Evolution of Cloud in Higher and Vocational Education
One of the most interesting aspects of my role at Cisco is understanding how cloud technology is being implemented across different industries.
Cisco recently commissioned an independent consulting firm (Vector Consulting) to do a deep dive on how cloud was viewed and used by universities, TAFE colleges and polytechnics in the Australian and New Zealand markets, with results published in the Evolution of Cloud in Education report. For the purposes of the study cloud focused on infrastructure as a service (rather than simply cloud based applications) and included services that were hosted in the public cloud as well as private cloud. Some of the major findings are detailed in this blog but one of the most striking was that almost all institutions are now operating in multi-cloud environments, although there remains an extremely strong leaning to private cloud. The other key point was the fact that institutions saw cloud playing a role in all aspects of their business, from teaching and learning, to administration to and research.
There are a number of reasons why we focused on education and training institutions and chose these markets:
- They are among the largest and most technology-intensive organisations we deal with in a market renowned for being an early adopter of technology
- The challenges in education are multi-faceted: from delivering services to students and conducting research through to maintaining extensive campus assets
- They’re a collegiate group and don’t mind sharing their perspectives with competitors
- Education is a growth sector and like all industries is being disrupted, with changing business models and the need to scale are imperatives for all Institutes and cloud is seen as a key enabler
What we found
The research focused around a comprehensive survey. More than 60% of higher and vocational institutes and systems in Australia and New Zealand completed the study and the vast majority of respondents were at CIO level or above. Cloud is considered by higher and vocational education institutions to play a role in every aspect of their business, from improving the quality and efficiency of teaching and learning to helping them run their administrative functions in a more flexible way. There were five findings that really stood out for me:
1. Higher education and training is a multi-cloud world
More than half of all institutions described their cloud environment as mostly private (51%), hybrid (21%) or mostly public (7%) – i.e. multi-cloud. More than a fifth of respondents (21%) described their cloud environment as being almost exclusively private. Private cloud was seen as better able to comply with internal or external data standards, more cost-efficient and more secure
2. Research is the top cloud priority for universities
48% of respondents nominated this as the area of highest impact. The second-greatest impact of cloud was to support campus operations and administration. This likely reflects the increased interest in digital campus and the Internet of Things, where campuses are being transformed into living labs by using sensors and networks to harvest new sources of data.
Figure 7 from the report: Where cloud will have the highest impact
3. The focus on cyber security had significantly increased scrutiny on an institution’s cloud strategy and approach
The link between cyber security and cloud is stronger than ever which means that it is almost impossible to separate the cloud and cyber security imperatives at an organisational level. Cyber security is no longer an IT issue but a business issue. As education and training institutions transfer more services and applications to the cloud the first question is generally not `how much will this save?’ but `how secure is this?’
4. There is massive demand for cloud automation and analytics
Institutions were asked to rank a broad range of services in the cloud suite in terms of the level of attention and resourcing they were likely to receive in the coming year. Automation and orchestration of cloud attracted most interest (70%), then data protection services (62%) and analytics / reporting (62%). One reason for the focus on analytics is that Institutes find it challenging understand what’s going on in their environment.
5. The issues keeping institutions awake at night are…
- Unrealistic expectations about cloud’s benefits (primary cost reductions)
- Difficulties sourcing the capability to architect and implement cloud
- Securing data hosted in the cloud
The major question for institutions is less about which cloud and more about how to maintain controls and visibility across a range of cloud environments. We live in a multi-cloud world where one single cloud is not sufficient for large enterprise environments.
The inter-dependency between security and cloud is becoming stronger. Embedding security in infrastructure is increasingly common so threats can be detected early and responded to quickly. In education a cyber breach not only threatens Intellectual Property and data but it can also destroy reputations. This is particularly true given so many universities and training colleges are getting into the cyber training space. It’s hard to imagine an institution’s cyber programs wouldn’t take a hit if there was a major cyber breach making it doubly important to ensure that cloud environment and infrastructure are fully secured.
Despite advice from multiple sources (including independent advisors) institutes and systems still view the commercial side of cloud as a black box. Institutes reported not knowing what the true costs (or potential savings) would be until after services had been deployed – i.e. when it’s too late. In some scenarios workloads were transferred from public back to private cloud because public cloud was too expensive but also because it didn’t deliver the desired outcomes.
Cisco is determined to work closely with the education sector to resolve their most compelling issues and take the uncertainty and sleeplessness out of cloud decisions. Cisco would be happy to brief you on the study and talk about how it applies to your own organisation. You can do that by contacting your Cisco account manager who will be able to help.