both research- ence and research as a cloud service. consensus around a goal to adopt Gmail ers and institutions. This infrastructure includes a virtual but have made adoption contingent on One specific use of the cloud for re- laboratory for e-science with generic successfully completing a comprehen- search is e-Science Central (http://www functionalities to support a wide class of sive Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and .esciencecentral.co.uk/) in the United specific e-science application environ- then negotiating a contract that is fully Kingdom, developed by Professor Paul ments. The technology and resources compliant with provincial legislation. The Watson and his team at Newcastle Uni- come from different sources, such as PIA is complete and has been accepted by versity. Building in part on experience SARA, BiG Grid, GigaPort3 and SURF- the government agency responsible for gained through projects funded by net, DAS-3, and Starplane. The software information and privacy. Contract nego- the Joint Information Systems Com- is developed in and by research domains tiations are ongoing. The PIA document mittee (JISC)—projects such as my such as high-energy physics, food infor- has been shared with members of the Experiment (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/ matics, medical diagnosing and imaging, whatwedo/programmes/vre2/ biodiversity, and Dutch telescience.4 Capacity myexperiment.aspx)—e-Science In Canada, although there has been computing Central delivers cloud-enabled some spot activity in the use of cloud is exactly e-science capability to research- services for research—for example, ers across many disciplines. N E P T U N E Ca n a d a ( h t t p : / / w w w where Researchers build workflows in .neptune canada.ca/) used Akamai video cloud a drag-and-drop interface from services to broadcast the launch of its un- computing preexisting shared modules, dersea network—the main research focus excels. or they write and contribute continues to be grid technologies. 18 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 4. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose Challenges Privacy limitations. Anecdotal evidence suggests Uncertain Definitions Broadly speaking, the issue of privacy that faculty and staff are becoming more The term cloud computing means differ- is one that concerns campus legal office comfortable with trusting some cloud ent things to different IT professionals and senior management administrators providers with their sensitive data. and to different institutions. It is often more than end users. Students, many of Interestingly, the corporate policies used to loosely describe a broad range whom use Gmail and Hotmail before of Microsoft and Google are very strong of activities, ranging from outsourcing coming to college, a specific activity to a single external do not appear to be Privacy concerns provider (which many would argue is overly concerned with privacy or campus legal not cloud computing) to delivering a set of services from the cloud in such a way with the idea that office and senior that users are not even sure where their c o m p a n i e s l i ke management data is being housed or where it is being Google and Mi- administrators processed. crosoft can access more than end Preliminary findings of three JISC their e-mails. In users. studies confirm confusion about the 2008, for example, terms cloud and cloud computing and also several Australian universities did an on the issue of privacy. For example, in suggest that for some in the research analysis of their student e-mail systems the early days of Australian universities computing community, cloud computing and found that more than 80 percent of moving their student e-mail services to is just another term for grid computing. To students were not using the university- cloud providers, many of the universities this end, the grid community in Europe provided e-mail system and had already wanted to retain the ability to examine came together recently, under the aus- set up a forward to their Hotmail or e-mail logs in cases where there was pices of the Open Grid Forum, for the Gmail accounts.5 reasonable evidence to implicate a Cloudscape II conference (http://www Faculty and staff have proven to be a student for a breach of the university .ogfeurope.eu/pages/selecteddocument bit more vocal about the privacy issues. code of conduct. The services offered by .aspx?id_documento=316b846a-0993- Particularly in the research domain, Google and Microsoft did not offer this 401c-9007-f63d2cba5ed9), exploring they have expressed concerns about capability, and providing it proved to be issues pertaining to both grid computing sensitive research data going outside the challenging for both companies, since and cloud computing. There was a con- bounds of the college or university. Yet it contravened their internal company vergence of interest in both areas, since though these concerns have been noted, privacy policies. In a conversation the need for standards and for interoper- some researchers readily use Gmail or between the Council of Australian Uni- ability between cloud systems was seen Hotmail to move data to colleagues at versity Directors of Information Tech- to be just as relevant as is this need in the other institutions as a way to get around nology (CAUDIT) and a number of cloud world of grid computing. firewalls or e-mail system attachment providers on the issue of privacy—and, in particular, the misuse of user data—the providers argued that the risks associated ThE JISC STuDIES with misusing user data were significant. The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the United Kingdom has If, for example, it came to light that launched three studies to investigate the cloud for higher education from a Microsoft or Google was misusing data, number of