Based in Manhattan, the Juilliard School is extending its global reach using cloud technology.

Apr 17 2020

Connecting College Campuses Through Cloud Computing

Cloud-Based Platforms are Helping Institutions Manage and Deliver Services Across Multiple Locations

All the world is still a stage, but in 2020, everyone expects constant access to the theater — even from a hemisphere away.

With more than 800 performing artists enrolled from 42 countries and regions around the globe, The Juilliard School leads the world in performing arts education from a single urban campus in New York City. But when The Tianjin Juilliard School building opens in northeastern China in fall 2020, many of Juilliard’s faculty, staff and students will go about their work at a site nearly 7,000 miles away from the school’s long-standing Manhattan campus. Like so many higher learning institutions around the globe, Juilliard is expanding, and it’s doing so in a way largely made possible by embracing cloud technology.

It is, perhaps, little surprise that Juilliard chose to launch its first overseas campus in Asia. Around a third of the school’s current students in Manhattan are from outside the United States, many of them from Asia, China in particular. The Tianjin campus also makes Juilliard the first institution in China to offer a U.S.-accredited Master of Music degree

“It’s a niche market opportunity for us,” explains Steve Doty, Juilliard’s CTO. “We’re recognizing that local interest and bringing the school to them.”

Juilliard announced its plans for the new campus in 2015. Two years later, the school broke ground on the project, and Doty’s team turned its focus to the institution’s IT architecture. “We had, and we continue to have, discussions around the value of connecting the campuses to each other and how we’re going to handle that,” he explains. “The approach that we’ve landed on for now is for each to have their own local infrastructure and then meet in the cloud for shared services.”

To that end, Doty says, Juilliard’s “key backbone solutions” include a collection of cloud offerings from two California tech companies, Okta and Oracle. Okta, an information security and access management platform, allows the school to load users from both campuses into a central identity repository. “It’s an easy way to do role-based provisioning for Software as a Service applications. It offers a lot more flexibility and increased security than we’d get having local, on-premises identity stores,” he says.

The Oracle solution chosen by Juilliard, on the other hand, includes a trio of administrative platforms bundled together within Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, including the company’s enterprise resource planning software application suite. Oracle ERP includes applications that automate many of the manual tasks associated with financial management, project management and other important business functions.

Juilliard also invested in Oracle’s Human Capital Management (HCM) software suite, a comprehensive human resources solution that incorporates predictive analytics, modeling and reporting. Finally, Doty says, the two campuses will deploy a third application, Oracle Student Cloud. Using modules in both English and Chinese, this app assists with everything from student management to financial aid.

As they shopped for potential solutions, Doty says, IT decision-makers conducted thorough due diligence, including a multiyear vendor vetting process. They also scoured the market for both cloud and on-premises solutions. “With cloud-based solutions, you’re obviously depending on a third party, so you have to be careful,” he notes. “You’re having that company manage your information. They’re handling the infrastructure, they’re going to determine uptime and availability and those sorts of things, so it’s important to select platforms you believe will be reliable.”


Projected compound annual growth rate of the global cloud computing in higher education market between 2018 and 2027.

Source: Absolute Market Insights, December 2019.

More Secure and Efficient

While Juilliard might be unique in its programs and mission, it’s certainly not alone among colleges and universities looking to transform their IT infrastructures using cloud-based platforms.

The IT team at the Community College of Denver, for example, turned to Cisco Meraki to provide wireless service to the 8,000 students and 1,200 staff and faculty working across its three urban campuses and also for network management tools they now access through the cloud. Meanwhile, set in a valley between the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains, Western Carolina University in North Carolina is using VMware’s cloud-based Workspace ONE to offer its 12,000 students access to educational applications from any device, anywhere on campus.

A 2019 report from Absolute Markets Insights predicted the global market for cloud computing in higher education will top $53 billion by 2027. Educational institutions, the firm notes, are implementing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions to meet the needs of academic researchers and bolster student performance.

