Boiling frogs – when change creeps up around you

LiveateduIn recent times it has been fashionable to talk about “cloud services”, and “Software plus Services”, and to consider how Internet-based services supplement, support or replace more conventional IT services provided on campus. And, lo and behold, the occasional story has popped up of universities outsourcing some of their core services to web-based providers. We’ve seen it with our Live@edu services, which are a combination of email, storage and collaboration services, which we provide as a free Internet-based service for institutions, rather than individual universities running their own in-house servers (eg for student email). It’s something individual students have been doing for years (Hotmail anybody?), but this is the enterprise equivalent – with technologies like Hosted Exchange servers running the service.

So what’s the boiling frog metaphor for? Well, the moral of the boiling frogs story is that when change is gradual, you may not notice what’s going on, until it’s too late. For example, that if you’re running your university email services in-house, you may not notice that lots of others are outsourcing it. And then suddenly somebody comes in to the office and says “By the way, we don’t need that next year…”

It was an email from a colleague that alerted me to what’s going on. He told me:

FirstquotesWe now have 2,000 schools, colleges and universities from 86 countries signed up for Live@edu, with over ten million email accounts created. Endquotes

And he went on to say that thousands more had signed up for pilots in the last six months – so the pace of change is accelerating. And I know that a larger-than-average proportion of those are in the UK.

So what’s that all about then? I guess it’s a recognition that running a service like student email is expensive, and the service can be limited (eg the average university student mailbox quota is sub 100MB, whereas you have a 10GB mailbox quota on Live@edu). Moving to an Internet-based free service frees up resources (and money) to focus your ICT delivery on something else – adding value in a different way.

Whether or not you believe in out-sourcing, or Internet-based services, then it’s worth considering what your colleagues are doing – find out more at the Live@edu web site

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