Shedding Some Light on the Cloud: Liz Dietz Interviews Ron Yanosky, PhD – Part 1 of 2

By Archive User posted 03-07-2012 12:10 PM


I like to think of CedarCrestone as front-runners in the race to the cloud. CCI has been helping campuses move their PeopleSoft and EBS applications to the cloud for over 10 years, with our Host and Managed Services offerings. We also have an active SaaS practice for Workday and Oracle Fusion that supports clients in their move to the next generation of administrative applications.  

This year at Alliance, CedarCrestone is sponsoring a session on the timely topic of Cloud computing, and we are very fortunate to have as our distinguished speaker, Ron Yanosky, PhD, who will share his insights on the current state of the cloud and his predictions regarding what's next. Dr. Yanosky, managing associate at Richard N. Katz and Associates and former Gartner analyst, will also moderate a discussion with a panel of respected campus IT leaders.  

Eager for a sneak preview of what Ron has to say, I conducted an interview with him. Over my next two blogs, I will share some of the highlights from our conversation.

Liz: Ron, can you give me some highlights on what you are planning to present at Alliance?  

Ron: I’ll begin by talking about where the cloud seems to be. There are different cloud services and everybody knows about the basic categories – infrastructure, platform, and Software as a Service. IDC, Forrester and Gartner – all agree that this market is growing much faster than the rate of other IT spending.  People are really starting to buy even though cloud services are a very small percentage of total IT spending.

I’ll facilitate a discussion about commercial cloud services and the whole question of what the relationship of the institution is to them. How do you manage that? Because users are going to be going out and taking advantage of these things in departments and as individuals, we need a policy environment that protects the institution’s interests in those ways.

I’ll talk a little bit about some of the consortial activity that’s going on. Internet2 is getting involved in brokering some cloud services – trying to take advantage of its purchasing power and its negotiating power. And there are a couple other examples of that.

I will talk a bit about the obstacles to cloud adoption and how they are perceived. The number one concerns for people right now are the data privacy and security issues.  How do we go about assessing whether those are reasonable fears or not? There are a lot of regulatory requirements that were not designed for a cloud environment, and we can talk about how institutions are deciding to go with the cloud in managing those risks. On the one hand, there’s the basic risk of worrying that your data might not be secure. But even if you convince yourself that it is secure, or even more secure, in a cloud environment, you still may have some additional legal or regulatory issues to manage.

Liz: I think those topics along with the panel questions that you have put forth are very timely. What do you see are the top three trends with regard to the cloud? 

Ron: The first thing is just grasping the notion that the cloud lowers the barrier for access to technology for lots of different kinds of people. That’s really the important thing about it: we are turning assets into services.  People are going to have an independence from the IT unit that they haven’t enjoyed before. You can go to a cloud service and create a server environment without laying hands on the hardware, and you can expand that to all different kinds of things including software applications.

That’s a major change that we have to think through because it changes our relationship with users. In IT we’ve always been the people who could get you going. We had expertise in learning what your needs were, and doing the technology translation. Now a lot of the mechanics of that are essentially automated. But there’s still going to be this need for assuring that people are using it appropriately, that they understand how those tools impact business processes, security, privacy, regulation, and all that stuff.

The second thing I’d say is that the consumer world is leading this trend. We all know that the heavy hitters – IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft – are all making moves in this area. And we know that this is a new kind of architecture technologically speaking that IT people understand and grasp. But to see where people are grasping cloud services to change the way they do things, look at the consumer space. Having access to a ton of movies at home no longer means having a big library of DVD’s, or CD’s for music. People may or may not understand when they get their music from Pandora, rather than from a collection of tunes on their hard drive, that they’re dealing with cloud technology, but that’s a very practical way in which they’re experiencing the power of the cloud. And that’s going to shape user expectations, including student expectations, when they start showing up on campuses.

The third thing, more specific to Higher Education, is that Higher Education is experimenting with finding the right level of aggregation to share cloud services. There are a lot of ways you could address that. At one level, an institution could have its own private cloud architecture and open that up internally to its users. But there’s a lot of potential in the nature of the cloud to go beyond the institution’s walls and to think about sourcing in new ways. There’s more emphasis on achieving scale; there’s more capability to hide complexity from end users; and this stuff is very fungible. You can take server power and treat it like an abstract thing. You can set up servers and deliver it that way; you can get it from partners; you can get it from brokers who in turn source it in subcontracted cloud services. There are many ways now to put together computing power. We’ll see Higher Education trying to find ways to do that within a Higher Education friendly environment.

