The Edge and the Center

How is central IT evolving on your campus?

July 24, 2014

It seems like just yesterday when every campus IT department was on the verge of eliminating that last rogue departmental server.  

IT services would be centralized, virtualized, and rationalized.  

Duplication of hardware and system administration would be eliminated.   

Greater scale would enable total campus IT costs to come down, as central IT brought in functions and services that were once provided by atomized campuses, schools, or departments.  

Consistent project management, security, backup, redundancy, and end-of-life policies would be applied to all campus IT services.  

Legacy IT systems, including applications that may have originally been built by campus IT pioneers in some some basement somewhere in the murky but fondly remembered past, would be replaced by enterprise applications that met today’s security and resiliency standards.

But while much of our higher ed technology industrial complex was busy centralizing, virtualizing, and rationalizing, something interesting in the world of technology was starting to emerge.

The edge started to eat the center.

Gradually, and then suddenly, it became both cheaper and easier to rent cloud based services from servers to storage than it was to provide and support the same services locally.  

No local campus data center can compete with the scale of an Amazon Web Services.

Cloud based platforms, from project management to media management, evolved to become both more powerful and easier to use than what was currently available from central IT.

Platforms that were once expensive, siloed and monolithic became cheap, connected, and flexible.

Fast campus movers, from individual faculty to departments to whole schools, could quickly spin up new services and resources, as long as they were willing to act more like tech startups.

The minimally viable consumer product began to morph into the minimally viable academic product, with the goal of making fast changes based on actual user experience.  

Has the world of academic IT moved quickly enough to keep up with these changes?

Has centralized academic IT moved from a provider of campus services to a facilitator of flexible cloud-based services?

Have project management methodologies moved from an enterprise to an edge model?

Have the professionals in central IT re-located out to the edge, embedding themselves with the academic teams that will eventually consume the services?

Has IT decision making become faster and more flexible?

Has the center embraced the edge?


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