News Feature | August 13, 2014

Almost One-Fifth Of Higher Education IT Purchases Are Made Outside Of Central IT

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Higher Education IT Purchases

U.S. campuses are spending $4 billion annually on unmanaged, unmeasured investments

A full 19 percent of the Higher Education (HED) cloud market is done outside of the central IT function.  That amounts to $4 billion per year, according to a recent study that further reveals that HED IT pros estimate that 18 percent of their IT systems are redundant, costing U.S. HED institutions a cool $3.8 billion annually.

The recent MeriTalk study, “Cloud Campus: The Software-Defined College,” examines the key steps institutions need to take in order to centralize IT and make the most of cloud and software-defined technology.

Underwritten by VMware and Carahsoft, the “Cloud Campus: The Software-Defined College” report also found that 82 percent of HED IT executives surveyed reported that their networks are more complex than they were two years ago, with no additional IT budget to support the new requirements. This means that HED IT executives are expected to do much more for less money.  This increased network complexity is being driven by increased use of mobile devices and mobility requirements, an increase in diversity of IT needs among end users, and an increased number of applications.

One obstacle that HED IT execs reported was the collaboration chasm between IT and academic departments, with 81 percent stating that joint development of IT-related initiatives was not standard operating procedure. This disconnect was then reflected in how the end users viewed IT.

HED IT execs also recognize the potential of the cloud to enable their institutions’ academic missions, with 53 percent stating that the cloud is a vital piece of their institution’s future competitive edge, and more than a third articulating that it would help improve student retention rates. Despite the current IT roadblocks, the cloud appears to be the key to progress in HED IT.

“IT can help transform and evolve the student learning experience,” said Tim Merrigan, VP of state/local/education for VMware. “Institutions must eliminate silos, increase agility, and effectively support varied educational missions — including compute-intensive R&D and online course offerings. Cloud and software-defined environments are the keys to getting them there — quickly, easily, and, very importantly, on budget.”

While many HED IT departments have begun the cloud migration, many continue to face serious obstacles, including security, cost, and culture.  Institutions also recognize the power of software-defined environments, and although only 20 percent have deployed software-defined technology, over 40 percent have recognized it as an effective solution for their IT challenges. 

The report concludes that institutions need to pursue centralization of IT and maximize cloud use, software-defined technology, and as-a-Service solutions, citing:

  • 58 percent are not conducting surveys of academic and research staff regarding IT needs
  • 64 percent do not offer a catalog of IT services
  • 77 percent do not offer service-based pricing or chargeback models

In order to improve IT value, HED IT pros recommend establishing greater collaboration between IT and academic departments, reducing redundant systems, and increased investment in key solution areas such as virtualization, cloud, and software-defined data centers, and storage. 

Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, summarized, “The cloud campus has no boundary and no curfew.  If we’re going to maximize progress, we need to break down the divide between IT and the business functions on campus.”

“Cloud Campus: The Software-Defined College” is based on an online survey of 152 higher education IT executives in June 2014. The full study is available for download here