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How higher ed IT is staying ahead of the cloud computing curve

Bob Brown | Oct. 21, 2015
Signs that cloud computing is for real are piling up around Carnegie Mellon University’s Tom Dugas, but perhaps nothing else brings this home like the fact that the renowned Pittsburgh research school has posted a job opening for its first-ever cloud architect.

“Corporate IT is really just getting its feet wet and figuring out what it takes, how to build governance around cloud,” he says. Dugas has surveyed local CIO conference attendees to gauge cloud adoption and has seen numbers rise from under 10% a few years back to more than 80% now, though many are still at the early investigation stage.

CLOUD COMPUTING CHANGE AGENTS

At CMU, lines of business frequently initiate cloud adoption. “Rather than us doing the research into cloud solutions, we’re basically responding… The campus itself is pushing us down that path. The learning curve for end users has been pretty easy,” Dugas says.

The move to cloud is, in turn, bringing change within the school’s IT organization. Traditional IT jobs, such as system admins and data stewards, are still needed, but “those roles are being adapted to take on more of an integration role with cloud services… We’re seeing an explosion in business analysts and business process designers,” Dugas says. With so many new cloud technologies taking a Salesforce.com-like approach of offering modular services, people are needed to build business processes on top of them by working with the business units, he says.

Skills needed include negotiation, facilitation and technical requirements documentation gathering. “We are finding a lot of people who are technologists wanting to take on leadership roles,” Dugas says.

(You can check out an Internet2 presentation by Dugas from about a year ago titled "Resource and Staffing for Cloud Computing: Evolving Your Workforce to Meet New Needs".)

One key to cloud services buy-in from business units and higher ups is that so many of the offerings are proving to be secure, especially those built from the ground up as cloud services. Nevertheless, Dugas emphasizes that processes and controls need to be built in to ensure you can get your data if the vendor folds or your company discontinues using their services. Dugas learned this the hard way, as he’s still trying to extract cloud-confined data from one vendor used years ago.

“At least it was only data we’d like to have, not must have,” he says.

 

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