Wednesday, January 3, 2007

More universities switch to Google mail and calendar services

Here is another example following UoArizona of how universities and enterprises are switching to e-mail and other services offered by Google and Amazon (for grid services), etc. In fact Mark Gaynor predicted this trend several years ago in a seminal paper "The Real Options Approach to Network-based Service Architecture" where he argued that as innovative applications matured on the Internet they would migrate from an edge based services to a centrally managed service. At the time, most of us thought that the telephone company would be the natural supplier of such services - but they have been largely displaced in that market by companies like Google, Amazon, etc. Of course, as more universities and institutions move to Google and Amazon for these types of services it may have a major impact on the research network architectures i.e having your own dedicated network pipe to the nearest Google, Amazon server complex. Thanks to Rene Hatem and André Quenneville for this pointer. Some excerpts from the IT business article -- BSA

Mark Gaynor's paper:

IT Business article

*Server crash spurs Lakehead to speed up Gmail rollout*

*Staff switch over more than 38,000 e-mail accounts in three days*

The university in Thunder Bay, Ont., knew it needed a new e-mail system and had spent several months looking at alternatives before settling on the online application suite from Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc.

Lakehead switched over 38,000 e-mail accounts to Google Gmail in three days, with almost no interruption to service. Google also helped out with some extra customer support during the high-pressure changeover, though Kevin Gogh, enterprise product manager at Google, said there was "nothing that (reached) extraordinary levels."

Besides replacing Lakehead's tottery old e-mail system, the conversion brought some added benefits. Because it is getting the whole suite for no charge and it is entirely hosted by Google rather than on university hardware, the university expects to save $2 million to $3 million a year on maintenance and about $6 million annually on infrastructure.

And, Jafri said, students, staff and faculty now get 2GB each of storage space, versus 60MB with the old system. In addition, he expects Google to deliver 99 per cent availability. "It's very hard for us to get to that level of availability."

Now fully operational on Gmail, Lakehead still has some work to do on other aspects of the conversion. This month, the university will be converting from an ageing in-house calendaring system to the Web calendaring facility included in Google Apps.

The suite also includes a Web chat capability, and the company will probably add other features, Gogh said. "Our goal with Google Apps for Education is to provide a very rich set of communication tools." The suite has been available free of charge under a beta program since late summer, he said, and universities and colleges that adopt it during that beta period will never have to pay.

As is Google's practice, the company has not said when the beta period will end, but Gogh said the company is working on a "premium version" of Google Apps for Education for which there will be a charge.