Educause 2008

This years Educause conference took place in Orlando, Florida.

Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Membership is open to institutions of higher education, corporations serving the higher education information technology market, and other related associations and organizations.

The association provides a social networking Connect site that supports blogs, wikis, podcasts and other platforms for IT professionals to generate and find content and to engage their peers; professional development opportunities; print and electronic publications, including e-books, monographs, and the magazines Educause Quarterly (EQ) and Educause Review[1]; strategic policy advocacy; teaching and learning initiatives; applied research; special interest discussion groups; awards for leadership and transformative uses of information technology; and a Resource Center for IT professionals in higher education.

Major initiatives of Educause include the Core Data Service, the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR), the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI), Net@EDU (advanced networking), the Educause Policy Program, and the Educause/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force. In addition, Educause manages the .edu Internet domain under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.[1]

The current membership of Educause comprises more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and educational organizations, including 200 corporations, with 16,500 active members.

Below are pictures from the conference:

[slickr-flickr tag=”educause 2008″ id=”61116089@N00″ group=”n”]

My schedule at the conference:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overall I thought it was an excellent conference, there weren’t as many people this year as previous ones.

The exhibit hall was fun as always. Some exhibits were great and others sucked which brings up another subject. Marketing.

There were two exhibits that stood out amongst the crowd. The first one from Bradford Networks and the other from Trapeze Networks. These guys not only gathered leads, but engaged their prospective customers allowing them to deliver their sales pitch. Two companies that I will definitely be following up with.

Other companies that did well on their marketing pitch were Turning Technologies, Novell, CDW, Zimbra, Elluminate, and Microsoft. Although the only thing Microsoft had going for itself was as great demo on a smart-board of Image Composite Editor.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. The application takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The things that characterized the good exhibits can be summarized in a few words. They were accessible, had an inviting environment, gave away free stuff (like free iTouch and laptops every hour) and had either professionals or very seasoned sales people giving the presentations.

On the other side of the coin, were the very big and expensive exhibits which just didn’t deliver.

Some that deserve mention are AT&T which has a very expensive three environment exhibit representing campus life and U-Verse all over the place. Alcatel-Lucent had a not very inviting exhibit and their staff sat down most of the time. Citrix was just offering a $5 Starbucks card for filling out a survey. Cognos had a closed exhibit that wasn’t inviting to anyone.

Its not that these companies were cheap, which they were; but they are spending a lot of money for lead generation when they could also be qualifying the leads and delivering their product demos to a captive audience.

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Cloud Computing – Made Simple and Affordable

Depending on how many people you ask to define the meaning of “Cloud Computing“, you are very likely to get the same numbers of answers.

Cloud Computing builds on decades of research in a number of computer science fields including grid computing, distributed computing, utility computing and more recently networking, web and application services.

It implies a seamless Service Oriented Architecture (SOA); basically the delivery of an integrated and orchestrated suite of on-demand services to an end-user through the grouping of functionality around business processes, making them accessible over a network and allowing these services to communicate with each other by passing data from one service to another in a loosely coupled manner.

This concept built upon and evolving from older concepts of distributed computing and modular programing, promises to reduce information technology overhead, virtualization of resources, greater flexibility, and lower total cost of ownership. (TCO)

A group from North Carolina State University and George Mason University, presented this year at Educause 2008 in Orlando, Florida, a full-day seminar on “Cloud Computing Made Simple and Affordable”.

Since the year 2004 they have been hard at work building the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a new, scalable and accessible computing system architecture.

High costs, support and security issues, software licensing, space requirements, and demands for enhanced local and remote 24 x 7 user access constantly challenge computing in education. The Virtual Computing Lab (VCL), a new, adaptable, and open source approach to computing, provides a cloud-like rich services computing environment to serve advanced research and student computing simultaneously and affordably, within a scalable and accessible system architecture. The VCL maintains the diversity and flexibility essential to an academic environment while providing computational resources with an unprecedented lack of restrictions and significant reduction in costs. The VCL is an Internet-based service that allows users to augment their own computers of varying types and capabilities—without their having to acquire new or uniform computers, install and run advanced software, provide their own software support, and so forth.

The speakers at the session included Samuel F. Averitt (NCSU), Aaron Peeler (NCSU), Sharon P. Pitt (GMU), John Savage (GMU), Henry E. Schaffer (NCSU), Sarah R. Stein (NCSU) and Mladen A. Vouk (NCSU).

The open-source project has been submitted and recently accepted here by the Apache Foundation as one of its Incubator Projects.

VCL relies on the LAMP architecture, which includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP and it was originally developed in a blade environment using IBM blades and xCAT, which is a scalable distributed computing management and provisioning tool that provides a unified interface for hardware control, discovery, and OS diskful/diskfree deployment.

VCL provides a web 2.0 reservation system, making accessible a multitude of hardware and virtualized systems running a variety of operating systems and applications to the end-users via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), for a pre-determined period of time. Images for these systems are maintained online or offline dependant on a last-used/commonly used algorithm, so an image offline could take up to 15 minutes to load.

Not only does this approach address the issue of providing users access to applications without the need for an installation, but also by making use of virtualization technologies such as VMware ESXi Hypervisor, provides the capability of multiplying by a substantial factor computing power while reducing the total cost of ownership.

Going even further, computers not being used could be aggregated to the cloud, making them all that valuable.

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