How universities can leverage cloud technology

How universities can leverage cloud technology

Cloud technology is changing the way education services are delivered by helping to enhance students’ learning experience and improve education standards across individual schools and jurisdictions.

Already, universities and schools are connecting to the cloud to improve security, provide anywhere-anytime learning, and to save money. And as technology improves, it’s likely that more educational institutions will migrate to the cloud in order to harness new innovation. 

Earlier this month, Swinburne University of Technology launched a first-of-its-kind innovation centre that will use this technology to drive social good and solve real-world health, wellbeing, and social challenges affecting Australians.

The university’s new Data for Social Good Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC), located in Swinburne’s Innovation Precinct at its Hawthorn campus in Melbourne, will leverage the expertise of the university’s research institutes, which specialise in health, social innovation and ‘smart cities’.

Other Australian universities leveraging cloud technology include the Australian National University (ANU, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong.

Carlo Nizeti is systems engineering director at Nutanix A/NZ, which works with Swinburne University, the University of Canberra and a number of other big universities across Australia and New Zealand.

Nizeti says education is becoming a “truly global business” and beginning to lead digital transformation. As such, he says, smart institutions are eagerly driving innovation as they seek to differentiate themselves with past, current and future students.

“Today, technology has enabled education everywhere through a mix of online and on-campus learning and any number of platforms. Australian universities need new ways to compete to attract foreign and remote students,” Nizeti told The Educator.

“The challenge is creating a unique experience for a variety of different consumers who seldom or never physically attend the university – this can only happen through technology.”

Nizeti said cloud technology simplifies the IT infrastructure, freeing education institutions to create applications and services that enhance education – whether on or off campus.

“A cloud environment also ensures an open software focus – foreign and remote students can securely log in and take part using the devices and operating systems they choose; the cloud caters to all. This extends to the physical campus too.”

Nizeti said the increasing value of personal and research data within educational institutions, as well as the prevalence of direct physical access to the institution’s network and hardware – means that there is a heavy emphasis on security.

“Cloud computing calls for a new way of thinking to maintain cybersecurity at Australian universities and an understanding that no one size fits all. This is where hybrid cloud comes in – a mix of private and public cloud resources,” he said.

“Private cloud secures sensitive data within the university – it is the most secure and cost-effective solution available today. Public cloud allows less sensitive resources to be accessed from anywhere in the world.”

Nizeti said students are more sophisticated and demanding – expecting to study at a time, manner and place of their choosing.

“They are more demanding too – expecting consumer grade services and experiences if they are to commit to an institution,” he said.

“Those criteria mean their only true option is a cloud solution.”

Nizeti said traditional IT infrastructure has kept countless IT teams occupied with countless issues – from inflexibility to constant upkeep.

“This has reduced many IT functions to simply keeping the lights on – and not full members of the executive creating frontline value for the university or student. That changes with cloud,” he said.

“The old way of doing things – traditional hardware based, three-tier IT infrastructure – comes with technical limitations, capacity challenges and system constraints, putting unnecessary barriers around a developer’s ability to create and innovate.”

Nizeti said this “plagues” IT projects and can make it difficult for even simple new services to be deployed.

“The most important thing for university application developers is access to the services they need when they need it,” he said.

“Cloud does this and integrates with their development frameworks and tools, ensuring the focus remains on the creation of applications that universities need.