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Participants Learn "How to Cloud" at Internet2 Global Summit

May 24, 2016, by Andrew Keating
Tags: 2016 Global Summit, Internet2 NET+, Workshops & Webinars

At the Internet2 Global Summit last week in Chicago, a group of three dozen senior leaders from member universities shared insights and best practices for implementing cloud solutions in higher education. Shel Waggener, Alan Fishel, Jerry Grochow and I led a "how to cloud" workshop aimed at helping attendees understand a “cloud strategy” and how to develop one, articulate the challenges and techniques of procuring cloud services; recognize the importance of legal agreements for cloud services; analyze some common legal terms and concepts; avoid negotiation mistakes; and learn about how community efforts through the Internet2 NET+ program help.

Developing a cloud strategy

In discussing what is meant by a “cloud strategy” and how to develop one, we heard about the range of campus perspectives and potential meanings: from deciding to procure all services via the cloud to having a decision process for how individual enterprise cloud services would be procured. Cloud services offer the potential for scale that cannot be matched by even the entire higher education community, much less a single university, regardless of size. Yet moving to cloud is not always an easy decision for campuses to make. This decision is often driven by aging infrastructure and the replacement cycle for hardware that most universities have established. Recognizing the capabilities of cloud services and the skills and expertise that a cloud provider can bring to bear on a specific business problem or technology area also drives universities to the cloud, as do the requests and expectations from end users. Understanding these drivers, as well as the staffing and human components of cloud services, are crucial first steps to developing a “cloud strategy.”

Cloud service procurement and contracting

Jerry and Alan also led the group in a discussion around cloud service procurement and contracting, as well as offered insight on more general contract and negotiation considerations. Regarding procurement, the legacy approach of 18 months (or longer) to develop and issue an RFP, analyze responses, select a winner, negotiate a contract, and finally implement the service is increasingly under strain because of the speed with which cloud technologies evolve and change. Jerry outlined some strategies the procurement community has developed in order to streamline the process, as well as some of the ways the Internet2 NET+ program was developed to meet their expectations.

Alan engaged the group in a close reading and discussion of some sample contract language related to several important areas of a cloud service agreement. We looked at provisions related to data privacy, payment, security breach, service levels and credits, and termination. Overall, the discussion on legal agreements served to remind attendees that in the cloud service world, “contract is king,” since you don’t own the hardware or the software, all you own is the contract.

Practice makes perfect

As the workshop concluded, Bob Flynn from Indiana University presented an enterprise cloud service selection role playing game that he developed and used with attendees at several previous workshops. The game provided an opportunity to model the process of selecting a cloud service by asking attendees to take on various stakeholder roles: security, legal, procurement, identity architect, service owner, etc. to decide which of several cloud offerings is right for their imaginary university.

Leaning on the community

The workshop underscored the importance of universities working together and leveraging the community activities and resources available to them. Assessing even a single cloud service can be a lengthy and time consuming process, and many universities are being asked to support dozens or even hundreds of cloud services. But together, we can develop and build efficiencies that benefit the entire community.

Please contact me to share your feedback about the workshop or learn more if you were unable to attend. Many attendees asked about additional workshops or ways that they could deploy content and training materials on their campuses and we will continue to develop resources and planning follow-up sessions to address topics of interest. And next month, Ben Fineman and I will be leading several sessions on cloud services at the UBTech conference, and later this year at EDUCAUSE, I will be running an updated version of last year’s “Cloud 101” workshop.