perspectives. As a whole, these studies will provide a comprehensive the higher education sector would picture of the issues at the present time. immediately lose trust. The stakes for The first JISC study is a technical review of the cloud in terms of research large, well-known cloud providers are requirements and is looking at the issues required to make cloud computing significant: their reputation and brand feasible, including security, distributed programming abstractions, scheduling, are on the line. and benchmarking. The second study focuses on the organizational and human issues surrounding cloud computing for research, such as service-level Contractual and Jurisdictional Issues agreements, skills and competencies, licensing, security, and the best mix of Contractual and jurisdictional issues cloud and more conventional HPC for various research communities. The remain a key challenge when moving third study widens the scope to look at the implications of cloud computing for services to the cloud. When the contract enterprise computing and also at the environmental implications of moving is based around national law and when computing into the cloud. the data and transactions are occurring Find out more on the JISC website (http://www.jisc.ac.uk). within the same country, the process is relatively easy. But when the data and 20 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 5. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose With the use of readily address and control perfor- Network Capacity mance issues by adjusting, in real One of the concerns with moving ser- cloud service time, how much of the service sits vices to the cloud relates to latency and providers, in the cloud and how much stays to the speed of the networks between the there can on the university infrastructure. college or university and the provider. be a need to An important aspect of risk Peering R&E networks with cloud pro- rearchitect associated with privacy and data is viders goes some way toward addressing applications. to correctly classify and value the this. The National Research and Educa- intellectual property of the data tion Network (NREN) in Australia—the transactions are happening offshore, the that is being entrusted to the cloud pro- Australian Academic Research Network challenges increase dramatically. vider and then to build an appropriate (AARNet)—interconnects colleges and Further, the implications of the indemnity into the contractual arrange- universities, typically with 10GB circuits USA PATRIOT Act lead to very real ments. Doing so not only ensures that in metropolitan areas and 1GB circuits impediments for non-U.S. institutions the cloud service provider will correctly in regional areas. The AARNet also do- when dealing with U.S. companies. For understand and value the data but also mestically peers with a number of com- example, a college or university will financially compensates the college or mercial providers—including Microsoft, encounter difficulties if it is collaborat- university in the event of a leak of sensi- Google, and Akamai—and internation- ing with researchers in a country that tive data of significant value. ally peers with other NRENs around the is under embargo from the U.S. export The other issue to be considered is world. An enabler in terms of quality of clauses. In an increasingly connected that in moving services to the cloud, the service, the AARNet demonstrates the world with collaborative research span- institution no longer retains direct access importance of leveraging NRENs to fa- ning many international boundaries, and control. The college or university cilitate the use of the cloud. U.S. companies will need to work with must ensure that it has strategies and In the Netherlands, network capacity their lawmakers to address these issues processes in place so that should a cloud and flexibility is addressed in the Giga- if they want large-scale acceptance service stop working in the intended Port3 program. The aim of the GigaPort3 of their offerings outside the United way, causing problems for other systems, project is to raise the SURFnet network States. Some cloud providers, such as the institution can manage the situation infrastructure to a higher level and to Microsoft, have recognized this as a even though it cannot readily control or integrate it seamlessly with other IT in- significant problem and have shown a access the offending service. frastructure facilities. The new network, willingness to work with institutions to SURFnet7, will increase the flexibility change the jurisdiction of contracts and Interoperability and manageability of lightpaths, imple- to address as many of these concerns as To date, use of the cloud has largely ment Next Generation Ethernet, provide possible. focused on specific services, but as the custom-size bandwidth cost-effectively practice increases, a looming issue is and on time, extend the dynamic light- Risk and Nonperformance interoperability between clouds and path service to allow applications to Strategies need to be employed to man- the lack of standards. If an institution initiate a lightpath automatically, and age not only risk but also those situations needs to quickly move a service from one further professionalize the international when a cloud service provider suddenly cloud provider to another, there are few NetherLight network node. Part of the and unexpectedly stops delivering ser- standards to ensure that the data associ- plans is to create seamless bridging vices. For example in Australia, Curtin ated with the service is readily portable between fixed and mobile networks for University has set up a strategic partner- between providers. Further, as adoption both research and education to use ser- ship among five providers with which of the cloud continues, interoperability vices anytime, anyplace.7 