Researchers are beginning to rely on cloud computing to help them drive through breakthrough science projects and they need to be able to feel confident about how much this is going to cost. Amazon recognizes this and last March they offered a discount for qualified researchers when they are downloading or sharing data. Amazon have written a useful post on their blog which makes the situation clear for researchers everywhere.
Setting up an Amazon Web Services account is straight-forward if you use the Jisc Amazon Web Services Portal and don’t forget that you will benefit from the speed and security of the Janet network.
We know the importance of your research and know that the Jisc / Amazon / Arcus partnership will keep you at the cutting edge of what you need.
Cloud is a hot commodity in the IT community just now and we are all thinking that we should be migrating all or some of our IT infrastructure. The environment is rapidly changing and hybrid cloud is all the rage. But it can be hard to put a long-term hybrid cloud strategy in place.
The hybrid cloud model allows you to deploy a combination of private and public cloud services. You can move workload between clouds using them at their optimum comfort level. Cloud bursting allows you to use public clouds if and when capacity demands spike.
Hybrid clouds are dynamic IT entities that can be challenging to deploy and manage. Having a robust road-map will help you mitigate oversights or unexpected industry changes that could cripple your hybrid cloud. It’s important to consider all the trade-offs and not loose site of some of the more invisible benefits.
What MUST be part of the map?
It is not impossible that you will be expected to expand the benefits of your cloud infrastructure. Don’t forget:
Public cloud may not absorb all growth, budget monthly OPEX to handle extra IT burdens
Data stores may remain in private cloud and CAPEX will be needed for on-premises expansion
THE BUSINESS PARTNER RELATIONSHIP
Public cloud providers are business partners, you do not control their behaviour and the relationship may be finite. Have contingency plans to cover:
The provider going out of business – how are you going to get your data back and where are you going to store it in the short term?
The provider failing to uphold its SLA – how are you going to move your business elsewhere? You should have an up-to-date list of alternative suppliers and have had initial conversations to start building a relationship?
NEW INDUSTRY OR GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS
We all know that there is a raft of official compliance to be managed and cloud is no exception. Perfectly acceptable cloud deployment today may not be compliant when regulations are introduced or updated. Make sure that you have a tried and tested process for introducing change and managing a compliance audit.
Three hybrid benefits you might be missing
MAKING THE MOST OF CONTAINERS
Moving from one cloud platform to another can be complicated and expensive. Containers make it easier to move workloads between various cloud types. Containers encapsulate application workloads thus providing portability.
Moreover, you can use clustering services such as Google Kubernetes and Docker Swarm. Container clusters are easy to manage and work well with hybrid cloud computing where you might be using different types of cloud for different purposes.
If you have multiple cloud platforms for various applications and services you may well be dealing with native interfaces and that can be complex and disorderly. With a Cloud Management Platform (CMP) resources can be managed from a single domain with good automation and controls.
Users will get one, simple access route into public and private clouds even when there are different interfaces . Institutions can benefit from other automation services to manage usage through policy-based approaches that work with many back-end cloud-based technologies in a single unified system.
MAXIMIZING SUNKEN HARDWARE COSTS
You may have already bought rafts of hardware for part of your cloud strategy. If the strategy changes and you are under pressure to move entirely to public cloud remember to point out that you can’t recover those hardware costs. In many cases maintaining a private cloud as part of a hybrid cloud strategy will be more cost-effective. The hardware investment has already been made and a hybrid approach can help recover that value.
Cloud strategy is always built on moving sands and you will need to be agile to stay upright; having a proper understanding of the environment and some reliable, basic building blocks will help.
It is vital that when you are planning any new capital expenditure you properly plan the procurement, the benefits of doing so are clear:
All stakeholders will be included in the planning process and share the decision making
It allows you to properly manage expectations on timescale and outcomes
It will allow you to recognise the range of support you need to fulfil the ideal solution
However, procurement is not always a straight forward process especially if you are required to follow the EU Procurement directives. These directives will be required if you are spending in excess of £164,176 (this value covers the entire life of a contract – not just a single years’ worth of spend).
As well as reaching the right decision on the technology or services you are purchasing you will need to:
Establish the correct procurement procedure to be followed, you may need external support for this.
Draft Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) or other advertisement, after Brexit this will continue to be the case until new legislation is passed and to-date there is no schedule on this.
