Dec 29 2010

SUNY Signs Cloud Agreement with Microsoft

All 64 SUNY campuses will have access to the software maker's Live@edu cloud applications.

In further evidence that cloud services are catching on at colleges, the State University of New York system signed an agreement with Microsoft earlier this month to make Live@edu available to SUNY's 64 campuses across the state of New York.

Live@edu is part of Microsoft's strategy to offer its Office 365 cloud applications to businesses, education and government during the first half of 2011. Microsoft's vision is for Live@edu to be the platform for campuses to roll out web-based cloud apps for a full suite of Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office (Office Web Apps), e-mail, instant messaging, document sharing and video conferencing.

All SUNY campuses are now eligible to sign up for Live@edu, including state-operated campuses, community colleges and SUNY affiliates. More than 465,000 students in the SUNY system now have access to Microsoft's cloud applications. Thus far, 70,000 SUNY students are using Live@edu, including students at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y.

Monroe, one of the first colleges to roll out Live@edu, estimates that Microsoft's cloud service will save the college $600,000 over the next five years, including savings on energy from fewer e-mail servers and less storage. The college will also spend less on annual application software licenses.

Although the economic benefits are important, Cameron Evans, chief technology officer for Microsoft U.S. Education, has bigger plans for Live@edu than mere cost savings.

“This has to be about more than just free e-mail,” Evans says. “We want to take people into the cloud not just to save money, but also to focus on the core mission of the academy – teaching and research. Our goal is for colleges to use the savings to improve the quality of learning.”

Kenneth “Casey” Green, founder of the Campus Computing Project, says it makes sense that Microsoft would have success marketing its cloud services. Green points out that according to the 2010 Campus Computing Survey, nearly 58 percent of campuses now outsource student e-mail.

However, only about 15 percent of campuses outsource faculty e-mail, and Green says it remains to be seen if Microsoft and Google (with Google Apps) can get people to use outsourced office applications.

“Campus users may be mobile, but they might not always be connected,” he says. “I think it remains to be seen if you can change people's behaviors from an application on a client to applications on the cloud.”