IaaS Offers Several Benefits to Higher Education Institutions
In addition to scalability, IaaS offers greater manageability, enhanced security and seamless disaster recovery.
“I don’t have to spend a lot of time on DR, but if I needed to, with the flip of a switch, my systems would be up and running on the West Coast in Amazon’s data center,” Padmanabhan says.
Fordham, which uses AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud services, has been able to move infrastructure costs from capital expenses to operational expenses.
“And I don’t have to worry about maintenance,” Padmanabhan adds. In fact, he says, although IaaS isn’t inexpensive, it’s still less than the total cost of running systems on campus and paying for the power, cooling and staffing to maintain them.
Fordham has also moved most of its computer labs and printing services to the cloud.
“My goal is to reduce the footprint and give those spaces back for other academic needs,” Padmanabhan says. His team is looking to move its VoIP and audiovisual infrastructures to IaaS, go serverless in the cloud and implement a software-defined network that spans Fordham’s entire infrastructure.
“We’re actually in the midst of doing a proof of concept on managing the entire infrastructure using one pane of glass across our four campuses and our AWS and Azure infrastructures in the cloud,” he says.
His team is also looking into converting Fordham’s high-performance computing cluster to a hybrid infrastructure so it can scale up when researchers need more processing power but run longer-term, high-compute, high-IO projects onsite to keep costs down.
“One of my goals is to make it simple for users,” Padmanabhan says. In the past, users had to put in server requests to IT, which could take days or weeks to turn around. Now, they can access a menu to select their needs, and it’s ready within hours. “It automates the whole process,” he says.
HCI Is the Next Step in Higher Ed’s Infrastructure Journey
While hyperconverged infrastructure has gained steam in some industries, it’s still in its infancy in higher education, largely because of its cost. But HCI can make sense — and even save money — for institutions that are due for a major infrastructure refresh. That’s how Loras College and Texas A&M University-San Antonio joined the HCI ranks.
In 2016, Loras was looking to replace one of its two aging storage area networks, and it needed to upgrade a good portion of its 30-plus servers, explains Tom D. Kruse, chief information and budget officer at the college in Dubuque, Iowa. Hyperconvergence wasn’t even on their radar yet, but school officials discussed it on a trip to Lenovo’s product briefing center in Raleigh, N.C.
“It really opened our eyes,” Kruse recalls. “We paid less for the entire hyperconverged than we would have just for a SAN at the time.”
A&M-SA faced a similar situation. Its outdated, piecemeal infrastructure couldn’t hold anything else, but the university, founded in 2009, was growing rapidly. When IT weighed upgrading the infrastructure or replacing it with HCI, the costs were virtually the same.
“Why wouldn’t we go with something that’s more state-of-the-art? It’s a much better infrastructure, it’s a stable infrastructure, and it’s a scalable infrastructure,” explains William Griffenberg, CIO and associate vice president of IT at A&M-SA. “That’s really important to a young university like ours. We can’t waste a dime.”