Liz: What are the reasons for moving to the cloud that you are seeing higher education considering?   Are they financial or budgetary, timing, or perhaps expanding services?

Ron: They’re looking for ways to provide services in a faster way, with improved agility, and to avoid up front capital expenses. I think that they are attracted to the idea of having a pricing model that allows them to treat it as an operational expense rather than getting into the complexities of accounting for shared infrastructure. There’s a sense that some of the commodity or near-commodity commercial cloud services might be able to take things off our plates. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I don’t think we need to be in the student email business, and maybe we don’t need to be in the email business at all.” I think the cloud lends itself to collaborative work and sharing in ways that are maybe more effective than some of the models we’ve used in the past. I think those are the kinds of things that institutions are interested in.

And then in research there are so many different kinds of uses for computation and such a demand for storage. The cloud is of interest for people that need computational power that’s quickly available and that is really scalable. If they need a lot of capacity for the short-term but their long-term needs are lesser, the cloud can accommodate that.

Liz: In terms of considering a move to Software as a Service, what kinds of things do you think an institution needs to have in place or be thinking about before they would seriously consider making a leap to SaaS?

Ron: There are some general cautionary things that I think are important regarding cloud services. You need to understand how exactly they work. If there’s a multi-tenant environment: Who are the tenants and what are the risks that go along with that? And what are the advantages that I get from that? And it’s always good when you’re looking at a switch of that kind to have an exit strategy: If things didn’t work out, how would we back out of this thing cleanly? Those are not that different from the questions you’d ask if you were making an important decision and you were looking at a traditional software model too.

Liz:  What do you think are the main barriers to migrating to Software as a Service?

Ron: I think it’s a question of how mature the products are and wanting to see that there’s a track record, and if there isn’t a track record, whether there are things that would justify being an early participant. There are some cases you can point to where it is becoming the dominant model, or at least a major model. That’s what’s happened with student email and related tools. It’s a model that’s attractive in a lot of ways, but a lot of people just aren’t familiar with it.

In my next installment (part 2), I will share Ron’s thoughts on the role of private and higher education clouds, what higher education would want included in a private cloud, and the skillsets that CIOs and higher education technologists will need in a cloudy environment. Stay tuned.

You can hear more about these topics from Ron and our panel of guest speakers in person at Alliance 2012:

Ascent to the Cloud: Early Visionaries and New Adopters Share their Views
Tuesday  •  March 20th  •  3:45 – 4:45 p.m.  •  Session #31759

In last year's Alliance presentation, we demystified the cloud. This year, our distinguished speaker, Ron Yanosky, PhD, will share his insights on the current state of the cloud and his predictions regarding what's next. Dr. Yanosky, managing associate at Richard N. Katz and Associates and former Gartner analyst, will also moderate a panel discussion. Dr. Yanosky will be joined by Liz Dietz, Vice President of Higher Education at CedarCrestone, and a distinguished panel of campus IT leaders including Cindy Bixler, Chief Information Officer at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Jerry Waldron, Chief Information Officer at Salisbury University; Jack George, Associate Vice-President for Enterprise Application Services at University of Miami; and others. Panelists will share about drivers for moving their ERP and other enterprise services to the cloud: the decision process, expectations, realities, and their visions for the future.

To assist you with your business case and vendor selection, participants will receive a flash drive containing CedarCrestone's 5-part white paper series on "Outsourcing Your ERP" that guides you to answer such questions as: Should you host your ERP applications? What is the economic justification for hosting? What criteria are important in selecting a hosting partner? And more.

About Ron Yanosky

Dr. Ronald Yanosky is a managing associate at Richard N. Katz and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in Higher Education institutional effectiveness and IT strategy. In his former capacity as deputy director and senior fellow at the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, he oversaw ECAR's research activities and authored major studies on topics including identity management, business continuity, IT governance, and data management. Before joining ECAR in 2005, Yanosky was a principal analyst at Gartner Inc., focusing on Higher Education information technology. During the 1990s, he was an assistant professor of history at Harvard University, where he taught American history.

About Liz Dietz

HEUG Hall of Fame Inductee Liz Dietz has over 26 years’ experience in delivering innovative software solutions to the Higher Education market. As Vice President, Higher Education, at CedarCrestone Liz focuses on higher education strategy, and emerging and strategic partnerships. Liz was one of the founding partners of Campus Solutions, the small boutique software company that developed the Campus Solutions product, which was acquired by PeopleSoft in 1997. She went on to become Vice President and General Manager of the Learning Solutions Product Division for PeopleSoft. She subsequently served as CEO for Xap Corporation.

 CedarCrestone's HEUG Profile