The University of Tokushima, a national university, set up a new section, “Information Strategy Room” for planning its overall information strategies. And, to implement these strategies, the university
established “Center for Administration of Information Technology." Since then, Center for Administration of Information Technology of the university has implemented various reforms to provide better IT services for students and faculty members. In March 2012,
as one of these efforts, the existing email systems were renewed with a hybrid email system of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 365 for Education. This renewal enables ensured security and 24/7 operation. Focusing on developing international
academic ability of its students, faculty members, and institutions, Tokushima University obtained a key communication infrastructure.
In July 2010, the university set up "Information Strategy Room," which exercises overall management of information systems under the direct control of the head of the university. In addition, to implement these strategies, the university established
"Center for Administration of Information Technology" that exists for about 8,000 accounts of students and 4,000 accounts of faculty members. Takeshi Matsumura, Special Assignment Professor and Manager of ICT Promotion Room, Center for Administration of Information
Technology, the University of Tokushima, explains the role of the center.
"According to that restructuring, we started to think more about our role as an IT service provider for students and faculty members, not just focusing on researches. The most important mission of Center for Administration of Information Technology is to provide
students and faculty members with information services and to maintain the network for these services."
||The most important mission of Center for Administration of Information Technology is to provide students and faculty members with information services and to maintain the network for these services.
Special Assignment Professor and Manager of ICT Promotion Room, Center for Administration of Information Technology, the University of Tokushima
"Previously, we had provided all of the required academic environments on our own. However, such a way becomes not rational, now. For instance, our resources are limited and it is not easy to keep our network available all the time. In particular, we cannot
stop our email system; it takes a role like infrastructures such as water and electricity. Therefore, it was necessary for us to make use of better external services than internal ones, if applicable, and combine them with internal resources to improve academic
environments," says Matsumura.
In order to use external services, it is necessary to ensure security to the maximum extent. Therefore, Center for Administration of Information Technology aimed to obtain the ISMS (Information Security Management System) certification. Tetsushi Ueta, Professor
and Director of Center for Administration of Information Technology, the University of Tokushima, explains,
"This time we planned to introduce not equipment but an external service, so we had to ask its provider to meet our security requirements. Besides, when doing so, we ourselves need to ensure internal security. Otherwise, it is meaningless. Therefore we started
up a project so that we could obtain the ISMS certification, and succeeded in it in March 2012. The University of Tokushima is the fourth national university that obtained the ISMS certification."
"Initially, we planned to migrate all of the existing email systems to cloud systems. But, emails of faculty members may include information about hiring and promotion, and quotations, as well as that about patients in the case of medical faculty members. Therefore,
we were worried about whether confidentiality of such information was sure to be protected or not in cloud systems. Also, just when we were discussing specifications of new systems, one cloud operator other than Microsoft changed its privacy policies. People
were becoming concerned that, without their permission, contents of their emails might be used by service providers. Besides, in the case where the data center exists in U.S., user data might be checked and/or seized by investigators if any problem is occurred.
Management faculty members were especially concerned about it. Therefore, for the student email system which doesn't require high confidentiality, we decided to adopt a cloud system, focusing on its availability. And for faculty members, we chose an on-premise
system which uses a domestic data center, focusing on its security," says Masahiko Sano, Associate Professor and Manager of Information Infrastructure and Security Room, Center for Administration of Information Technology.
Requirements for the new email systems were pulled together into specifications, and the vendor was selected through bidding. In the initial briefing, more than ten companies were attended, and after a strict selection process, NEC Corporation was selected.
Shigeru Yuudoh, Sales Manager, Tokushima Office, NEC Corporation explains their key proposals.
||For the student email system which doesn't require high confidentiality, we decided to adopt a cloud system. And for faculty members, we chose an on-premise system which uses a domestic data center, focusing on its security.
| Masahiko Sano,
Associate Professor and Manager of Information Infrastructure and Security Room, Center for Administration of Information Technology, the University of Tokushima
"From the beginning, we had kept a long relationship with Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tokushima, and supplied medical systems and electronic health record systems. After the reorganization of the university, we got a chance to establish a relationship
with Center for Administration of Information Technology. As a result of examination of the requirements based on the specifications, NEC determined that a hybrid system consists of Exchange Server and Office 365 is the best option. As Mr. Sano said, at that
time, it was news that a cloud service provider changed its privacy policies. However, we trust Microsoft and didn't think that such an issue would be occurred as for Microsoft. So, we decided to adopt their products."
