While the public cloud or, at least, hybrid model is the most likely endpoint for many colleges, a realistic look at the industry today reveals that we have further to go before we achieve it. It is not uncommon today to find small startups fully committed to cloud computing for all service requirements. Large organizations like universities, on the other hand, have been cautious, even if they recognize the values cloud computing can bring. For them, the logical starting point is a private cloud.
Reluctance comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the adoption path of emerging technologies over the past few years. Legacy applications, infrastructural investment, regulatory concerns and rigid business processes represent tremendous obstacles to change.
That doesn’t mean that enterprises are completely stationary. In their own way, most of them began the journey to a private cloud years ago. We can break down the path by identifying three steps, each associated with an increasing level of efficiency.
- Resource efficiencies usually are the first objective of a private-cloud implementation. Standardization of components sets the scene for data center consolidation and optimization. Each level of resource abstraction — from server virtualization to full multitenancy — increases the opportunity to share physical capacity, and thereby reduces the overall infrastructural needs.
- Operational efficiencies target human labor, one of the highest cost factors related to information technology. Ideally, all systems should be self-healing and self-managing. That implies a high degree of automation and end-user self-service. In addition to a reduction of administration costs, such optimization also enables rapid deployment of new services and functionality.
- Sourcing efficiencies are the final step, and represent the flexibility to provision services and allocate resources, from multiple internal and external providers, without modifying the enterprise architecture. This agility can be attained only if all systems adhere to rigorous principles of service orientation and service management.
At this point, the majority of colleges are still working on the first step, but many have at least started analysis, and some pilot programs are tackling the second. It will take some time before the third step sees widespread adoption, but it, too, is inevitable.
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