Indiana University was an early adopter of virtualization technology on a relatively large scale over seven years ago when its IT department began to look for ways to consolidate servers to meet efficiency targets.
What began as an infrastructure virtualization project for these concrete cost and energy reasons has been blooming into a more comprehensive project that’s allowed for even greater operational efficiency as well as benefits for a wide range of departments.
While some universities have been looking to the public cloud to handle email and general collaboration, many have been wary about sacrificing infrastructure autonomy and have opted to build private or internal clouds. Some have started with the private cloud model in mind while others, like Indiana University, began with the mere task of virtualization and have been able to organically grow with the evolving cloud ecosystem.
The benefits of a private cloud (nevermind getting to that point for now if an institution’s starting from scratch) are tangible, almost from the outset. A university is able to offer the CPU, storage and access to high-end networking as a service to departments across the university, thus saving money that would otherwise be spent on investing in new hardware for a large, disparate number of departments. Furthermore, since that infrastructure is consolidated, the university also saves on this aspect of efficiency—particularly from an administrative/management perspective.
As Wylie Wong at EdTech Magazine noted today, “For a private cloud to work, individual university departments must agree to give up some autonomy and use a shared tech infrastructure that is managed by the central IT organization.” Wong reports that for Indiana University, this autonomy sacrifice was not a primary issue—that in fact, several departments actually came to the university’s IT leaders and proposed the idea of an internal cloud.
Accordingly, Wong reports that “the university’s Enterprise Infrastructure Division immediately launched a pilot program, and it was so successful that it formally began offering infrastructure as a service in 2008. Today, 1300 VMs run on about 70 physical servers. About 400 VMs run applications from university departments that are taking advantage of the private cloud, while the remaining 900 VMs house central applications.”
Wong’s EdTech article goes into depth about a number of specific issues related to a cloud environment for a large university with descriptions about a few of the challenges, statements about how the new IT infrastructure has been perceived and used, and details about the hardware. Furthermore, it provides a few other examples of universities that have taken similar paths with different results.