One recent survey, from advisory serv­ices firm EY, estimates there are now about 260 “international branch campuses” worldwide, up from about 170 a decade ago. According to the Absolute Markets report, institutions with multiple branches are collaborating with cloud computing providers to restructure and centralize.

It really allows you to run much leaner, and that can lead to cost savings as well.

Rick Blaisdell Cloud Computing Expert and Author

“The ed tech space is mimicking what we’re seeing in other industries,” from healthcare to retail to manufacturing, says Rick Blaisdell, a cloud computing expert and author of the technology blog, Rick’s Cloud. Many institutions, he explains, already have experience with free or low-cost cloud-based tools like Google G Suite for Education and Microsoft 365. “And now,” Blaisdell says, “they’re kind of moving into the next phase, with solutions in areas like user management and human resources.”

Most U.S. colleges and universities have multiple buildings and facilities, while many — including community colleges — maintain local and regional branches that heavily rely on connectivity to their main campus. By providing a way to get things up and running quickly, and to more easily scale up, Blaisdell says, SaaS solutions help schools meet the demands and digital expectations of mobile students and instructors.

Other benefits associated with cloud services, Blaisdell continues, include the potential recourse SaaS offers in the event of disaster, along with better protection of private user data. “There’s the security you can get by moving to the cloud,” he says. “You can leverage the resources provided by these companies to go a lot further than you probably could yourself.”

Finally, he notes, there are efficiencies to be gained when IT teams outsource computing services of any kind. “It really allows you to run much leaner,” Blaisdell says, “and that can lead to cost savings as well.

Ellen Law Rutgers

“Moving to the cloud makes a lot of sense” for Rutgers University, says Ellen Law, Associate Vice President for Enterprise Application Services. Photo: Colin Lenton

A Move for IT Modernization

A short train ride from Juilliard, Rutgers University in New Jersey has made moving to the cloud the linchpin of its plans around IT modernization. Serving more than 70,000 students from three regional locations and 29 schools and colleges, Rutgers decided a few years ago to transform its administrative information systems and processes through a multiyear strategic project called “Cornerstone.”

The initiative hinges on the adoption of cloud-based services to unify and simplify the university’s finance, human resources, procurement and expense management tools and practices, explains Ellen Law, associate vice president for enterprise application services in the Office of the CIO at Rutgers.

“Our various campuses have different goals, different student populations with different needs, and, of course, they’re in different locations,” Law says. “This is about aligning their priorities and requirements when it comes to their administration.”

Rutgers already uses cloud solutions such as Box and Google Classroom for file sharing and collaboration, and students from one university campus can participate in a class taught at another using Cisco Webex Meetings. In this case, however, they’re on the same path as Juilliard: looking to Oracle to drive their back-end functions around finance, HR and student support.

“From an end-user perspective,” Law says, “people aren’t going to notice where the systems are hosted, since we’ve always allowed them to access our systems no matter where they are.”

But from her IT team’s point of view?

“Moving to the cloud makes a lot of sense,” she says, “both in terms of the management requirements and because now we’ll always be up to date.” With on-premises solutions, Law explains, “usually we’re multiple versions behind. But once we’re in the cloud, we’ll get those patches automatically, so we’ll always have the newest features ready for us to utilize.”

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The cloud, according to the Rutgers Office of Information Technology, “is a major technology paradigm shift” and a model of computing that “has the potential to provide significant benefits to both users and organizations.”

On their own, Oracle’s ERP, HCM and Student Cloud won’t build the “One Rutgers” culture the university aims to create in the coming years. But, along with the other cloud solutions the university adopts, they will provide the flexibility, scalability, security and cost savings that an institution of Rutgers’ size requires to succeed.

Law says she’s fully confident that Rutgers is heading in the right direction in its push to the cloud. The university — and others like it — will always have on-premises systems supported by a robust IT infrastructure. But the future, she predicts, will involve a lot of change. “And the cloud,” she says, “will certainly be part of that transition.” 

LEE SNIDER / Alamy Stock Photo (The Juilliard School); Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (Rendering of The Tianjin Juilliard School

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