it works closely so that services can be between services running on private, moved between partners as required. public, and hybrid clouds will introduce Rearchitecting In another example, Victoria University further complexity. With the use of cloud service providers, is developing an innovative strategy to Some work has been done to develop there can be a need to rearchitect ap- rearchitect its internal infrastructure so open-cloud and interoperability stan- plications. Instead of a fat client, access that integration with the cloud can be dards.6 Still in their infancy, these stan- typically changes to the browser utiliz- done in a more seamless and elastic man- dards are lightweight, and not all cloud ing small widgets. This can necessitate ner. In this environment, data and pro- providers have committed to them. A the rearchitecting of applications to cessing can move transparently between number of CIOs believe that this issue make efficient use of the network and to the university infrastructure and the will become an increasing headache in keep the transactions at the back end. cloud provider. The university can then the next years. Building useful, resilient, scalable, 22 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 6. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose and cost-effective interfaces to cloud sys- However, further examination shows across institutions, and the ability to shift tems for use by researchers or the enter- that these more traditional ways of pro- management attention away from opera- prise remains as challenging as doing so viding research computing hide many tional concerns over nondifferentiating for the grid or HPC and requires many of costs from end users—not the least being services to those that are strategic to the the same skills and approaches. Indeed, the cost of electricity and other over- academic mission. The risks, though not a new layer of abstraction seems to be heads, including technical development insignificant, are familiar territory for emerging to cope with the opportuni- and support, which is often delivered most CIOs: information security, negoti- ties to harness the power of the cloud by people whose real job is research. Fi- ating and managing contracts and associ- for research computing applications. nally, the cost of moving to the cloud—in ated service levels, and potentially high This “data-center operating system” will particular the need to rewrite algorithms switching costs stemming from lock-in hide the technical implementation of to take advantage of new platforms—is by service providers. However, in the different cloud offerings from the end also perceived as a barrier. absence of collective and coordinated user behind interfaces that allow rapid action to date, each institution that has deployment and delivery of new ser- The Next Level deployed commercially sourced services vices, whether for e-science or enterprise Thinking, planning, and working in the has developed its own one-off contracts computing. cloud requires colleges and universities with providers, despite nearly identical to recognize that individual institutions needs across the sector. Sourcing student Staff are limited in their ability to scale their e-mail services through Google is a clear Over the coming years, the skills set re- infrastructure and services to the levels example. quired of the staff within the IT depart- of commercial providers, no matter Thus, one of the first things that na- ment to support and manage a portfolio how large and complex those institu- tional associations can do is to help draw that includes the cloud will differ from tions may be. In the EDUCAUSE Review up contracts with suppliers of cloud those required today. Staff will need article “Above-Campus Services: Shap- services and to help create an infrastruc- to be more adept and sophisticated at ing the Promise of Cloud Computing ture that will facilitate the outsourc- managing strategic relationships with in Higher Education,” Brad Wheeler ing of e-mail accounts. In Australia, service providers, as well as being com- and Shelton Waggener defined three CAUDIT has acted as a platform for petent managers of services that span broad categories of “above-campus” collaboration, enabling early adopters to both the institution and the providers sourcing models: commercial, insti- share their experiences with each other. under contractual arrangements. Some tutional, and consortium sourcing. 8 Specifically, CAUDIT has facilitated not IT staff may view the cloud as a threat to As the commercial providers of cloud only the sharing of contracts between their future employment rather than an services gain an increasing foothold in its members but also the subsequent opportunity—a situation that will need the sector, consideration needs to be refinement of the contracts to a template to be managed. given to institutional and consortium that is mutually acceptable for both the college/university and the cloud Staff will need provider, reducing the legal costs for to be more everyone. Likewise, in the Netherlands, adept and SURF has drawn up a contract with sophisticated at Google to be a member of SURFfed- eration, the Dutch authentication and managing strategic authorization platform for all higher relationships with education and research. Microsoft is service providers. expected to follow soon. This important arrangement is a simple but very effec- Perceptions sourcing, as well as to the value that tive way to make the cloud services of The JISC studies revealed other percep- national associations like CAUDIT, different providers accessible and to give tion problems, including a reluctance CUCCIO, EDUCAUSE, JISC, and SURF institutions the opportunity to choose by some IT leaders to give up the pres- can provide to help higher education which provider and which services best tige that comes from owning and being institutions. fit their needs. SURFfederation is already responsible for large hardware installa- The potential benefits of com- used for a large variety of services from tions. Another issue that has surfaced mercially sourced cloud services are the cloud, from publishers to theaters. is that on initial inspection, using cloud compelling: reduced institutional costs, But can these national associations do computing for research looks to be more increased efficiencies through stan- more? Can or should they play a more ac- expensive than traditional approaches. dardization, improved collaboration tive role in the provision of cloud services 24 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 7. