Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. Photo Credit: Matthew Gilson

Sep 29 2010

IT Trailblazing on a Budget


Campus IT departments have a choice when it comes to today's financial pressures. They can either cut their budgets and hope for the best, or they can think creatively.

Fortunately, many IT staffs have answered the call, saving money and adding efficiencies by virtualizing servers, embracing green IT and hosting servers, storage and other computer applications in the cloud.

Take Indiana University. The downturn forced the IT staff at the Bloomington, Ind., institution to rethink how they deliver technology services.

"It's allowed us to look at technology more globally and ask ourselves, how do we use the internal cloud and the commercial cloud, and where are they appropriate?" says Dennis Cromwell, the university's associate vice president of enterprise infrastructure.

Today, instead of purchasing and managing their own servers, about 25 departments at Indiana University rent 400 virtual machines and storage over a private cloud managed by the university's central IT organization. Departments can add or decrease computing resources as their requirements change and are charged only for the resources they use.

For more information about how institutions are offering cloud services, read "The Path to the Cloud."

Adding Apps

The combination of blades and virtualization also lets colleges and universities save money and add applications. By combining the two technologies, Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., has added access control, video surveillance and Voice over IP. The university's IT operation is simply more efficient, says Richard Siedzik, director of computer and telecommunication services.

"Before, when folks needed a new server, it could take weeks," he says. "You had to get facilities involved, and you had to check the cooling, the power, and maybe get some circuits installed. Now it probably takes no more than an hour."

At Athens State University in Alabama, virtualized blades now handle 50 percent more applications and manage power 50 percent more efficiently. To read more about how colleges are deploying blades and virtualization, read "Blades of Glory."

Of course, improved power management through server virtualization is just the first step for many IT departments as they develop their green IT plans.

At Portland State University in Oregon, CIO Sharon Blanton says that small projects add up. For example, Portland State estimates an annual savings of $15,000 from replacing CRTs with LCDs. "Plus, for users, there's the 'cool factor' of receiving new equipment and knowing we've recycled thousands of pounds of outdated technology," Blanton says. "This generates excitement for future green IT programs."

For more insight into how colleges are taking incremental steps toward green IT, read "Going Green, One Step at a Time."

Ready for Growth

At Florida International University, technologies such as course-capture systems, video conferencing and ubiquitous wireless will help the university support a planned enrollment increase of 10,000 over the next five years.
"We'll be hiring some faculty, but the course-capture technology in particular will help us do that by enabling us to extend our classrooms between campuses without having to add programs at each campus," says Debra J. Sheridan, FIU's director of media and technology support.

For more details on the Miami university's ambitious technology plans, read "It's Second Nature."

Our hope is that IT managers will take their lead from the colleges and universities featured in this issue: Be proactive and stay positive. Sure, budgets are tight. But the downturn also presents opportunities for IT departments to rethink how they work and deliver services in unexpected ways, further displaying the value they bring to their institutions.

Ryan Petersen,
Editor in Chief