You will need to draft procurement / contract documentation e.g. Pre-qualification Questionnaire (PQQ), Issue Invitation to Tender (ITT), draft terms and conditions of any final contract to all interested suppliers.
Manage and evaluate supplier’s tenders as well as feeding back to all unsuccessful tenderers.
Comply with your institution’s financial regulations or, in the case of major purchases, comply with EU regulations, after Brexit this will continue to be the case until new legislation is passed.
Procurement can be bureaucratic and time consuming and it is advisable to seek advice and support from a procurement specialist who can ensure that you select the most appropriate route.
NOT have to spend money and time on expensive legal support
NOT have to source procurement support if you do not have it in-house
NOT have to justify your approach to senior management; Jisc is a trusted procurement partner.
Benefit from the sectors buying power (economies of scale). Jisc is more than likely to achieve better value for money than procuring the same services on your own.
Have in place a robust audit trail of procuring services in line with legislation and gaining value for money.
Rather than regretting the day you ever started a complex procurement procedure with anonymous multinational companies, if you choose pre-procured services you can rapidly be signed up and benefitting from improved efficiency and value for money.
Can Jisc help if you do choose to do a procurement?
If you do need to do a procurement yourself we have a useful guide to help you with the journey.
It is very easy to be lured onto the cloud by the concept of only paying for resources when you use them; moving your budget spend from CAPEX to OPEX is an attractive way to manage stretched budgets.
Do a triage first
But … it’s not as straight-forward as you may like and you need to be careful. Some applications aren’t suited to run in public cloud for either technological or financial reasons. You will need to do a careful triage and properly understand your application portfolio and analyse where they best sit. Ultimately much of the cloud vs on premises decisions come down to whether the application is designed to run in the cloud.
It’s not just about cost
It is important to dig deeper, look beyond the cost savings, why else are you moving to the cloud and is this the best thing to do? There are some useful Cloud cost analysis tools such as CloudCheckr and Cloudability that will help avoid any surprises.
Remember that a change in platform will almost certainly require a change in culture. You will need to work into your implementation plans resistance from colleagues as well as technical hiccups. Granularly tracking resource use may throw up some unexpected budgetary considerations that will need careful management across your institution.
What’s the next level?
It’s going to take a while, but over time people throughout your institution will better understand and have more expertise to use cloud services at scale which will result in cost optimisations you didn’t expect to be possible. And you never know, one day the apps themselves will seek out the most efficient platform.
You can read more about this at TechTarget and finesse your cloud usage.
The cloud is becoming an ever more central resource for research and education. The Research Council UK (RCUK) Cloud Computing Working Group is keen to find out about users’ views on regulatory and legal use of ‘public cloud’, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure to name but a few.
The data will be used in a short report that will inform a dialogue with cloud providers, research funders and government.
We need your input
The survey should not take you too long, you can find it here. Your details will not be shared beyond the working group and the resulting report will be an anonymised aggregate summary of the findings. It is important that cloud users voices are heard properly and this is your chance to contribute your experiences.
Gartner (technology analysts) believe cloud-first in software design and planning is gradually being augmented or replaced by cloud-only and this applies to both private and hybrid cloud scenarios.
‘More leading-edge IT capabilities will be available only in the cloud, forcing reluctant organisations closer to cloud adoption’ – Yefim Natis, vice president and Gartner fellow
These findings are based largely on commercial businesses. As teaching and research institutions begin to reap the benefits of working on the cloud it is becoming increasingly clear that the pace of change is speeding up. According to Gartner the commercial SaaS market alone is expected to grow 37% globally by 2020. IaaS and PaaS spending is set to grow to a point where it represents 27% of overall IT spending; the educational market place is likely to follow suit.
With this pace of change it will be important for organisations to build a robust cloud strategy allowing for flexible, agile change. There is an interesting article in Computer Weekly which gives food for thought for institutions managing their move to the cloud. There is some interesting research from Insight on 2016 Cloud trends which also suggests the same embedding of the cloud in a range of business types and sizes.
Jisc knows that you will be starting from a range of different points and we are here to support you from whichever standpoint you come.
Applications on the cloud develop at a rapid pace and it is important that you keep up to speed. Amazon are helping. They offer a selection of live online presentations covering a broad range of topics at a range of technical levels so you should be able to find something that helps you.
