Magazine article University Business

A Little Bit of Orlando Magic

Magazine article University Business

A Little Bit of Orlando Magic

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

EDUCOMM 2009 BROUGHT SOME OF THE brightest stars in higher education to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes resort, for three days of education sessions, new product introductions, and fun. The conference featured a number of firsts. For example, it was the first time in six years that EduComm took place independent of InfoComm. Also for the first time, the conference featured five keynote sessions that mixed thought-provoking topics with light-hearted "edutainment" sessions.

Technology futurist George Gilder began the event with a keynote speech in which he said that despite its hardships, the current economic landscape was ripe for technological innovation. He recalled that microchip technology came alive during the recession of the 1970s and noted that companies such as Google and the revitalized Apple grew out of the downturn of 2000. "Recession is the mother of invention," he said.

Although he was an early advocate of cloud computing theory, Gilder is already looking to what comes next. As networks become faster than computers, one day a new level of computing power will be achieved, which he called "storm computing."

The idea grew out of the video game and film industries, where graphic processors work as massive parallel computers, capable of continuously rendering millions of individual pixels on a screen for lifelike reproductions of people and objects on screen. Gilder said this technology could lead to computers and networks that are far removed from the current architecture. "If you can figure out how to use these graphics processors and program them to do more than this one very specific function, you can surmount the great problem that has confronted computer science from the very beginning."

Cloud Computing

Technology is still far from realizing that power on a commercial scale. So day two of EduComm included a panel on cloud computing that featured representatives from AT&T, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, and Amazon Web Services partner Sonian. In contrast to Gilder's future view, these panelists brought computer technology back to the present and showed how much there was still to learn and accomplish through cloud technology.

"Cloud computing is early but it is real," said Microsoft's Anthony Salcito. "It's a fundamental shift in the way in which we deliver, connect, and empower all of the services that you are using in your institution."

Greg Mathison of Cisco explained how schools could maximize their IP network with cloud computing to support their core mission. "With this technology, you can converge, consolidate, and conserve--and save dollars--to reinvest those savings back into higher priorities, such as safety and security or next-generation learning."

Just as important as costs are the new capabilities cloud computing can enable, said Jeff Keltner of Google. "We see enhanced collaboration capabilities as we move data into a single cloud place, where I can go and work in real time with my colleagues. I can collaborate not only within my institution, but I can also collaborate with other institutions," he said. "This is increasingly critical between universities as well as school districts. I can share information and leverage the same services whether I'm talking to a fellow professor or classmate, or a friend at a different school."

Keltner also noted another advantage of cloud computing: Innovation is always taking place. Institutions often invest time and money installing a particular piece of technology, only to find it quickly outdated as technology advances are made. With cloud computing, however, the host (e.g., Google, AT&T, IBM) handles maintenance and updates, ensuring that the system is always current.

Higher Ed and the Economy

Thursday morning's keynote was devoted to the economy, with guests Kevin Hegarty, vice president and CFO of The University of Texas at Austin; Tom Fitzgerald, CEO of E&I Cooperative Purchasing; Lander Medlin, executive vice president of APPA, the association of higher ed facilities officers; and Brenda Harms, a consultant with Stamats, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic and creative services to colleges and universities. …

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