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Internet2 plans to broker agreements that will reduce universities' cloud expenses and tailor services to higher education.b
The advanced networking consortium led by 221 universities announced Tuesday, April 24, an expansion of its NET+ cloud services. Last fall Internet2 facilitated agreements with Box and HP for cloud services. Now it has added another 14 partners from the vendor and higher education communities. These services will be made available to the consortium's university, industry and 26 government members.
"Our goal is pretty straightforward: We believe that by creating custom services for higher ed, we can take the cost out of the traditional sales cycle, remove administrative costs, remove the overhead that is endemic to engagement with higher ed, and speed the adoption of these services so that students at any of our institutions can instantly collaborate with other institutions," said Shelton Waggener, associate vice chancellor and CIO of the University of California Berkeley, and incoming Internet2 senior vice president.
That collaboration could include having students take courses at institutions around the world and having faculty work together in a common space.
By using the online file storage solution Box, faculty members can work together and share files in common collaboration spaces. And instead of opening new accounts with new passwords, they can use their federated identity management service from Internet2 called InCommon.
"We really have a very intriguing opportunity here to change the way we're going to apply these new technologies, by which we hope to lower the cost of educational services while enhancing the research capabilities," Waggener said.
In many cases, universities couldn't get a site license for some cloud services on their own, said Jerry Grochow, Internet2's interim vice president of NET+ services. That's where Internet2 comes in.
The Internet2 NET+ Services team works out agreements for existing services to get universities better terms, such as site licenses that aren't offered commercially or solutions with no network costs. For example, a university might pay $5,000 a year for Microsoft Windows Azure plus $5,000 for network costs. Under the agreement, the network costs go away.
Some of the services these partners will provide are designed specifically for higher education, with the input of universities. In order to become part of NET+, university CIOs need to sponsor a vendor or community partner. Then the partner's service goes through four phases: research incubator, service validation, early adopter and general availability.
In the research incubator stage, small teams from a number of universities work with a vendor to figure out whether existing or future cloud products could help the university community. In the service validation stage, existing products are fine-tuned to meet university needs, possibly through a proof-of-concept process and definitely through a business development model appropriate for universities.
Once NET+ validates the service, as many as 10 or 12 universities can pilot it. Additional features sometimes come out of this phase. Then the services are opened to all Internet2 members.
Box was in the early adopter (pilot) stage last fall and is now in the general availability stage. HP is still in the service validation stage. The remaining 14 vendor and community services fall into the other three stages.
The 16 partners include: Aastra, Adobe, Box, CENIC, Dell, Desire2Learn, Duo Security, DuraSpace, Evogh, HP, Level 3 Communications, Merit Network Inc., Microsoft, Savvis, SHI International and The Solution Design Group. They range from cloud-based companies to traditional software and hardware providers that are now providing cloud services.
But one of them, DuraSpace, started as a research initiative in the university community and offers an open-source stack that allows universities to have multiple storage locations for research and archive purposes.
Thirty-five universities are currently piloting Box, and more than 100 others have expressed interest. Four universities are piloting HP and SHI International's cloud computing and infrastructure services.
As NET+ continues to grow, it could add other services, Internet2 leaders say.
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