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Tokyo University of Technology Implements Futuristic Environment Using Cloud-Based Solutions

As written on customers.microsoft.com
To produce qualified students based on international standards, the Tokyo University of Technology (hereafter referred to as TUT) has always taken an active approach to ICT investment. However, the 100 or so servers that the university currently used as part of its ICT assets were rapidly becoming obsolete. The system needed to be updated. After a year’s worth of discussions, plans emerged for building a university-wide, cloud-based system and a core database that would cut operating loads to the lowest possible level.

Thus, TUT chose Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and other services and technologies offered by Microsoft.

Business Needs

Turning away from aging ICT assets and conceiving the best, most up-to-date system environment
Since its establishment in 1986, the university has promoted three particular aims: training in use of technologies and expert scientific theory for the betterment of society, engagement in advanced research and passing research findings back to society and creating an ideal educational and research environment.
The school takes an active approach to investing in its ICT environment. For instance, when it set up the School of Media Science in 1999 (the first one of its kind in Japan), it required students to have a laptop. The school also actively promoted use of the internet. When the School of Computer Science and the School of Bionics (currently the Department of Applied Biology) were set up in 2013, as a result of the School of Engineering’s reorganization, the requirement that students have laptops was applied university-wide. At the same time, to enable students to use the internet freely, the school implemented a wired ethernet environment university-wide.
However, Kazuya Tago, Head of the Media Center and Professor at the School of Computer Science at TUT, realizes that the network environment reached its zenith more than 10 years ago. It has now become obsolete from a technological perspective: “What the university asked for most urgently was a wireless network. To meet this need, each university institute created wireless access points of its own motive. This solution met local demands, but we still had not achieved the comfort of being able to connect to the internet throughout the whole campus.”
Some 100 servers installed for administrative systems had also started aging. The expenses necessary for maintaining the system started to cut into budgets for equipping students with the latest IT environment. Current students use thin notebooks without ethernet ports, and in their daily lives they have acquired a good command of smart phones. However, no one would have predicted such a state 10 years ago. We then decided that we could not afford to continue with a “maintenance” approach to our existing assets; we had to come up with a future-oriented concept for the best and most up-to-date ICT environment. Thus, since April 2013, TUT has been undertaking bold innovations; what we call the “university-wide full shift of the ICT environment to the cloud”.
The university-wide full shift to the cloud at TUT was based on conclusions gathered during discussions of various options over the course of one year. These discussions began in 2012. Professor Tago said that during this discussion period “we realized that various technologies that would be necessary suddenly appeared right before our very eyes.” These were technologies and services that Microsoft offers; like Microsoft Azure or Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Solution

The new solution for a full shift to the cloud at TUT combined usage of cloud services for PaaS and SaaS and effective system operations thanks to building up the school’s core database (hereafter referred to as “core DB”). TUT asked suppliers to conceive the system such that it would plan for the school’s needs 10-15 years ahead and deliver the best possible system environment as concerns functionality, expansion, flexibility, costs, etc. TUT administrators decided to use a combination of three types of cloud services: “Platform as a Service” (PaaS), “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS) and “Software as a Service” (SaaS).
Information entered from all systems will be stored in a newly created core DB; and through a redeveloped, university-wide, wireless network, it will be possible to use data extensively for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and for university administration.
Existing solutions can be utilized in their current state. However, in order to reduce workloads (when building the system), it was important that the PaaS, where the OS environment and security are guaranteed above certain level, become our cloud-based ICT infrastructure. We also considered IaaS services like Amazon Web Services (hereafter as AWS) but abandoned this idea at early stage.
Using Microsoft Azure for IaaS and building and operating Oracle database
Professor Tago now recalls that “only Microsoft Azure and Office 365 services matched all university-determined criteria.” Moreover, as work proceeded, the both of services were rapidly evolved and inadequate features disappeared.
Another critical event involved work with the university’s Oracle database. It was a big moment when Microsoft announced Microsoft Azure’s compatibility with Oracle. “TUT had used its Oracle database for a long time to support existing administration systems. Now, thanks to the compatibility, the database could be easily moved to the cloud,” explains Yuzuru Kimura, CEO of Page One Co., Ltd., who was in charge of designing and building the system. Microsoft Azure is now used both for the PaaS and Iaas.
Using Microsoft Lync Online innovates the communication environment for TUT faculty
TUT uses Office 365 for mail or portal sites in the faculty/staff-oriented ICT environment. Through authentication infrastructure using Active Directory, it is possible to access to the system from within and from outside the university. Lync Online offers new functions that were lacking in the previous environment; i.e. information on whether faculty members are present. Lync Online also allows a choice of multiple communication tools for instant messaging, for emails or for web conferences.
Flexible system by end user computing (hereafter as EUC) uses Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft Dynamics CRM
TUT has the highest expectations for use of SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It also has high hopes for Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a data viewer that enables the extraction of data entered into and stored in the core DB. Data also remain anonymous and can be sorted and read based on various criteria. The web template is customized in several ways and works together with SharePoint; enabling fluid use of data within the university.

Benefits

Even better achievement by promoting the EUC and rational systems that can also be diverted to companies
Even though TUT has started its trial efforts to use a full shift to the cloud to reduce workloads for system operations to the lowest possible level, professor Tago gave a small warning: “We have only taken the first step. From now on, the quantity of internal university data that is processed by any university in the world will continue to grow at a fast pace. Given this fact, we feel it makes sense to accumulate databases in the cloud. We also came to the conclusion that the intermingled use of clouds, from PaaS to SaaS, is more rational in terms of operations and costs.”
Mr. Kimura as an IT vendor also agrees with the new system concept:

“Even in the case that EUC at TUT moves forward and the quantity of data in the core DB swells, as long as it is managed using Microsoft Azure, no problems will rise. The expenses for data accumulation will be surprisingly small; even in comparison with AWS, running costs can be reduced.”

Professor Tago concludes with the following expectations:

“This is our first effort to make a full shift to the cloud at our university. As for quantity of data and operational rules, we have started from scratch. However, we ultimately succeeded thanks to a wide range of affordable and flexible cloud services provided by Microsoft Azure. Thanks to solutions like Dynamics CRM and SharePoint, information analysis is proceeding well and sophisticated IR could be realized. This achievement will become evident after further use. Personally, I think that the structure that we have put together could also become a useful model for businesses.”

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