May 13 2013

The New IT Toolbox

How the higher education community can find value in Big Data.

Big Data often means many things, but what it ­consistently refers to throughout this issue is the ­burgeoning bytes of ­information ­being ­gathered, processed and ­studied within the higher ­education community through research, ­student ­performance, the admissions office and even IT help desks.

Data is streaming at us from all angles, through all devices, at a faster clip each day. In order to properly ­leverage Big Data, institutions require a vast network of tools: adequate and agile storage, business information solutions, secure network infrastructure and IT professionals who can make sense of it all. Many articles in this edition ­address the myriad challenges IT leaders now face when it comes to making sense of the ever-growing stores of Big Data, as well as the new solutions enlisted in the ­effort to meet those challenges.

A Big Data Storage Tip: One Size Does Not Fit All covers how the National Science Foundation is funding research into ways Big Data can be accessed more quickly, particu­larly within the context of biological and medical research.

Unlocking Big Data details a Rutgers and SUNY Stony Brook study into how indexed data is organized on hard disks or external storage so that it can be processed more efficiently. Balasubramanian Kalyanasundaram, NSF program ­director, says the most exciting aspect of the project is its potential to realize a critical component in ­analyzing huge amounts of real-time data: speed.

But there are also business information solutions that enable universities to digitize and analyze the mountains of data they collect to glean insights and create greater ­efficiencies, and new ways of thinking about the use of performance data and metrics as a means of ­enhancing IT service.

Branching Out

Inside Georgia’s PeachNet Community Cloud highlights the huge, multiyear ­undertaking that built the University System of Georgia's PeachNet ­Virtual Datacenter and its resulting economies of scale. The organization is cultivating a new crop of services: virtual servers, online storage and data backup via cloud computing.

Member institutions "­leverage our robust and resilient ­infrastructure," says John Scoville, USG's chief technology officer, saving effort and much-needed funds.

Big Data and cloud offerings are no longer buzzwords. They're moving to the forefront as tools to help higher education build IT strategies to remain competitive and efficient.