Perth’s Edith Cowan University (ECU) will become the first university in Australia to move all of its data centre infrastructure to the cloud following a new agreement with Atos.
The university is moving core IT services from data centres on its Joondalup and Mount Lawley campuses to two data centres in Perth. Atos has purchased space in these data centres, which the university has declined to name.
Under the terms of the five-year contract, ECU will move its services – excluding a few legacy applications – to a private cloud using shared infrastructure at these data centres. This will enable the university to better respond to the changing needs of 23,000 students and researchers by commissioning compute power quickly.
Elizabeth Wilson, CIO at ECU, told CIO the major driver behind the move to all-in-cloud has been agility, giving the university the power to spin up new services as required, particularly given the federal government’s proposed reforms to the tertiary education sector.
“There’s been a lot of talk about reform in the higher education sector [fee deregulation] and we are not really sure where that is going to end up so wherever it ends up, we need to be able to respond to that.
“At the moment to bring on more capacity, we've got about an eight week lead time to do that by the time we order infrastructure and set it up,” Wilson said.
Moving the cloud will also enable the university to better handle ‘peaks and troughs’ in system processing.
“For example, when students are enrolling during the December/January period, some of our systems have huge peaks… the ability to be able to spin up additional resource [to handle] peak loads in the university is important to us as well,” Wilson said.
Cutting costs was not a driver, Wilson added.
Wilson said the university was currently undertaking a data classification program and once this is completed it will move services to the public cloud.
“Data that is not classified as restricted, we will be looking [to move to] public cloud services,” said Wilson.
However, data that identifies students or staff or is considered “competitive”, including teaching material, will stay in a private cloud, Wilson said.
For instance, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at the university is one of the top performing arts schools in the world and would have a lot of IP in its teaching materials, she said.
ECU has not moved to a public cloud model yet because it doesn't believe the vendor community is providing suitable services that enable the university to move services between cloud providers.
“So the two things we need to address in that area are the orchestration of services between cloud providers and the integration,” Wilson said.
When this occurs, Wilson said the university will run services in both the public and private clouds.
“This contract with [Atos] is the first step in moving towards that more agile [model]. We’ll use whatever provider best suits our purpose for a particular [process],” Wilson said.
“Until those things are right, it’s difficult to do that.”
The data centre move will be completed by June 2016.
“We’ve got three months transition planning, six months of preparing our applications, defining which workloads need to go with other workloads because of integration requirements, and then six months of the physical transition,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, the university has plans to move to Office 365 and will utilise Microsoft’s local data centres, Wilson added.
“We are going to be looking at it very shortly. Our licenses for Microsoft are negotiated by CAUDIT [Council of Australian University Directors of Information Technology] – they are negotiating on behalf of the universities.
“The negotiation was last year for a new contract – by the time this was completed, we had about a week to renew our licenses so we didn't have time to do the investigation from a business perspective,” said Wilson.
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