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6 Keys to Changing the Cloud for Higher Education

Jul 09, 2015, by Shelton Waggener
Tags: Cloud Computing, Executive Insights, Internet2 NET+

At NACUBO's 2015 Annual Meeting, let's discuss why it takes the whole village

Co-authored by: Jack Suess

This July, we have the distinct pleasure of presenting a panel session at this year's NACUBO annual conference. Through an interactive presentation, pairs of CFOs and CIOs from Cornell and Morehouse College will join UMBC to discuss how both inter- and intra-institution collaboration is transforming the Cloud for higher education: changing campus services, increasing efficiencies, and most importantly, shifting capacities to support the strategic goals of the academy.

Why present at NACUBO you might ask? It’s an important time to address this audience of peer university chief business and financial officers and its actually a bit of a homecoming for the Internet2 NET+ initiative. These colleagues are key to helping continue the work begun in 2010 when university leaders asked NACUBO, EDUCAUSE, and Internet2 to consider a future where cloud computing might be an important technical environment for higher education. A joint task force asked how the academy might work together to influence the emerging Cloud industry and effectively provision cloud services tailored to meet the needs of higher education and the academic enterprise. The task force created a plan to leverage collective needs in the cloud and create services that could work for higher education. Announced in late 2011, Internet2 NET+ launched its first services in March of 2012 and in just over 3 years, significant progress toward those goals has been achieved.  

What's the main goal of this Cloud collaboration you might ask? It simply boils down to: increasing capacity to advance research and scholarship. As leaders in higher education, it’s our job to empower students, faculty and researchers to make breakthroughs that address some of the broadest global challenges. Together, we can and must re-think how the enterprise operates—to be services-based, not asset based. By moving more and more services to the cloud, we can lead efficiencies that will transform operating resources and indeed grow capacity to advance scholarship and science.

As we approach the conference and panel session, we look forward to discussing six core issues, which are key to establishing higher education’s collective goals in the Cloud: Need, Alignment, Partnerships, Collaboration, Standards and Will.

Need: Cloud services are quickly becoming a standard in cyber-infrastructure for organizations worldwide. The Cloud offers operating efficiencies we only dreamed of just a few years ago. But the Cloud is an exploding market that Gartner estimated at $131 billion by 2014, and Forrester estimates to top $241 billion by 2020 . In this market, we face challenges to ensure commercial providers meet the academy's needs. With NET+, higher education institutions now have a collective voice in the development of Cloud solutions for the academic enterprise, and we have a mechanism to engage providers for help with our challenges. And, together, we’re developing the expertise and processes to speed adoption of cloud services for institutions.

Alignment: It's the reason the task force convened in 2010. Individual Institutions cannot affect the change in the cloud necessary for higher education. We must band together to present unified needs and value propositions at scale. By convening our entire community, we're able to share problems and ensure cloud offerings solve our collective needs in higher education.  As our colleague Brad Wheeler, CIO, Indiana University stated in the 2010 task force report: "One of the fundamental changes that higher education is beginning to understand is that institutions are competing as an alliance that moves the whole industry forward. One of our greatest leadership opportunities is to not simply think about optimizing our local campuses but the entire industry."

Partnerships: Not only do we need partnerships across higher education, we need real partnerships with cloud service providers. Companies like Box, Amazon, and Microsoft are investing hundreds of millions in some of the very best minds to create new Cloud-based solutions that solve substantial problems. Providers have expertise we could never find on our own campus at that kind of scale. NET+ was designed to encourage a partnership commitment with providers to develop Cloud service models that address higher education user and enterprise needs now and into the future.

Photo of Internet2 members collaborating
It's at the core of research and education: all of us, working together to create something that none can do by ourselves. And, it's the only way to affect the change needed in the Cloud. Core, foundational values of NET+ are: sourcing the power of community in development and availability, providing governance, maintenance, and forward-looking innovation. Through its peer-governed and collaboratively designed cloud service lifecycle, NET+ encourages institutions to identify service needs, work with providers to integrate services with R&E standards and technologies, and then vet and test them before broader deployment. Validating institutions also produce documentation, support, and best practices to help peers speed adoption.

Standards: NET+ was designed to create a rigorous, peer-driven service validation process for evaluating and developing cloud solutions. The process tests features and functionality, assesses security, accessibility and other important standards, integrates Internet2's InCommon federated identity—providing access to services for over 8 million R&E users with seamless login of campus credentials—and architects the services for delivery across for high-performance across the Internet2 Network backbone. Simply said, with NET+ cloud services, core standards and integrations are built right in.

Will: Together, we need to change our mindset to collectively change cloud business models and delivery mechanisms. We can no longer act as individual universities and operate systems that are not competitive differentiators for our campuses. We must bring the diversity of the universities together so these new ways of conducting business and delivering services can emerge and have an infrastructure that will serve our constituents. It's our job to help them do their jobs more effectively. It’s crucial for the competitive advantage of our nation, and, it's why we do what we do.

We look forward to engaging NACUBO members in this discussion and broadening the power of an initiative, which has already brought over $250 million in community operating benefits in three years of existence. Moreover, we look forward to engaging the power of our entire community in the Cloud, with our eyes fixed on driving transformation for higher education, together.

Mr. John "Jack" Suess is Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). As Vice President, he provides university leadership for information technology at UMBC and serves on the executive leadership team of the university. He is responsible for providing information technology services in support of teaching and scholarship, research computing, and administrative support. Reporting directly to the President, he is responsible for strategic planning and implementation, coordination, budget, personnel, and policy related to information technology at UMBC.

Since 2000, Mr. Suess has been very active nationally in the areas of cybersecurity, identity management, analytics, and cloud computing and has served in a number of national information technology leadership activities with EDUCAUSE, Internet2, and InCommon. His recent activities include participating in the Internet2 Board of Directors (2010-2013), InCommon (2009-Present), Internet2 Council and Program Advisory Committees (2008-Present), ECAR Strategies Working Group (2013-Present), Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC) (2000-Present, Chair 2003-2006), REN-ISAC Executive Advisory Group (2006-2013), Center for Higher Education CIO Studies (CHECS) (2013-Present), and the National Strategy for Trusted Identity in Cyberspace (NSTIC) (2012-Present).