Indiana University, like an increasing number of institutions, plans to virtualize common software applications used on campus. Through a phased rollout starting this summer, the university will implement a “personal cloud” for each of 100,000-plus students, faculty and staff.

Previously students and staff had access only to the school’s 200-plus applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel and Photoshop, at campus locations with physical desktops. By having access to the virtualized apps, students can have the “lab experience” just about anywhere, said Sue Workman, the university’s associate vice president for communication and support.

Through the virtualized environment — a Citrix implementation named “IUanyWare — users will have access to those same applications from any location on personal devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, she said. Workman said IU has found through surveys that about 99 percent of students own some type of personal device.

“I think we can really say to a parent in the future to send your student to IU with something that has an operating system on it and you won’t have to pay for any kind of software that they will need academically,” Workman said.

IU is one example of major institutions of higher education that are moving to virtual environments for their applications. Last December, the State University of New York (SUNY) system moved its 465,000 students to cloud-based Microsoft Live, according to the Microsoft News Center.

Two years ago, Brown University migrated 6,000 undergraduate students to Google Apps, and the following year the university decided to migrate the entire campus including faculty, staff, medical and graduate students to the system, according to Google’s corporate blog.

Meanwhile, Scottsdale Community College in Arizona is currently leveraging services with cloud platform Salesforce for an internal and external idea exchange website. Dustin Fennell, the college’s CIO, said the internal site will be for employees and the external site will be open for students and members of the community to vote on popular ideas and function as a social networking platform for surrounding businesses.

IU’s virtualization push is part of a larger IT strategic plan called Empowering People that the university began in 2009.

In March, the university implemented Microsoft SharePoint for localized storage, which was made available for faculty and staff. Additionally, through a Hitachi data storage system, faculty and staff have direct access to storage in the virtual environment, said Duane Schau, the university’s director of leveraged support.

Workman said that through a prior agreement with Microsoft, students already have access to up to 25 GB of file storage through Microsoft’s Live@edu. The school also might add Google Docs in the future, Schau said.

While the university doesn’t plan to limit how much data faculty and staff can store within IUanyWare, the system is “relying on the fact that these are professional people and should make professional decisions” when deciding what to store in the cloud, Workman said.

Access to the virtualized apps and cloud is authenticated, which requires an IU username and password. University policy will dictate that when students graduate or transfer, they automatically lose access to the virtualized applications and cloud storage.

Workman said the university hopes the virtualized system will allow IT staff to dedicate more time for higher-level research instead of hardware and software maintenance.

“Through a gradual process, departments will assess the duties associated with a technology staff and then they will make adjustments appropriately,” Schau said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.