Cloud Strategy

Strategic Approach:

  • Washington University in St. Louis will adopt a Hybrid Cloud strategy that is Cloud First for software and Cloud Preferred for IT platforms and infrastructure.
  • In line with Washington University’s IT’s “Buy before build” guiding principle, significant cloud adoption efforts will take place over 5 years (2018 thru 2023) to replace existing University applications with cloud-based software and to migrate IT platforms and infrastructure to the cloud.
  • On premise infrastructure will be gradually reduced but not fully eliminated as some business needs will continue to be better served by on premise technology.
  • To meet the challenges associated with cloud migration activities, critical staff skills will be developed or acquired to fill new key roles associated with modernized, cloud-powered University community.
  • The benefits of adopting cloud computing services include streamlined collaboration with peer Universities and strategic partners, access to best-of-breed software that is aligned with industry trends, enhanced resiliency of IT services, and a reduced need for on campus data center space.

Implementation Guidelines:

  • When a business need is presented, WashU will seek IT solutions as high up in the technology stack as possible (SaaS first, PaaS second, IaaS, third)
  • Key Roles will be filled through a combination of resource reallocation, targeted staff training, professional services engagements, and strategic hiring
  • WashU will appropriately migrate IT workloads to the public cloud in order to avoid expansion of on campus data centers
  • A unified cloud governance model will be developed and integrated into the existing IT procurement policy and investment request processes
  • A unified cloud support model will be developed and integrated into the existing WashU IT organization
  • For PaaS and IaaS migrations, Microsoft-based workloads will generally move to Azure, Linux/Unix-based workloads will generally move to Amazon Web Services, and some research-centric workloads will move to Google Cloud Platform
  • WashU will leverage all readily available information security tools and best practices across the range of cloud computing services

Forces and Trends:

  • Information Technology:
    • Drive toward continuous and rapid innovation
    • Latest software and tools are frequently only available in the cloud
  • Higher Education:
    • Increased need for interdisciplinary and inter-organizational collaboration
    • Large scale, short-term research computing needs
  • Washington University in St. Louis:
    • Need for modernization of enterprise IT systems
    • Desire to leverage infrastructure investments through the end of their useful life
    • Drive to enhance IT services while maintaining current levels of IT spending
    • Adjust to a more opex-focused cost model for IT

Desired Business Outcomes:

  • Avoid significant capital expenses associated with build-out of new data centers
  • Improve the ability for faculty and staff to focus on teaching, research, and patient care
  • Streamline core business functions through the modernization of enterprise applications
  • Leverage improved availability inherent to geo redundant cloud-based solutions
  • Power advanced research through rapidly scalable cloud compute/storage resources
  • Enhance both internal and external collaboration

Success Metrics:

  • Reduce on premise datacenter footprint by > 30%
  • Reduce faculty/staff time spent on IT overhead by > 10%
  • Increase uptime for critical IT systems by > 25%

Key Roles:

  • Business Analyst: Focuses on understanding how cloud applications can be integrated into institutional business processes
  • IT Liaison: Works to ensure that IT is included in the product or service decisions taking place within business units on campus
  • Project Manager: Serves as the liaison between users, technical staff, and vendors
  • Strategic Sourcing Manager: Experienced in the unique nature of cloud contracts and risk mitigation
  • Vendor Manager: Maintains an ongoing relationship between the consumer and the cloud provider
  • Application Administrator: Handles the configuration, management, and access control for SaaS
  • Cloud Architect: Designs solutions that integrate multiple cloud (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and virtualization platforms, including on-premises services and solutions and data sources
  • Emerging Technologies Analyst: Provides research insights into future cloud technology trends.
  • Integration Engineer: Implements and maintains cloud integrations
  • Data Custodian: Manages how institutional data is stored and secured in the cloud
    Information Security Analyst: Responsible for information security standards and requirements, third-party risk assessments, and mitigations plans

Definitions:

  • Cloud Computing: The practice of storing data or running applications on servers that can be accessed through the Internet
  • Cloud First: The University strongly recommends using vendor-hosted technology, using on-site technology only if absolutely necessary
  • Cloud Preferred: The University recommends using vendor-hosted technology first, but may use on-site technology if there is an approved business reason to do so
  • Private Cloud: Cloud computing services where the supporting technology is owned and operated internally
  • Public Cloud: Cloud computing services where the supporting technology is owned and operated by an external partner (Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.)
  • On-Premise: Cloud computing services where the supporting technology is owned and operated internally (Private Cloud)
  • Hybrid Cloud: When software, platforms, or services are delivered using a blend of public cloud and on-premise infrastructure
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Web-based software that requires little or no on-site IT equipment (Office 365, Box, Canvas, etc.)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Managed IT platforms designed to simplify and streamline various IT functions (managed databases, web tools, etc.)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Managed IT building blocks used as a foundation for IT services (servers, networks, raw data storage, etc.)

Approved business reason to continue using on-premise infrastructure:

  • Integration with equipment that must be on site (lab instrumentation, etc.)
  • Need for extremely low latency (10ms or less) or extremely high throughput (10GB/sec or more)
  • Ability to comply with legal or regulatory requirements
  • Hardware appliances (no cloud-based replacement available)
  • Quote for cloud-based replacement is significantly higher than on premise hardware