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Max’s Minute: Clouds of Technology

Max Davis-Johnson

Boise State CIO Max Davis-Johnson defines cloud computing, and explains the criteria used by the Office of Information Technology to determine which systems we move to the cloud.

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>> MAX: Hi, this is Max Davis-Johnson, Boise State University Office of Information Technology.

I want to talk a little bit about the Cloud today. Not these type of clouds…overcast…but technology clouds.

Just as there are clouds in the sky today and clouds in the forecast, Boise State has clouds that we’re in now, and clouds that will be forecasted in our future.

So I want to talk a little bit about what the Cloud is, why would we want to use the Cloud and what criteria, and then I’m going to follow that up with a couple of written blogs where I’m actually going to talk a little bit about some of the things we’re actually doing in the Cloud.

So, there’s a lot of definitions of the Cloud. One I like to use is, basically, you’re running something on somebody else’s computer.

It may be a single computer, it may be many – multiple – computers. You may know where it is. You may not know where it is.

But basically you’re running it on a computer somewhere else.

So when Boise State looks to move to the Cloud, we look for opportunities. And those opportunities – because technology changes – exist all the time.

If we’re looking at a new system, we will see if it is available in the Cloud (if it makes sense).

If we’re upgrading a system, (if) we have a major upgrade, we will look to see…is there a cloud version available for it?

If we’re replacing the hardware that supports a major system we have on campus, that’s an opportunity to look at putting that in the Cloud.

This is something called “IT rationalization,” which is one of our core tenets. We look for opportunities when we go through changes to move to the Cloud.

So what are the criteria we look at when we move to the Cloud?

We look at cost, and cost is certainly a factor. Sometimes, though, when we move to the Cloud it may actually cost us more for the licensing, but we all have to look at the total cost.

So if moving to the Cloud means that we don’t have to do as much on the back end…system admins, database administrators, hardware…we still may move to the Cloud even though it may cost us a little bit more based on licensing or software costs.

We look at security. Security is very critical when we move to the Cloud. Just as we’re very focused on secure systems here at Boise State, when they move to the Cloud that’s a very key concern for us.

The good news is the Cloud is very secure. It’s a core part of their business to have security, where here at Boise State we have a very good security team, unfortunately there aren’t that many of them and they need to sleep.

In the Cloud, essentially you have an army of people dedicated to Security, and they don’t sleep.

So, security in the Cloud actually is…and I would say, better than…what we can do here on the ground.

Another important thing to look at is, especially, when we’re talking about having our data in some of these systems, is the ability to pull data out or put data in, which is what we call “integration.” Our ability to tie these systems together.

It’s also very important for us, especially if we have multiple systems we’re pulling data from, we can aggregate this data into one place.

Also, another criteria we look at is the ability to extend our “identity” to these systems. Just as our systems here at Boise State understand that if I log in they know what my role is, they know what my privileges are, we need to have that same ability in the Cloud.

And then the other important thing we need to look at is ease of use, and does it provide the same level of functionality and service that we can provide here at Boise State?

So we look at all these factors and weigh them in as we move to the Cloud.

Just as there are clouds in the sky now,

[sound of thunder clap]

and certainly there’s going to be clouds in the sky in the future, Boise State has technology clouds that we’re involved in, and there will be more technology clouds in our future too.

We look for opportunities, we have criteria that we measure, that we assess as we move to the Cloud. But a lot of times it’s not a question of if we’re going to go to the Cloud, it’s more a question of when.