The University of Tokushima and NEC Corporation signed the contract in September 2011. It was about five months to construct the system since then. At the beginning, they took time to define requirements, and started the system construction in January 2012.
Within only about two months after that, the construction was completed. And finally on 1st March, 2012, the service was launched.
As for the system construction, there were many considerations which are specific to hybrid systems. Especially, it was essential to run the two systems, Exchange Server and Office 365, on a single domain.
"There was an option to use different domains for Exchange Sever for faculty members and Office 365 for students. In fact, many other universities used different domains for faculty members and students. However, our domain was separated into about 40 subdomains,
and therefore email addresses ware relatively longer. So, we wanted to make email addresses shorter as possible. Also, using the same domain for both faculty members and students, we intended to express our sense of unity as members sharing the same academic
environment," says Kenji Matsuura, Associate Professor and Manager of Information Management Room, Center for Administration of Information Technology.
Integrating the two systems into the same domain was a big challenge for NEC, which took charge of the system construction. Naoki Yokokawa, Education and Science Solution Division, NEC Corporation, who was a member of the deployment team, says,
"There are not so many examples which succeeded in hybrid routing across different systems in the world. Therefore, we got on with the construction work in a careful manner while keeping frequent contact with Microsoft. We had video conferences with Microsoft,
and appreciate thoughtful support from them."
Also, as a part of this project, several hundreds of Windows 7 network boot terminals were implemented in addition to the email systems. These terminals which are similar to thin client can be booted over the network, downloaded software programs such as operating
systems from servers, then run on them. With the use of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), single sign-on was easily achieved.
"Users can automatically login to Office 365 when logging into their operating systems. This is one of benefits specific to Office 365," says Yokokawa.
Matsuura explains, "This time, we redesigned IDs so that they could have the same format across the systems including on-premise and cloud. Therefore, we had to estimate enough time to distribute IDs to every user backward from 1st March, 2012, on which the
services should be started. It was necessary to hold briefings for users several times and distribute IDs throughout users before the start of the services. We started distribution of IDs from the beginning of February and finished it just within one month
or less. If we had two months or so, we could have done it in good time."
Effects of introduction of the new email systems were shown immediately. First of all, it freed faculty members from deleting own emails.
"After migration to Exchange Server, the mailbox size was increased from 70 MB to 1 GB, so they don't need to delete mails in hastily," says Matsumura,
"Immediately after the implementation of the new system, we held training sessions for faculty members, but not so many people attended. However, now, it has been some time after the implementation. As faculty members become familiar with the new system, more
and more people attend in training sessions. Also, the number of inquiries from users is increasing. Hereafter, we intend to prepare FAQ reflecting these opinions from users and hold training classes as required so that a wide variety of functions of Exchange
Server can be known to more users."
In addition, Office 365 is receiving favorable opinions from students. Especially, the mailbox size was increased from 100MB to 25GB; it is enough volume that can make it unnecessary to delete emails for four years of the university life in general use.
Also, it is received well by students that Office 365 can be accessed easily from smartphones.
||From the aspect of BCP (Business Continuity Plan), we expect to achieve complete 24/7 operation across our systems, including an authentication system.
| Kenji Matsuura,
Associate Professor and Manager of Information Management Room, Center for Administration of Information Technology, the University of Tokushima
Of course, neither faculty members nor students are aware of whether the system they are using is an on-premise system or a cloud system. Because they share the domain and use the same user interface, it is viewed as if it were a single system for them. This
is one of benefits specific to Microsoft, which can support both on-premise systems and cloud systems.
Matsuura expresses their prospects for the future.
"In the future, from the aspect of BCP (Business Continuity Plan), we expect to achieve complete 24/7 operation across our systems, including an authentication system, whether planned outage is conducted or not."
The basic concept of this email system construction project reflects a strong sense of mission of Center for Administration of Information Technology that hopes to provide the high quality of IT services for students and faculty members while saving the costs.
Consequently, they decided to adopt the hybrid system of Exchange Server and Office 365. Operation based on hybrid systems will be helpful not just in educational institutions which are considering migration to cloud systems but also in various fields.