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose to their members? CAUDIT is in very services, and managing effective relation- good models for thinking about cloud early discussions with a cloud provider ships with commercial sourcing firms? consortium services. These organiza- to explore this very notion. One possible The broker—or brokers—could fulfill the tions are driven by the needs of their scenario is for the national association to requirements of demand aggregation, member institutions. They are rooted in a partner with the cloud provider to host resulting in optimal scale economies for very high level of trust and transparency the services inside the sector for its mem- commercial sourcing. Internationally, in their operation and governance. They bers on behalf of the cloud provider. we already have excellent examples of have successfully developed the staff Exactly how such a service would be community-driven organizations that competencies to negotiate large-scale provided remains a question of much de- are, in effect, trusted brokers: regional contracts, manage relationships with bate, but an interesting possibility exists and national research networking so- and performance by service providers, for the NREN to move up the stack and cieties. The success of these organiza- define and maintain outstanding levels provide value-added services beyond the tions (Internet2 in the United States, of network service, and provide strong core network. CANARIE in Canada, AARNet in client support. These organizations work In the Netherlands, SURFdiensten is Australia, TERENA in Europe, JANET closely and productively with private- the broker organization for Dutch higher in the United Kingdom, and SURF in sector service providers to ensure that the education institutions. It procures not the Netherlands) provides an attractive needs of the higher education commu- only journal and software licences but and instructive model of how colleges nity are understood and met. In short, the also hardware and services for all higher and universities have worked together existing competencies of these advanced education institutions in the Netherlands. to combine their collective networking networking organizations could enable SURFdiensten and SURFnet work closely service requirements, comprising con- them to move beyond networking and to together with the institutions in dealing tracting, standardization, service-level act as a demand aggregator and broker for with commercial service providers such management, and support. commercial cloud requirements and ser- as Google and Microsoft. The expertise of Consider the alternative: in the ab- vices. Indeed, in the province of British both organizations is thus improved and sence of regional networking organiza- Columbia, Canada, the governing board put to use for all SURF members. tions, each institution would have to of the regional advanced networking Although at an earlier stage of de- negotiate its own bandwidth contracts organization (BCNET) recently revised velopment, CUCCIO is coordinating and service agreements. Commercial net- its organizational vision and mission to the early cloud activities of Canadian working providers would be required to broaden the potential scope of activities universities by leveraging its experience negotiate hundreds of one-off contracts beyond pure data networking. in setting up a Canadian Access Federa- tion that offers federated identity services What if there through eduroam and Shibboleth. were an entity Meanwhile, the board of EDUCAUSE is exploring new leadership roles for the that acted association, including that of active stew- as higher ard. For EDUCAUSE, active stewardship education’s of above-campus activities would rep- trusted resent a challenging, nuanced, and vital broker? role in service to the community. It is a role that would leverage the association’s with individual institutions, each con- Finally, there are also opportunities existing competencies while demanding tract being highly similar if not identical for groups of higher education institu- that it stretch to develop new capabilities to the others. Instead, by aggregating tions or a specially formed sector-owned where the need for community leader- multi-institutional demand with a single organization to collaborate and create ship is acute. This could include policy trusted entity—their national or regional private or hybrid clouds to provide development, directed advocacy, and research networking organization— services. The Australian Research Col- most important, coordinated action that colleges and universities achieved scale laboration Service (ARCS) is an example directly engages other member associa- economies, best pricing, operational in which pooling the collective resources tions, community partners, and service sustainability, and considerable leverage of the sector to provide a suite of services providers. to mitigate switching costs and therefore in a private cloud has provided real value Taking these ideas to the next level, encourage an environment of healthy to researchers. ARCS currently offers a what if there were an entity that acted as competition. service where any researcher in Australia higher education’s trusted broker in de- In short, national and regional re- can have a 25GB data store9 (more can veloping contract templates, negotiating search networking organizations are be requested) that is in a private cloud 26 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 8. