First they moved the students' email
Every year, in the UK alone, 9,000 USB sticks are lost in the laundry*. How many of them contained a student's thesis?
If you were a student at Curtin University from 2009, imagine how pleased you'd be if your email inbox capacity jumped up from 40MB to 10GB, and you could suddenly access your email from any computer and on your phone - and then you had a further 25GB of Cloud storage. You'd suddenly become a lot less reliant on USB sticks to keep your vital thesis drafts on. That's 40,000 students suddenly more relaxed about doing their laundry.
Then they moved their own internal systems
The second step for Curtin University to the Microsoft Cloud was to move one of their other internal systems - iPortfolio - to support students whilst at university, and also when they were job hunting after graduation. Like many university systems, the challenge was to take an internal system, creaking under the weight of 40,000 students' data, and update it, reduce the cost - and make it available to students in 100 countries.
iPortfolio allows Curtin students to upload multimedia learning materials into a personal portfolio, so that they have their own personal learning bank available throughout their studies - as well as giving them an electronic portable portfolio that they can present to prospective employers. The system was so useful, that within six months of building it in 2009, they were already hitting the storage challenges of success. Happening right at the time that they were trying to move away from capital-intensive IT projects!
The project team migrated from their existing Oracle-based system, using expensive SAN storage in the university data centre, to the Windows Azure Cloud service - allowing them to more flexibly scale the system, and reduce the ongoing infrastructure support costs.
Many of the examples of Windows Azure are about software development companies, moving massive consumer systems to the Cloud. What makes the Curtin University story interesting is that the developers in the University did most of the programming - they didn't get it taken out of their hands, but were able to keep control of their project and their data.
Education in Australia is moving to the Cloud quite rapidly - and the reasons for it are clearly defined in this example, where the students, the staff and the university IT department all get a benefit.