Over the past year, the school has moved the school’s student accounts, housed in Active Directory, to VMware’s cloud, as well as some of its SQL services. After that, Mozeliak plans to move some of the college’s web services to the cloud, too. “This way, if anything happens to our physical location in Philadelphia, we’re still available in the cloud using VMware’s Virtual Private Cloud to allow our students to get to class,” he said.
Steps to a Broad Plan
The move is part of a broader migration to the cloud for the school. In the next 18 months or so, the school will abandon its current LMS for another service-based LMS platform, and Peirce already uses Google Apps for Education. On the administrative side, the college began implementation of Saleforce’s cloud-based CRM this month.
“This approach is much, much less expensive,” said Mozeliak. “We don’t have any hardware to buy or maintain—it’s just a subscription.” He’s particularly pleased with the pricing model used by VMware, which gives the school an agreed-upon amount of resources 24/7 that it can use as its sees fit.
“That’s been a really good move for us,” he added. “Some of the other vendors, like Google and Amazon, charge you per CPU cycle. That pricing model is extremely difficult to understand. It took me a long time to figure out our CPU usage on campus; I then tried to translate that usage into a cloud environment to gauge how much it would all cost. It becomes very cloudy.”
Mozeliak is less enamored of the firewall that comes free with the vCloud Air subscription. Peirce had been using Palo Alto Networks firewalls on campus and the VMware equivalent proved to be far less sophisticated. “As soon as we realized how simple the VMware firewall was, we installed Palo Alto’s virtual VM-100 appliances,” said Mozeliak. “Now we have Palo Alto Networks both in the virtual environment and in our campus environment. We know all the data between here and the cloud are completely secure, and we have 100 percent visibility into the traffic between us and the cloud and between the cloud and the web.”
Mozeliak is far happier with the privacy protections and security of the data stored within the vCloud Air environment, noting that VMware’s storage procedures are HIPAA compliant and accommodate FERPA regulations. “Our data center is in Virginia; our data is always in Virginia,” he said. “On some other platforms, you could be in China today and Japan tomorrow—you’re never really sure where your data is.”
While he emphasizes that privacy and security considerations must be addressed, Mozeliak also advises schools not to let these concerns prevent them from taking advantage of what the cloud has to offer. “We have students all over the United States and in several countries, so we’re a 24/7 shop,” he said. “We need our students to be able to access their classes whenever they want. Uptime and stability are a big deal.”