A UK cloud services provider aptly called Northgate has scored a five-year contract worth a whopping US$266 million to offer cloud services, compatible with smartphones, to 1,200 schools and more than 350,000 teachers and students in Northern Ireland.
This cloud could be the envy of enterprise counterparts. It comes with backup and archiving (not always a given unless arranged up front), and it also supports all kinds of wireless devices. Here's how Northgate's press statement puts it:
Improving wireless technology supports the growing trend for using mobile devices in the classroom - allowing teachers and students to gain access to the network and resources securely via personal devices such as smart phones, IPads, tablet PCs and laptops. Schools will access a range of applications, educational resources and toolsets through Northgate's innovative My-School learning portal.
While specifics are sketchy right now, offering mobile access in the cloud solves the problem of BYOD (bring your own device) for administration, teachers, and students.
Dubbed the ENNI contract (for Education Network Northern Ireland), the arrangement was negotiated by the IT procurement group for Northern Ireland, called Classroom 2000, which has worked with Northgate before. The reason for the choice was the provider's extensive experience in education. The cloud will include services from Eircom, Ireland's main telecom provider.
According to a report in the Guardian, the ENNI cloud will absorb school administration functions and email as well as student and teacher classroom materials.
A contract like this rivals many implementations in the enterprise arena, especially in areas like government, where adopting Google Apps has become a typical challenge.
Clearly, though, this is an expensive move, and one that could run up against all kinds of hidden problems. That said, enterprises would do well to cock an eye to the progress of ENNI, where schools are teaching a lesson in cloud.
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, Internet Evolution