They are covering all the buzz topics at the moment: security, storage, big data and more; you’ll learn about products, solutions and best practices.
You can see the entire series here and you can sign-up with Amazon online.
In June we hosted our first Google in Education Summit at the Jisc offices in London. This event brought together colleges and universities that use Google Apps for Education and related products to discuss their experiences, and how they would like to see Google for Education products develop. Senior staff from Google were on hand to hear from institutions, and to present on recent developments in the Google for Education product suite. We also took the opportunity to do a little “future gazing” and imagine how a few of Google’s current R&D projects might translate into future products for teachers and learners.
Google for Education – institutional experiences
Yousef Fouda describes Warwickshire College Group’s use of Google tools
Kicking the Summit off, we heard how Warwickshire College Group and the University of York had used the cloud-based collaboration tools of Google Apps for Education to save money and work more efficiently. For example, Warwickshire College Group had saved over £50,000 a year by encouraging staff to try Google’s Hangouts conferencing tool as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. The University of York used Google Apps with some 3,500 staff and 18,000 students, and had made extensive use of Google Forms and Apps Script to automate routine tasks.
Liz Sproat describes Google’s vision for education
Liz Sproat, Google’s Head of Education for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, advised Summit delegates that Google Apps for Education now had over 60 million users around the world, with particular interest being shown by schools and colleges. Liz updated the group on recent developments including a radically updated version of Google Sites, Android compatibility for Chromebooks, and Expeditions virtual field trips.
Evolution of existing Google for Education products
We structured the Google in Education Summit as a highly interactive event. Delegates were able to provide feedback about their experiences with Google for Education products and services, and share their ideas about future developments of these tools. Delegates were particularly interested in Classroom, which many felt had the potential to replace long established Virtual Learning Environments like Moodle and Blackboard.
Jisc and Google were encouraged to explore Classroom integration with Jisc’s new learning analytics pilot service, which aims to provide students with a “Fitbit for learning”. Delegates were also keen to see plagiarism detection services such as TurnItIn and Urkund integrated with Classroom, and suggested a large number of small incremental usability improvements to Google for Education products.
An example of the usability improvements discussed at the summit was the suggestion that Google Apps administrators should be able to apply for extended YouTube video posting rights for all of their users – at present a separate request needs to be made for each user that would like to post long form YouTube videos.
From the research lab to the classroom?
My day job is as Jisc’s resident futurist, and so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask summit delegates to consider the potential teaching and learning applications of a few of Google’s current R&D projects. Several particularly interesting new technologies are being developed by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group:
Project Soli. Ever felt frustrated by small screens on phones and smartwatches? Soli turns any surface into a controller, so you really could have an interactive carpet, table top. Delegates felt that Soli had huge potential for transforming learning spaces, and helping educators to make learning more inclusive.
Project Ara. A modular smartphone that can easily have components swapped out and new ones added. What modules could your students imagine? Could learners from the maker generation then could go on to build them, as a piece of project based learning?
Project Jacquard.Can you picture interactive clothing that creates a “personal area network”? Project Jacquard lets you create it by weaving conductive yarn and sensor grids into clothes.
It is too early to tell whether the likes of Soli, Ara and Jacquard will ever make it out of the lab and onto the production line. However, we have just seen the launch by Lenovo of the first Tango enabled consumer smartphones. Developed by ATAP, Tango is a 3D scanning sensor that gives apps positional awareness of their surroundings, so for example you could hold your phone up to watch a virtual dinosaur pace your living room carpet. Delegates felt that Tango would a very effective way to explore adding Augmented Reality to hands on teaching in areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) subjects and vocational training such as car maintenance.
In the words of author William Gibson: “the street finds its own uses for things”, and it will be fascinating to see what teachers and learners alike discover that they are able to do with these new tools and technologies. Delegates were, however, keen to emphasize that technology should always be viewed as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
There is a terrific podcast where hear from colleges and universities about how they are using Google tools, as well as Liz Sproat, head of education EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) at Google, about the latest product and service developments.
If you can see yourself exploiting these new technologies for teaching and learning or research, why not get in touch and let me know how you would use them – I’d love to hear from you.
It is becoming increasingly clear that moving to the cloud will bring significant benefits to institutions
Overall cost reduction – pay at point of use can move expenditure from capex to opex
Up-to-date, high quality ICT services – with rapid adoption of new services
Services available any time any place
Although moving to the cloud is not without its difficulties, you will be able to mitigate them if you plan carefully. Here are 12 points worth exploring:
BEFORE YOU MOVE
Why are you moving to the cloud and are our expectations achievable?