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose and that is available anywhere there is should be provided by the institutions, Instead, they pay an annual subscrip- a reliable connection to the Internet. which services can be outsourced, and tion fee that provides them access to the The service leverages the data storage which services can be drawn from the hosted service on the web, fully customi- infrastructure of a number of HPC fa- market by the individual user. zable to meet local needs, including soon cilities and universities in Australia; the the ability to access the service with their researchers do not know where their data A Consortium Example: Kuali Ready local identity credentials supported by a is being stored within the sector. Such Kuali Ready (KR) is a community-source Shibboleth federated identity interface. initiatives are the beginning of a host of project chartered to provide a business In this way, even the smallest institu- specific R&E services for which com- continuity planning (BCP) service. It tions with modest budgets and minimal mercial providers are unlikely to provide is also an example of higher education IT staff can affordably offer BCP capabili- a suitable solution. institutions organizing themselves to ties to their campuses. During the first The private cloud also offers a tre- provide cloud services. Launched by the few years of the service, founding part- mendous opportunity for colleges and Kuali Foundation in 2010, KR’s ancestry ners will provide SaaS hosting services, dates to software starting with UC Berkeley and Indiana The tools, developed University. Canadian hosting will be of- cooperation at the University fered by the University of Toronto and the of some IT of California– University of British Columbia. The need Berkeley, that en- for nationally-based hosting is driven by departments able departments Canadian privacy legislation, described may generate to document and earlier, which places strict limits on the simply a puff, maintain their information that can be stored outside not a cloud. local business Canada. But as a consequence, the com- continuity plans munity cloud is already international. universities to collaborate and “dedu- and then to roll up those plans to a de- KR is a good early example of some plicate” core services across institutions. partment, faculty, or institution level. key principles that are emerging to guide Such arrangements, whether provided Adoption of the tools quickly spread— cloud developments: by an organization within the sector first to most of the other campuses of the or in partnership with a commercial UC system, where the project became n Aggregation of demand within the provider, could enable universities to known as UC Ready, and later to dozens community cloud makes sense in cir- realize significant financial savings. In of other institutions in the United States cumstances where specific expertise Australia, this is already happening at the and beyond, which downloaded early or domain knowledge exists that dif- regional level, and over the next one-to- versions of the code to install and run ferentiates the service from available two years there is a reasonable likelihood locally. Recognizing the importance of public cloud offerings. A BCP tool tai- of national initiatives being developed the tools to higher education and the lored to the needs of colleges and uni- through CAUDIT. need for a sustainability plan, Berkeley versities, KR works as a community On the other hand, although creating and the UC system invested substantial cloud offering, whereas massive-scale a private or shared cloud can help institu- additional resources to add requested student e-mail is probably better pro- tions maintain control over the services functionality for pandemic preparedness vided through commercial sourcing. and can lead to some economy of scale, and to bring the software into line with n The service is offered by an existing, the result may still be a far cry from the the Kuali Foundation’s technical and li- known, and trusted community or- advantages achieved by using services censing standards. ganization. Clearly, the Kuali Founda- from companies like Amazon, Google, Like other systems developed and tion has a relatively brief track record or Microsoft. Compared with these supported by the Kuali Foundation, KR in providing direct services. However, companies, the cooperation of some IT can be downloaded at no cost from the the modest scope and relatively low departments may generate simply a puff, Foundation’s public website (http://www risk of this first community cloud not a cloud. More important, a private .kuali.org). Importantly, in a first for the offering present an opportunity to cloud can imply forced customership, Foundation, this software is also being build further competence within the a business model that lacks the driving offered through a Software as a Service Foundation in case more ambitious force of competition to innovate and to (SaaS) model on a subscription basis. SaaS opportunities emerge. provide users with the diversity to which Under the SaaS model, institutions need n The service is a modest first step in they have become accustomed. This also not incur the cost and operational over- an overall strategic direction without implies that institutions should first of all head of their own infrastructure, version being part of a master game-plan. reconsider their services: which services management, and technical support. This is consistent with the notion of 28 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010
