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Preview of How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud Presentation at 2018 Global Summit

Apr 26, 2018, by Sara Aly
Tags: 2018 Internet2 Global Summit, Cloud Computing, Frontpage News, Higher Education

By Bob Flynn (Indiana University), John Bailey (Washington University in Saint Louis), Damian Doyle (University of Maryland - Baltimore County), and Oren Sreebny (University of Chicago)

Higher ed central IT does not have the luxury of looking after only its own technology needs. We support the requirements of a broad constituent base. Demand for cloud technology comes from researchers, clinicians, developers, department level IT, and the classroom. Central IT may have made a decision to run enterprise applications in a specific cloud stack, but that is of little concern to a researcher being offered a large grant to run his data analysis on a competing vendor’s platform. The same goes for a faculty member teaching database design who might want to spin that up on education credits. We no longer have the luxury of ignoring the multi-cloud world.

The most effective way to leverage the public cloud is to build your applications and architect your services from the ground up, making the most efficient use of the native tools provided rather than simply executing a “lift and shift” of your existing applications into a virtual data center. Naturally, this requires a significant investment of time and resources, particularly when first starting out. It is a decision not to be taken lightly. 

Two or three years ago there was a good deal of talk in cloud tech circles around vendor lock-in, the concern that if you focused too much of your development and too many of your mission-critical systems building out in a single cloud vendor that you would be stuck there for the foreseeable future. Significant thought and development work went into creating technologies to mitigate the risk. Containerization, led at the time by Docker, was hailed as a vehicle for avoiding vendor lock-in. Companies as large as Walmart took this so seriously they open-sourced tools for a development and management layer on top of any cloud platform. 

Naturally this conversation made it to the higher ed cloud debate. For some it became a justification for postponing the decision of whether to move assets to the cloud at all. For others it became the focus of cloud strategy and implementation debates. For still others it was positive reinforcement for an increasingly-apparent fact of life, namely, that higher ed simply cannot avoid the multi-cloud world. 

When organizations decide to make the move to the cloud, their choices are made on many of the same factors – resource constraints, in-house expertise, strategic alignment, and vendor viability. We put most of our eggs in the basket that gives the greatest comfort and from which we think we’ll derive the greatest value. Higher ed central IT is no different. We want the biggest bang for our buck.  

So, if we can’t run from it, how do we embrace it and support it? While we may invest most heavily in one cloud stack, we need to have at least some of our eggs invested in others. On May 8 at the Internet2 Global Summit, cloud technology leaders from four leading institutions will present “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud”  – a discussion of how higher ed can face this multi-cloud reality together.