Our Approach to Cloud

The NCEdCloud initiative is at its core an outsourcing program.  The NCEdCloud program transitions LEA server and storage infrastructure to commercial cloud providers and establishes an NCEdCloud administrator to oversee the commercial providers and to manage the process of moving services into and out of the cloud.  The key elements of the program are:

  • Planning
  • Cloud Deployment
  • Pilot Migrations
  • Statewide Migration
  • Measurement and Monitoring
  • Cloud Administration
  • Statewide Application and Content Licensing

The NC School Connectivity Initiative (SCI) built the foundation for the NCEdCloud program both in terms of providing network infrastructure to all LEAs and in terms of establishing a rigorous project planning and deployment methodology.  We apply the mature planning and deployment methodology established with the SCI here.  In the paragraphs that follow we summarize each of the program elements.

Planning

As with all IT initiatives the deployment of the NCEdCloud will require careful planning.  The planning team will comprise a group of infrastructure experts overseen by the Manager of Connectivity Services at the NC Department of Public Instruction and supported by Friday Institute and the MCNC Client Network Engineering Group.  The planning team will be tasked with developing an implementation and operating plan for the NCEdCloud.  The planning process will include an onsite survey of infrastructure and infrastructure support resources at each of the 115 NC LEAs. Project planning will begin October 1, 2010 and will require 6-9 months to complete.

Cloud Deployment

Upon completion of the planning process, the planning team will present the community-vetted implementation and operating plan to the NC State Board of Education for review and approval.  Upon approval of the plan the NCEdCloud team will transition from planning to deployment. The initial deployment elements will be related to building a relationship with one or more commercial cloud providers.  The cloud deployment phase will likely require a competitive procurement process and as such the development of one or more requests for proposal.  The data collected during the LEA infrastructure site surveys will serve as the basis for the scope of cloud RFPs in terms of types and numbers of server instances.  The team will work with the selected cloud provider(s) to roll out a combination of reserved (persistent) and on-demand server instances and storage resources to meet the aggregate needs of the NC K-12 education enterprise.  As part of the rollout process the NCEdCloud team will manage the development of any middleware required to integrate the cloud with LEA directory, authorization, and authentication systems.  We estimate that the cloud deployment phase will require 6 months and on the order of $7.5M.  Costs include deployment administration, middleware development, and one-time costs for initial server instantiation.

Pilot Migrations

In parallel with cloud deployment and based on the implementation plan the team will orchestrate a group of carefully selected pilot migrations of LEA and DPI infrastructure to the NCEdCloud.  The pilots will include representative hardware platform types, persistent and on-demand resource allocations, and services that extend across LEA boundaries.  The primary goal of the pilots is to validate planning assumptions and to fine-tune migration and steady-state support processes.  We estimate that pilot migrations will require 3 months.  Costs will include DPI pilot administration, cloud administration, and one-time cloud provider migration fees.

Statewide Migration

With lessons learned from the pilot migrations, we will manage a 30-36 month statewide migration of LEA server and storage infrastructure to the NCEdCloud.  Work will include directory integration and network provisioning to support the unique requirements of each infrastructure and service migration.  In some cases shared applications will be migrated to the cloud and users will be transitioned to the cloud service together.  In other cases individual resources will be turned up, tested, and transitioned on an LEA-by-LEA basis.  During the migration project contemporary systems supporting innovation in instruction and leadership will be designed from the beginning as cloud services. Existing LEA infrastructure arrangements, licensing agreements, and federal e-rate guidelines, may impact the migration timeline and schedule.  We estimate that the 30-36 month statewide migration will cost $6M.  Direct costs include project management, cloud administration, and cloud provider one-time migration fees.

Measurement and Monitoring

A significant benefit of procuring infrastructure-as-a-service is that the provider will be held to account through a service level agreement (SLA) that specifies commitments related to service availability, performance, and support responsiveness. The NC Education Cloud will be instrumented for measurement and monitoring in order to manage to the SLA.  Data collected through this instrumentation will also be used to scale resource allocations for both new and existing services.  Finally, the NCEdCloud will also collect data related to user access.  User access data can inform assessment systems developed in support of core RttT goals.  The deployment team will coordinate instrumentation of the NCEdCloud with the cloud service provider during cloud deployment and service migration, as appropriate.  Instrumentation costs are included in deployment and migration project budgets.

Cloud Administration

DPI will manage a contract with a cloud administrator.  DPI will review the details of the NCEdCloud service with the NC K-12 community at least annually to optimize offerings, support opportunities for federal e-Rate support, and to add or remove cloud providers.  In order to provide for sustainability of the NCEdCloud moving forward DPI will expand the existing Client Network Engineering support contract with MCNC to cover LEA engineering support and will contract with an appropriate provider for cloud operations.

Statewide Application and Content Licensing

In tandem with the deployment of the statewide education cloud infrastructure model we will overlay a suite of applications, tools, and content that support equitable access to the contemporary data systems, online professional development, and blended instructional delivery models defined in the core chapters of the NC RttT proposal.  Specifically, we will deploy a standard and open statewide Learning Management System, a companion learning objects repository and collaboration tools.  We incorporate a federated identity management approach to facilitate secure and mediated student and educator access to statewide resources.  Finally, we include the development of web personalization functionality to the NC e-learning portal to further enhance and focus student access to online instructional content resources.

Technology Infrastructure in LEA's Today

Today most LEAtechnology infrastructure is hosted in various locations (central server rooms, telecom closets, etc) with select items purchased as services. The primary access to these services are on desktop devices.

Shared Services Graphic Today

Model Technology Infrastructure

While there will continue to be some services hosted within LEAs the vast majority of LEA infrastructure will be procured as a service and hosted in commercial data centers. This transition will aide districts as the number of wireless devices (laptops, netbooks, tablets) exponentially increases.

Shared Services Model