For the last few years the university has relied on a managed service provider for much of its IT infrastructure – but it was an arrangement that lacked the flexibility or agility that ECU required, according to Vito Forte, director of digital and campus services, and CIO.
To digitally transform ECU, rein in costs and support the university’s strategy to improve the student experience, ECU has transitioned 96% of its workloads (about 50:50 Windows and Linux based) to Azure, to support anytime, anywhere learning.
“We’ve migrated nearly 400 workloads into this environment, and those 400 workloads include all the major applications, from financial, payroll, student management and identity, which are critical to the university,” said Forte.
“We also have migrated a number of workloads to an on-prem Azure Stack environment, because of specific requirements around latency and device proximity.
“We’ve also got our analytics and our data warehouses in Azure. There’s a whole host of other subsidiary applications that hang around those main ones. And most of those are not Microsoft based. They are Linux and Oracle based. So it removes the perception that says that you can only really run Microsoft stuff in Azure, which isn’t actually true.”
According to Lee Hickin, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Australia, “Higher education is undergoing a period of massive change in Australia and across the world. Competition continues to rise, student expectations are higher than ever, and there is an unstinting demand for efficiency and effectiveness”.
“Australian universities are taking a very strategic approach, ensuring they can optimise their students’ experience – and also pave the way for the sorts of lifelong learning initiatives that people will need for sustained success. The information systems and data needed to support that strategy need to be highly responsive, coherent and able to scale rapidly to meet demand. These are the foundations now in place at ECU.”
According to Microsoft, Azure is already changing the way that ECU uses technology to provide computer labs for students as they tackle assignments, exams and projects.
“Instead of having to buy and manage a host of computers for computer labs which might sit largely idle outside of exam time, ECU can simply scale up the Azure Lab to meet demand,” Microsoft says.
“A proof of concept using Azure Labs to host a cyber security penetration testing module was rolled out with students accessing the module through their usual university sign on, from their own device when and where it suited them. Students logged in via the Azure Labs portal and used their Office 365 credentials to connect to the appropriate Lab.”
The security credentials and track record of Azure were a key consideration in the university’s decision to select a Microsoft solution, according to Forte.
As a result of the transformation “we’re seeing greater than 60% reduction in operating costs as well as significant IT productivity improvements,” Forte said.
”What we have now is fundamentally the same number of people with twice the amount of capability. So the level of effort is fundamentally halved.”