Capacity woes lead Seneca College towards cloud

Capacity planning is a big concern for large organizations running on-premise infrastructure and facing growing demand for IT services. A recent CIO Canada webcast looked at how infrastructure-as-a-service can bear some of the burden.The webcast, titled ‘Clouds You Can Count on: How to Plan for IaaS,’ provided a glimpse of how CIOs feel about IaaS and the reasons driving them to consider adopting it.

Roy Hart, CIO of Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto, spoke of the difficulty in predicting demand on a network that includes around 750 servers, 8,000 desktops and 800 applications delivered to them.

“Our learning management system is trending towards about a billion transactions per year,” Hart said. “On top of that, we also have a wireless network and we have to run all of our student-owned devices through that, so you can imagine network management is a big challenge.”
He pointed to an often-cited advantage that cloud provides: allowing technology to recede from public view while still providing its benefits. “Right now one of our main goals is to make IT provisioning of resources to students and faculty, make it invisible.”
But there are concerns at Seneca about moving to IaaS, he added, most importantly, what he calls the “four horsemen” of memory, storage, CPU and network. Nevertheless, he said the college is facing an uncertain future and needs to look for extra capacity somewhere.
“Over time, we expect we’ll start to look at how we can blend our private cloud infrastructure with the maturing public cloud offerings so we can move workload, particularly around student workload,” he said.
The other webcast guest, Adi Kabazo, manager of products and services in Telus Corp.’s cloud services division, said finding the right mix of services for an organization like Seneca is “a fine balancing act.”
There are perennial concerns customers have around cloud, especially around security and data residency, Kabazo said, “but really we’re seeing an overwhelming growing acceptance of cloud as a business model, whether it’s private or public.”
The main reason for this is that IaaS is now recognized as a major competitive advantage, he said. Everyone has seen what the first wave of adopters were able to accomplish.
“It enabled a whole new economy to be developed, basically, without any capital investments on IT infrastructure. These companies just rented capacity through the Web and grew businesses out of pretty much thin air.”

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