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.

May 13 2013