Marist College gets the most out of its cloud environment

Efficiently providing advanced business analytics capabilities for education and research

Published on 31-Oct-2012

"This is a great example of how a business or a college can take advantage of an opportunity if they are cloud-enabled." - Bill Thirsk, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, Marist College

Customer:
Marist College

Industry:
Education

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Big Data, BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence, Business Performance Transformation, Cloud Computing, Smarter Computing, System z Software

Overview

Founded in 1929, Marist College is a private liberal arts college based in Poughkeepsie, New York. Not only is the college one of the leading institutions of the arts and sciences in the Northeast US, it also has a strong international presence with a branch campus in Florence, Italy and academic programs in 31 countries. In addition to providing traditional course curricula, the college offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs to students internationally and also provides education for a number of US corporations.

Business need:
Marist College needed to provide business analytics capabilities and the supporting computing resources to students, faculty, businesses and other institutions while reducing administration time and costs.

Solution:
Working with IBM, Marist College implemented an IBM® SmartCloud™ solution to use its existing cloud environment to support business analytics and to enable fast provisioning of computing resources for research and educational projects requiring these analytics capabilities.

Benefits:
The IBM solution reduced administration time and expenses to support business analytics, provided analytics capabilities to students, faculty, businesses and other institutions, and saved USD350,000 by using its cloud infrastructure to support its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Case Study

Founded in 1929, Marist College is a private liberal arts college based in Poughkeepsie, New York. Not only is the college one of the leading institutions of the arts and sciences in the Northeast US, it also has a strong international presence with a branch campus in Florence, Italy and academic programs in 31 countries. In addition to providing traditional course curricula, the college offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs to students internationally and also provides education for a number of US corporations.

Providing technology for education and research

Regarded as an innovator for integrating technology and education, Marist College is constantly looking for new ways to use technology to expand upon the educational services and courses it offers. Recognizing analytics as a powerful capability that could play an important part in the future careers of its students, Marist College sought to make its existing business analytics technologies available to students and professors in a variety of academic and research programs. The college also sought to provide analytics capabilities and supporting compute resources to small businesses and other educational institutions across the US.

Importantly, from the very beginning of its initiative, Marist College identified a challenge that had cropped up in its previous efforts to provide analytics capabilities to students—faculty members were spending excessive amounts of time setting up and configuring systems and software to deliver analytics technologies. According to Bill Thirsk, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Marist College, “Professors were spending more time acting as help-desk support than actually teaching.”

This issue prompted the college’s IT management team to begin looking for a more cost-efficient way to provide access to analytics—a solution that could reduce the amount of technical support and the associated support costs.

Taking advantage of a flexible infrastructure

With a mission to create a new model for delivering analytics technology to a worldwide audience of users, Marist College worked with IBM to create a solution. Taking into consideration needs for power, efficiency and flexibility, the logical conclusion was to use cloud computing.

Fortunately, the college had previously implemented a cloud infrastructure to support its administrative and educational systems. Based on this foundation, IBM worked with the college to implement an IBM SmartCloud solution, providing a cost-effective way for the college to deliver analytics capabilities using its existing cloud. “This is a great example of how a business or a college can take advantage of an opportunity if they are cloud-enabled,” says Thirsk.

Currently, the college’s cloud helps to provide analytics technology to a wide variety of programs, including technical disciplines and also business, liberal arts and communications programs. “Students learn how to apply analytics and use them as a tool in their field of study—discovering how to use the technology to solve business problems,” says Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics.

Leveraging the multi-purpose cloud

In addition to supporting research functions with advanced analytics capabilities, Marist College also uses its cloud environment to run several of its critical business and education-related functions such as admissions, registration, accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP), as well as websites, educational services and marketing.

The cloud infrastructure has enabled the college to create the Enterprise Computing Research Laboratory. With funding from the National Science Foundation, the college has been able to create this laboratory and make it available to the enterprise computing community across the US.

Marist College also has utilized its cloud to deliver several important services to students and faculty. The college’s knowledge center offers educational training services to a broad audience and uses cloud resources that can be provisioned quickly and automatically. The cloud supports desktop services for students, including a virtual computing lab, which provides a development and testing environment not only for students but also for local entrepreneurs with the goal of creating and testing innovative new business ideas.

Reflecting on the college’s vision for creating its cloud environment, Thirsk comments, “When considering solutions, we had to ask several questions: How much is it going to cost? Is it sustainable? Are we meeting our needs with as few resources as possible? The cloud configuration provided the answers we were looking for.”

Defining the cloud behind the capabilities

The IBM SmartCloud solution at Marist College is based on the IBM zEnterprise® 114 mainframe with Integrated Facility for Linux engines running a combination of IBM z/OS®, IBM z/VM® and SUSE Linux operating systems. The solution also includes an IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter® Extension with IBM BladeCenter, and IBM System x® servers and IBM Power Systems™. For its analytics software, the college uses IBM Cognos® Business Intelligence for Linux on IBM System z® and IBM SPSS® Modeler. The college primarily uses IBM DB2® for Linux and also IBM DB2 for z/OS to provide database support for college courses.

The Marist cloud typically runs close to 1,000 virtual machines at a time in support of its research, production and educational services. Considering the cloud’s flexibility and efficiency, Thirsk says, “The advantage for us on the management side is that we can virtually provision different types of servers without having to go through the previous hassles of putting in a new system. And we can do it very quickly in a matter of days, as opposed to waiting weeks.”

Not only has the cloud provided improved flexibility and speed of service delivery, it has also enabled the college to recognize significant cost savings in its production environment. By deploying its ERP solution using the cloud infrastructure instead of using a distributed environment, the college was able to save an estimated USD350,000—including investment, installation and maintenance costs. “I was amazed by how much our staff was able to do in this cloud environment at such a low operating cost,” says Thirsk.

Forming a strong partnership for success

Just as the college has benefitted from working with IBM to implement its IBM SmartCloud solution, IBM has realized the advantages of working with Marist College, which collaborates with IBM to provide IT education for technologies including IBM z/OS and business analytics. In return, Marist College has access to IBM hardware, software and services at the IBM Poughkeepsie facility, which is located only a few miles from the college. “It’s a very unique relationship that we have with IBM and it really creates a strong partnership,” says Norton.

Marist College hopes to continue working with IBM on several innovative projects. To build upon its success in analytics, the college plans to provide this technology outside the classroom to small businesses by helping to create the New York State Cloud Computing and Analytics Center. The college also plans to join the High Performance Computing Consortium and to contribute its cloud capabilities to collaborate with the research of other institutions.

Although Marist College already has reaped many benefits from its cloud environment, the college hopes to find new ways to maximize its capabilities, continuing to provide the educational and IT resources to ensure ongoing success for students, faculty and businesses around the world.

For more information

To learn more about Smarter Computing from IBM and how we can help you integrate, automate, protect and transform your IT, contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit: ibm.com/smartercomputing

To learn more about IBM SmartCloud solutions, please visit: ibm.com/cloud-computing/

For more information about Marist College, please visit: marist.edu

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
BladeCenter, Power Systems, System x, System z

Software:
DB2 Accessories Suite for Linux, Unix, and Windows, Cognos Business Intelligence, Cognos Business Intelligence for Linux on System z, DB2 Administration Solution Pack for z/OS

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Corporation IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 Produced in the United States of America October 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, System z, BladeCenter, Cognos, DB2, IBM SmartCloud, Power Systems, SPSS, System x, zEnterprise, z/OS, and z/VM are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.