A brief discussion of smart cloud choices for educational institutions.
GUEST COLUMN | by Adam Stern
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud offerings have been flirting with commoditization over the past several years. IaaS behemoths can drop prices to kill competition, but as customer cloud strategies mature, pricing isn’t the only way to select an IaaS provider. In fact, the low-cost, bare-bones IaaS cloud offerings of the mega-providers usually don’t offer educational institutions – especially small and midsize schools and school districts — the professional services they need. More nimble IaaS providers, which cater to the up-and-comers, are differentiating themselves from their larger competitors by providing value-added services, giving institutions the option of selecting those services that best fit their IT cloud server hosting needs.
Providers are focusing offerings around features not easily commoditized, creating a buyer’s market for educational institutions considering moving to a cloud server.
Taking a step back, IaaS is a type of cloud computing platform in which the academic organization “rents” its IT infrastructure, lock, stock and barrel — storage, processing, networking, and other resources. Organizations access these resources over the Internet (in other words, via the cloud) on a pay-per-use model. With traditional cloud server hosting services, IT infrastructure is rented out for specific periods of time, with a pre-determined hardware configuration; the client pays for the time and configuration, regardless of actual use. With an IaaS cloud computing infrastructure, however, schools can dynamically scale the configuration to meet their changing needs, and are billed only for the services they actually use.
IaaS providers are focusing their offerings around features that are not easily commoditized to avoid competing with their larger counterparts. This is creating a buyer’s market for educational institutions that are considering moving their infrastructure to a cloud server.
Traditionally, IaaS providers offered storage capacity to their customers, and the customer had to tackle data and application assessment and migration on its own. But recently, IaaS providers are offering professional services, such as disaster recovery, data center and migration services, making the transition to cloud server hosting an easier process for schools and colleges.
Because some educational institutions have distinct requirements for cloud hosting, some IaaS providers are tailoring their value-added services to specific types of institutions. For example, universities engaged to any significant degree in the health sciences often prefer to move securely from their private cloud environments to public cloud environments on a private VLAN. Accordingly, schools in those markets should consider IaaS providers that include utility-based billing and private-to-public cloud bursting technology among their offerings.
These specialized offerings not only make IaaS providers more competitive and differentiated, they give educational institutions greater choice – a true win-win.