Knowing the answer to this question will guide crucial adoption decisions, you should consider and prioritise:
Fast deployment of business systems
Providing additional functionality and benefit
Ability to be able to scale use
Do a data assessment
When you are considering an application for migration assess the data:
How secure does the data need to be?
Which data records can be migrated? Some types of data may need to be kept on internal systems
How much data are you thinking of moving and do you know where it is housed?
Focus on applications that provide the maximum benefit for the minimum cost / risk.
Measure the business criticality, functionality of the services, business risk, impact on sovereignty, regulation, data and compliance
Analyse functional and non-functional requirements
Ensure that the functional and non-functional requirements are met, or even better exceeded, by the move
Ensure that if you are moving to SaaS services the variant of any application that it provides the same functionality and fits into existing business processes
Remember the impact the move may have on customers’ expectations, the amount of down-time, availability hours, performance, data protection
Manage data residency and legal jurisdiction
Business information stored outside its country of origin is subject to the commercial laws of the country in which it is held. Legal activities in a foreign country can have added complexities and costs. You need to check:
Which legal jurisdiction will be invoked by your cloud provider?
Which court will be used for any service disputes?
Work IaaS application maturity knowledge into your plans
Cloud application maturity is extremely variable; some software applications have rudimentary security and access controls added.
A smart move is to determine whether the product was built from the ground up specifically for the cloud.
Plan around development lifecycle impact
If an application is split to segregate the data from the application within the cloud this will impact the development cycle.
You will need to deploy changes separately, taking time and impacting schedules
This could impact operations, if only for a small time.
Plan for performance and availability changes
A potential increase in power may be necessary to ensure service delivery and availability will need careful assessment. You will need to consider:
Are your local and wide area networks enabled for cloud?
Will all your systems support the associated increase in bandwidth and network traffic?
Can you manage different availability characteristics for applications that are all on the cloud or distributed across the cloud and on premise legacy systems?
Manage volume and data migration
Manage your time and effort well to avoid problems
Remember that if demand for a new application or websites is high there is a good argument for creating a common repeatable solution patter that is based on the cloud.
Moving data into or out of a SaaS application may require considerable transformation and load effort that you will need to mitigate for.
BEFORE YOU BUY
Once you have developed a strategy and developed mitigation plans it is time to go out to the market.
Compare apples with apples
It is essential to compare like-for-like cloud services, headline services might be the same or better, read the small print carefully.
Not every application will need the same level of service or charge.
SLAs may differ radically
Data extraction, novation and end of contract details may vary
Properly understand your consumption models
Some models will charge on an hourly basis, some on a per-user per-month basis, consider these from two perspectives:
Frequency of change – as processing units are procured and used on demand they will also need to be retired when not being used or costs may rack up.
Volume – you should remember that with SaaS services there is a tipping point where the cost of the service being procured on a per-user per-month basis exceeds the cost of deploying the same or similar service in-house or running a PaaS or IaaS service
Protect ‘in-flight’ activities during data extraction
The market is still immature and there may be a worst case scenario making it impossible to extract your data without disrupting your services.
Ensure your vendor’s business case includes activities and costs covering the end of the contract, novation and data-extraction.
Correctly identify long-lasting data elements being stored in the cloud and how these can be transformed to an appropriate data structure for your organisation.
Maintain a catalogue of application interfaces in order to facilitate an optimised reuse model.
Once you have moved don’t forget to decommission legacy systems when the cloud service is operational and fully tested for your institution. This will help you achieve targeted cost savings and prevent business users from migrating back to their old ways!
Cloud adoption and development is moving rapidly and radically changing how we ‘do’ IT. It’s important to keep at the cutting edge of what is going on; catching up takes a lot of time, effort and expense.
This AWS summit is not targeted at an educational audience but it will be the ideal place to find out what is on the horizon and hear stories form people who have migrated successfully to the cloud.
It’s FREE and registration is easy, find out more here. It will encourage you to see the benefits that AWS will bring and don’t forget that Jisc’s AWS web portal will help you mange access and spend.
We will be keeping you up-to-date on any other events that might help so keep checking the blog to see what we are recommending.