Why cloud is the future of education technology

Cloud computing is everywhere. In its various forms, it's being adopted across the full technology spectrum, from consumers using it at an alternative to traditional storage to enterprises employing it as an end-to-end infrastructure solution. After visiting Bett 2014, it's also obvious that education stands to benefit from cloud deployment.

In many ways, the needs of schools aren't that different from those of the modern SME: simplified resource management and the efficient, reliable provisioning of key services. Indeed, the increasing importance of cutting-edge tech in education is reflected by the number of blue chip firms looking to enter the space - major vendors like Acer, Google, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Misco, Sony and Toshiba were all out in force at Bett.

Whilst checking out the latest edtech developments at the London ExCeL Centre, we got a chance to catch up with one of HP's cloud representatives, who gave us a deeper insight into why adopting a sky-high system made sense within an education environment.

"It's the flexibility of not necessarily needing someone on site who is an expert in the system, because it's heavily virtualised and automated. It comes down to whether this piece of hardware has got a fault or not. If there's a fault, everything will transition to a different blade - just have that serviced as you would anything else and the resources carry on being consumed.

"Say there's a new graphics package we want to give a certain course - rather than having to buy that in, it's a case of have we got the capacity in our cloud? If we do, it's just a case of rolling out the service. We have these things called Cloud Maps that tell you how much of the CPU to utilise, how the networking should be laid out [and] what the storage should do. We publish those, so people can download a Cloud Map and customise it it to their environment, deploy it to a cloud system, and it will automatically create that environment ready for the OS to be installed," he told us.

But while it's clear that simplicity and reliability are obvious boons for organisations deploying such a solution, the rise of the cloud hasn't been without the odd pitfall. Security, in particular, is frequently cited as a major concern - especially after the recent NSA leaks revealed that a number of leading US cloud providers were, knowingly or unwittingly, sending customer data the way of government spooks.

However, as HP pointed out, a variety of offerings exist within the cloud, and those desiring enhanced, physical security need look no further than the private cloud.

"We see a lot of things happening to bring security in-house, and that's where the private cloud has really fitted in. Even though we don't necessarily tie down blades, that data is still going to exist within the storage array, so everything is still local. If I've got physical security of the device, I know my data is safe."

In addition, the company revealed that it's looking to relocate certain data centre operations to the UK to boost the security of its public cloud and ensure proper data residency boundaries are maintained.

"We're building a data centre in the UK specifically for HP's public cloud - for UK government and education customers so that their data will not leave the UK [and] we don't have that residency issue."

So what advice did HP have for organisations - education, enterprise, or otherwise - looking to shift their operations to the cloud? According to the company, it's a methodical process - and one that benefits from being inherently scalable.

"The first stage is standardising the particular group's operating system, virtualising those things, and then looking at how we can automate certain tasks. It starts being less about the physical equipment and more about the capabilities of it.

"A cloud should be able to flex up and down, so when it's the start of a new year and you need extra processing capacity, you can consume that by adding extra resources."