  • 9. Cloud Computing and the Power to Choose learning-by-doing and then adjusting tions will get out of the game of running 4. Gordon Cook, Building a National Knowledge course based on experience. Without the monolithic enterprise systems and Infrastructure: How Dutch Pragmatism Nurtures a 21st-century Economy, The Cook Report on minimizing the importance of a BCP will move the finance, human resources, Internet Protocol (Utrecht, The Netherlands: system, this is not an application that and student systems into the cloud over SURF, 2010), <http://www.surfnet.nl/en/nieuws/ features high volumes of transaction the next five to ten years. Indeed, one CIO Pages/Book%20Building%20a%20national%20 knowledge%20infrastructure%20offered%20 processing or complex functionality. commented: “My boss used to constantly to%20Minister%20Plasterk.aspx>. In short, a useful service can be af- tell me I had my head in the clouds, now 5. Neil Thelander, IT Director, Queensland fordably offered to the community, I tell him my strategy is in the cloud.”11 University of Technology, Australia. 6. See the Cloud Standards Coordination wiki: at minimal risk to all parties, while Many CIOs do indeed view the cloud as a <http://cloud-standards.org/wiki/index providing an excellent opportunity to key strategy for the future—a strategy that .php?title=Main_Page#Cloud_Standards_ learn, adjust, and improve. will enable them to add greater value to Coordination>. 7. SURFnet, GigaPort3 Annual Plan 2010, December n The service increases choice to their institution at a more strategic level, 22, 2009, <http://www.surfnet.nl/Documents/ the higher education community. rather than constantly focusing on keep- GigaPort3-AP2010-EXT-1.0.pdf>. The Kuali Foundation is supported ing the lights running. 8. Brad Wheeler and Shelton Waggener, “Above- Campus Services: Shaping the Promise of Cloud by and exists to serve its member Cloud services offer higher education Computing in Higher Education,” EDUCAUSE institutions — colleges and and research institutions the power Review, vol. 44, no. 6 (November/December universities. The busi- to choose: the opportunity to 2009), pp. 52–67, <http://www.educause.edu/ library/erm0963>. ness model (or perhaps rethink which services are 9. “ARCS Data Fabric: What It Is,” ARCS website: more accurately, the needed to support educa- <http://www.arcs.org.au/products-services/data service model) does tion and research and -services/arcs-data-fabric-1/arcs-data-fabric>. 10. Wheeler and Waggener, “Above-Campus not limit access to what will be the best way Services.” the SaaS offering but to deliver those services. 11. Quote from Allan Morris, Executive Director, increases choice by Many services are read- Information Technology Services, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. also offering the free ily available in the public community-source- cloud. Some services need © 2010 Rob Bristow, Ted Dodds, Richard Northam, licensed software down- to be procured through the and Leo Plugge load. Institutions can pick the institution’s IT department. Only model that works best for their needs. a few services will require custom devel- Rob Bristow is opment, either alone or in partnership Programme Manager for The time has come for colleges and with other institutions. The final result e-Administration, Joint universities to set a course for the adop- will most likely be a loosely coupled, Information Systems tion of cloud services and to consider what customized arrangement consisting of Committee (JISC), Bristol, role community sourcing plays in their off-the-shelf systems and services based United Kingdom. strategic direction. The Kuali Foundation on proven technology. Ted Dodds is Vice Provost for is just one example. Other consortia will With many in higher education today IT, the University of British almost certainly build and improve on eyeing the potential of the cloud, the Columbia, Canada, and that experience. Still missing from the question now is not so much “Is cloud is a member of the board picture are consortium makers of the type computing a good idea?” The key ques- of directors of CUCCIO, advocated by Wheeler and Waggener.10 tion to answer is: “What can we do with EDUCAUSE, and the Kuali The role of a consortium maker, operat- the cloud?” n Foundation. ing at the higher education sector level, Richard Northam is is to enable the formation of member-led Notes 1. For example, the Microsoft 700,000-square- General Manager, Council consortia. The national associations have foot data center in Chicago can accommodate of Australian University many of the competencies, plus the trust 56 computing containers. Each container is Directors of Information and experience with their communities, filled with 1,800 to 2,500 servers. The Chicago data center is just one of two dozen centers Technology (CAUDIT), to consider taking on this leadership role. that Microsoft plans to build. See the Microsoft Canberra, ACT, Australia. Global Foundation Services website: <http:// Leo Plugge is Executive Conclusion www.globalfoundation services.com/index Secretary, Wetenschappelijk .html>. Many colleges and universities are ac- 2. CAUDIT Member Survey, 2010. TechnischeRaad, Stichting tively moving a variety of services to the 3. National Science Foundation, “Microsoft and SURF, Utrecht, Netherlands. cloud, with the pace and the volume of NSF Enable Research in the Cloud,” press release 10-023, February 4, 2010, <http://www.nsf.gov/ adoption increasing. Several CIOs have news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=116336&org= predicted that higher education institu- NSF&from=news>. 30 E d u c a u s E r e v i e w M aY / J u N E 2 010