Education is inexorably moving to the cloud. Leading districts are turning to cloud computing in order to gain cost reductions, increased security, the flexibility to use more (or fewer) resources at will, easier ubiquitous access to digital resources outside the classroom, simplified network management, and the ability to shift IT personnel from repetitive rote work to higher level concerns.

As the adoption of cloud based services becomes central to supporting the digital curriculum and school district operations, equally central is the district network’s role as the on ramp to the Cloud which was not the case in the pre-Cloud era. So today, it is imperative to deploy scalable, reliable broadband internet connections over diverse multiple paths between the district and its ISPs. (See Smart Education Networks by Design.)

Bob Moore, CTO at Dallas ISD, takes a strategic view of cloud, or what he considers essentially IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS). He begins by identifying the reason that IT exists in education: to ensure that all students have access to, and meaningful use of, technology tools and resources in preparation for college, career and life.

This leads to two goals: Ensure that all students have quality access to the technology tools and resources they need, when they need it, as well as ensure that technology is used to create efficiencies and improve customer experience. This, in turn, leads to the strategy: Simplify (everything). The user experience must be simple and the operations must be simple. ITaaS (cloud) is key to implementing that strategy.

The goal of the CTO, of course, is never to simply follow buzzwords into new technology, but to consider how the availability of new kinds of tools and resources can best be used to meet the IT needs of the district. So instead of just asking “How do I move to the cloud?” ask instead how does the availability of IT-as-a-Service allow me to improve the costs or user experience of district IT services?

In most cases, a shift to cloud makes better student access, cost savings and improved user experience possible. However, there are circumstances, particularly when there is a legacy investment in recently purchased hardware or in software that isn’t architected to use the advantages of Cloud, that make transferring services to the public cloud not be cost efficient. In those cases, a hybrid cloud that retains the hard-to-move hardware and software in a virtualized data center or on a private cloud, while the easy-to-move services are transferred to the public cloud serves as a very common transitional configuration.

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