& cplSiteName &

UPenn CIO: Cloud Is Here, Resistance Is Futile

Scott Ferguson
11/27/2017
50%
50%

As Tom Murphy sees it, the University of Pennsylvania central IT department needs to get good at cloud computing -- now.

With more than $150 million in technology projects currently underway at the 277-year-old Ivy League university, Murphy and his team of 275 IT pros have no less a task than a complete overhaul of the infrastructure, which will mostly move the cloud.

"We have a cloud-first program. One of my points of emphasis is that the cloud is here and we've got to get good at the cloud and it is part of our digitalization plans," said Murphy, who was appointed as UPenn's first ever school-wide CIO about five years ago. He moved into academia after working in the hospitality, travel and pharmaceutical industries.

"Cloud has come and resistance is futile," Murphy told Enterprise Cloud News recently. "In the future, as the cloud becomes a norm, and as IT becomes a service, why do they need us for central IT if IT is a service, and they can pay for it as they need it? This is why we are going to be the first movers. The internal IT organization at Penn is going to become the experts at cloud."

The University of Pennsylvania is now cloud-first
(Source: Wikicommons)
The University of Pennsylvania is now cloud-first
(Source: Wikicommons)

Murphy's experience with digitally transforming businesses stretches back to his days attending a management training program at Marriot. At the time, the chain was looking to automate the front desk -- rooms keys still hung behind the clerks -- and he was asked to be in charge of that system.

It was there Murphy first figured out he liked technology and could manage people.

"My talents are people and project management, so I grew up on that side of IT -- you wouldn't want me configuring your servers," Murphy noted.

Changing UPenn
Those people skills are what eventually brought Murphy to UPenn, which had an antiquated and federated IT system.

Even though he took over the central IT facility -- called Information Systems and Computing or ISC -- most of the 900 IT administrators on campus report into the leaders of the individual schools or centers. The university itself is made up of 12 schools, including The Wharton School and the Annenberg School for Communication, which includes about 25,000 full- and part-time students and more than 4,700 faculty members.

There are also enormous research facilities on campus, and UPenn is involved in nearly $1 billion worth of federal grants to fund those programs.

"The only way to get things done is through collaboration and relationships, and you have to have credibility. It's about getting people to follow you because they want to, not because they have to," Murphy said.

Then there was the technology Murphy and his team had to sort through.

UPenn had its own data center, but also relied on a mainframe. There were some 14 email systems that were not integrated. Some of the university's major research still relied on paper, with information and data stored in old-fashioned filing cabinets. On the security front, UPenn lacked basics, such as a firewall.

Embracing the cloud
However, Murphy had the support of UPenn's provost, executive vice president and president to make changes.

The first of these was a plan Murphy called Cloud First. It called for a significant cloud investment, especially in a multicloud strategy which included Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Azure. The university is also investing in Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Cloud Platform, but not as heavily. (See Multicloud Can Lead to Management Nightmare – Survey.)

"About 12 to 18 months ago, we started a program called Cloud First. I took 15 of some of the strongest platform, infrastructure, and app dev folks I have and put them on a team and told them 'take us to the cloud, learn everything there is to know,'" Murphy said.

Those lessons were put to the test when Murphy and his team decided it was time to standardize the university's email system. Instead of 14 disparate systems, Murphy presented an choice between Microsoft Office 365, along with Azure for support, and Google's G Suite, which included Gmail.

Murphy's approach was to pull all the stakeholders together and present the various pros and cons of the two email platforms. He hired a project manager to facilitate the conversation and brought in consultants. He explained:

They got a vote. That's the only way to do this, a collaborative decision. And it kind of changed the way they saw ISC. It wasn't us forcing this down their throats. It was ISC facilitating a conversation about the future. What I used to my advantage was the knowledge that many staff and many faculty -- and remember in Higher Ed, the faculty really runs the place -- couldn't calendar effectively. If I was in the school of engineering, I couldn't email someone in the school of nursing because they were two entirely different email addresses … everyone settled on Office 365 and we moved as a unit.

From there, the Cloud First plan took off. Murphy and his team are now closing down the old data center, which included 10,000 square feet of raised floor, and consolidating it into a much smaller data center, which will mainly support research since that data has to stay local.

Next page: Getting Cloud First right

(12)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
More Blogs from Scott Ferguson
From its roots in industrial farm machinery and other equipment, John Deere has always looked for a technological edge. About 20 years ago, it was GPS and then 4G LTE. Now it's turning its attention to AI, machine learning and IoT.
Artificial intelligence and automation will become more integral to the enterprise, and 90% of all apps will have integrated AI capabilities by 2020, according to Oracle CEO Mark Hurd.
IBM is now offering access to Nvidia's Tesla V100 GPUs through its cloud offerings to help accelerate AI, HPC and other high-throughput workloads.
CIO Rhonda Gass is spearheading an effort to bring more automation and IoT to the factories making Stanley Black & Decker tools and other equipment.
Workday is looking to build out its machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities with the acquisition of startup SkipFlag.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders talks with VMware's Shekar Ayyar, who explains why cloud architectures are becoming more distributed, what that means for workloads, and why telcos can still be significant cloud services players.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 7-8, 2018, London, United Kingdom
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
I'm Back for the Future of Communications
Phil Harvey, US News Editor, 4/20/2018
BDAC Blowback – Ex-Chair Arrested
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/17/2018
Verizon: Lack of Interoperability, Consistency Slows Automation
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/18/2018
AT&T Exec Dishes That He's Not So Hot on Rival-Partner Comcast
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 4/19/2018
Facebook Hearings Were the TIP of the Data Iceberg
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/20/2018
Animals with Phones
I Heard There Was a Dresscode... Click Here
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed