The Wild West of Cloud Technology

Gaining control over tech for enhancing visibility and cost management in education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Melodye Mueller

When you think about companies that are at the forefront of cloud adoption, what industries come to mind? Education might not top your list, but it should.

There are many educational institutions leveraging the cloud to maximum effect—and they provide excellent examples of how to use cloud technology to drive growth and improve the student experience.

To call education technology a burgeoning industry is to put it lightly. Global investors staked $8.15 billion in edtech companies in the first 10 months of 2017 alone. Yet there’s so much more potential with the cloud that has yet to be tapped.

Discovering Immense Value

Education institutions and their networks of suppliers (e.g. textbooks and other learning materials) are discovering the immense value of technological advancement—both from a back-end process and front-end teaching/learning experience—and are implementing it at a rapid pace.

The cloud is core to this value-driven transformation.

Whether it’s used in K-12, higher education or edtech, the cloud is primed to fuel ongoing academic and research activities without sacrificing security or availability so that institutions can ensure anywhere, anytime access, and easily scale up or down during peak periods (exam time, for example).

But simply embracing a cloud approach does not solve all problems; in fact, it can create others.

For many, it can resemble the Wild West—a massive expanse with no sense of order due to lack of visibility into, and alignment between, cloud performance and efficiency.

IT Department Struggle

IT departments at schools and other educational institutions often struggle to keep infrastructure costs under control, while also meeting the needs of students and faculty.

Staff must oversee the funding of school programs, the payment of faculty, the purchase of learning materials and more, on a lean budget.

Furthermore, workloads tend to change with the school year, so summer months are quieter compared with during the semester, when workloads can fluctuate by two or three thousand servers a day.

Successful organizations forge effective working relationships between IT and Finance to strategically analyze cloud spend and report on cost and resource utilization. Instead of spending time managing their cloud, they focus on improving the learning experience.

Old to New

Take Scholastic for example. Scholastic is a nearly century-old company and the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books. In an industry transformed by e-readers, the company knew it needed to adapt and cloud computing was a key vehicle for its evolution.

Since making the shift six years ago, the company had implemented several different cloud platforms for an organization-wide rollout, leveraging the varied capabilities of AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle, Workday and ServiceNow.

But this required a tremendous amount of integration, different levels of thinking and roles that perform several functions.

At the same time, while ensuring it could scale and support everything as needed, the company needed to maintain focus on its core mission: value-added products and services.

Crux of the Issue

The crux of the issue was visibility into an infrastructure spanning multiple clouds. Leaders needed an approach that would help identify how well they were managing workloads and infrastructure. The tools they had in place did not show alignment between performance and efficiency—and as their on-premise footprint continued to dwindle, Scholastic felt compelled to act.

To address this issue, they implemented a platform offering a consolidated view into disparate data sets, giving Scholastic much needed transparency and, by extension, better control.

Visibility improved immediately.

The company now manages its multi-cloud environment with a holistic view into cost, configuration, performance and security. The policy governance and automation capabilities within the platform have also been a boon, enabling them to implement policies around tagging, so they can better organize resources for cost allocation and compliance reporting.

The company has been the beneficiary of a differentiated service to properly size its infrastructure, and thereby improve the alignment between the performance of its cloud systems, overall efficiency and ultimately, profitability.

As such, it has saved up to 50 percent of its monthly Amazon Web Services (AWS) costs. And as the company continues to scale its cloud-based information and tools, this consolidated, holistic view will prove even more critical to ongoing success.

True Value of Cloud

Educational institutions are discovering innovations and advancements in technology to be a wise option in automating their administrative processes—and it’s not just the relatively new schools and edtech suppliers that are getting on board.

Unified, user-friendly cloud management systems offer a centralized knowledge and information depository to improve communication among the various stakeholders that exist in the education industry.

When its true value is maximized, the cloud can empower organizations and help fuel education for the masses.

Melodye Mueller is VP of marketing and strategic alliance for CloudHealth Technologies. Follow her on Twitter.


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