Edith Cowan University’s ongoing shift to Microsoft Azure has halved its annual IT operations expenditure after 95 percent of its workloads were moved into the cloud.
Chief information officer and director of digital and campus services, Vito Forte, said that so far almost 400 workloads have been migrated to a hybrid cloud setup to support anytime, anywhere access to resources.
Major applications from across the university’s financial, payroll, student management and identity systems have all been moved, with a number of workloads running on an on-premises Azure Stack environment “because of specific requirements around latency and device proximity,” Forte said in a statement.
Its hybrid cloud environment is supported by the Dell Microsoft Microsoft Azure Stack HCI (hyperconverged infrastructure), which handles ECU’s localised applications.
“We’ve also got our analytics and our data warehouses in Azure. There’s a whole host of other subsidiary applications that hang around those main ones. And most of those are not Microsoft based. They are Linux and Oracle based.”
ECU’s Callista student management system has also been integrated with the university’s Azure stack
The transition away from a deal with an undisclosed managed service provider (MSP) was undertaken to increase ECU’s organisational agility while reining in operational costs.
In a separate statement from Microsoft, Forte said the university’s arrangement with its MSP meant “it just took too long to do stuff”.
“The lack of automation, the lack of orchestration, the cost of doing even the basics was high. It just took weeks to stand up a server, a virtual server, where it should be taking minutes.”
And despite the limited functionality, costs for the services were relatively high under the previous scheme.
Forte told iTnews this was because its managed services model, billed as operational expenditure, was backed up by a lease stream and related costs in the provision of those services.
“While there was some ability to flex up and down, the speed and granularity of this did not provide for the ability to understand and drive reductions in cost and increases in capabilities.”
Practically speaking, that meant ECU had “no ability to shutdown and/or schedule DEV/QA [quality assurance] workloads to minimise unnecessary compute or other costs”.
The uni also had no ability to take advantage of “Reserved Instance” and the inherent large cost savings with workloads deemed to be “always on” and sustainable over a longer term, while backup and storage costs were “excessive” compare to public clouds due to the costs of running infrastructure and managing the associated leases, he said.
After moving its computer science labs onto Azure Lab Services in the second semester of last year and rolling out Office365, the university is now making Teams and Teams Telephony available to streamline communications and collaboration.
Over 1000 users have already migrated to Teams so far, with the School of Nursing and Midwifery the first to receive the service.
Forte is also investigating the use of Azure artificial intelligence services, which could be integrated into chatbots to support staff and students, with a pilot program already in development.
He also plans to overhaul the university's records management system, making greater use of Office365 and SharePoint.
Since other resources have already been freed up by the shift to Azure, the ECU can also explore helping faculties that don't typically have a strong IT focus to innovate and adopt new digital tools.
”What we have now is fundamentally the same number of people with twice the amount of capability. So the level of effort is fundamentally halved.”
Update 22/1/2020: Story updated to include additional statement from Vito Forte