A new data center has provided an opportunity for two higher education institutions in New York to share IT services and collaborate.
The University of Albany and Hudson Valley Community College reached an agreement last month to share space in the latter’s data center and establish a fiber link between the two schools. The project should enable both schools to provide better and more efficient IT services to their campuses.
Hudson Valley Community College built its data center earlier this year, and the University of Albany needed to find a way to back up its data off campus. So the pairing was a natural fit. The fiber installation and university data backup in the warehouse should be completed by December.
According to University of Albany CIO Christine Haile, the university had been at a crossroads regarding its data storage. A large financial investment was needed to bring its old storage room up to data center standards. But after looking at commercial providers and other state agencies, the options weren’t appealing.
But partnering with Hudson Valley Community College to share its data center is just the kind of project the State University of New York (SUNY) is encouraging.
System-wide collaboration and sharing is part of Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher's strategic plan for the 64 SUNY institutions. While SUNY campuses have been collaborating and creating system-wide software contracts for more than 20 years, the chancellor's message and the budget situation over the last four years have caused universities to look for even more ways to collaborate, Haile said.
"The shared services I think work really effectively when there's a very specific need that one or both institutions have," Haile added.
Laying the Groundwork
Two months ago, Hudson Valley Community College CIO Steve Chen created a SUNY Emerging and Innovative IT R&D group for CIOs across the system. In this group, CIOs plan to examine emerging technologies and make recommendations for services that their institutions can adopt. These recommendations will create a single standard for SUNY institutions and reduce the cost of providing similar technology services.
"My philosophy is one CIO cannot do all," Chen said. "Share leadership, share vision, share the service, and share the cost, and in the end improve the services and provide better and up-to-date technology for all students, faculty and staff within the SUNY system."
In monthly collaboration sessions, Chen and Haile are meeting with some of their IT staff to learn from each other and identify potential areas where they can collaborate. Haile felt that by openly welcoming each other and working together, shared services agreements like the new data center arrangement will be sustainable.
"It's just really important for – and success is going to be based on – the relationships and the trust that's built among CIOs and IT staff and their organizations," Haile said. "I think always the comfort level and the success of a collaboration is based on the participants more than the technologies. Collaboration is something that has to be worked at on an ongoing basis."