4-page Case Study - Posted 5/13/2012
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Using Microsoft live@edu for providing 247 cloud Mailing Service to 23,000 Students
Kyoto University, which was established as Japan's second imperial university in 1897, had developed and operated a mailing system for students on its own. Although demands for 24/7 operation of the system was increasing, it was difficult to
avoid system down time for maintenance by on-campus operation. The university thought of using an external cloud mailing service. They selected Microsoft Live@edu considering the fact that its contract conforms to Japanese laws and the jurisdiction of Japan.
The cloud-based new mailing system started operation from December, 2011 and has been used by about 23,000 students. Because functions of Microsoft Exchange Server, which is used in many companies, are also available on the system, it is expected that experience
in using these functions may become of great help for students in business communication after graduation.
Kyoto University since its establishment, having been famous for its liberal academic culture and lively discussion among students and professors, the university has helped to cultivate a spirit of self-reliance of students, and has committed to higher education
and advanced academic researches.
Now, it has 17 graduate schools, 10 faculties, 10 research institutes, 20 centers and other 6 organizations where over 9,000 graduate students, 14,000 undergraduate students and over 6,600 faculty members (including those of limited-term employment) are
conducting research and education activities.
Hajime Kita, a Dr. of Engineering and Professor of Academic Center for Computing and Media Studies of Kyoto University, says,
"Recently, universities take wider roles in lifelong education, such as accepting working people who hope to enter into graduate schools. Accordingly, study programs become complicated. Also, under the guidance of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports,
Science and Technology, research-oriented universities including Kyoto University are promoting internationalization. Our university is accepting many researchers from abroad, and has recently started the "K.U. Profile" project. As part of this effort, we
are giving classes in English. Like that, we are expected to ensure a proper environment for various students to conduct researches and obtain education."
Kyoto University has organizations supporting education activities for the whole of the university. Among of them, Institute for Information Management and Communication (IIMC) is responsible for IT activities such as planning, operation and maintenance
of information infrastructure, and provision of services based on the infrastructure. IIMC is comprised of Academic Center for Computing and Media Studies (ACCMS), which is engaged in activities related to research, development and educational support services,
and the Information Management and Communication Department (IMCD), which is responsible for management of the information security measures and the promotion of electronic administrative services, and IT Planning Office, which covers specialized works. IIMC
carries out researches and developments concerning advanced application of information infrastructure and information media. The results of them are used to refine the education and research environment at Kyoto University, as well as being provided to researchers
of other universities or research institutes in the process of collaborative studies.
"Previously, development and operation of IT at universities had been conducted by individual departments and institutes as needed. They, especially science and technology departments, developed systems on their own and university staff voluntarily operated
these systems. However, as information technology has played an increasingly important role as infrastructure for research and education activities, it becomes necessary for us to develop and operate a system which enables high availability such as 24/7 operation.
We are working on advanced and pioneering researches by way of experiment, and the structure of the internet is going on complicated and advanced. As a result, it is getting to the stage where lower layers like mailing systems should steadily work as infrastructure
which is essential for organizations' activities. As such, Kyoto University has been investing a lot in its mailing system regarding it as a facility for education of students." says Kita.
Kyoto University had used a mailing system until 2007. The system had the front end which was based on a commercial package, and was running with open-source server software. Its modules were added by engineers of Academic Center for Computing and Media
Studies (ACCMS) as needed basis. However, because it became difficult to allocate human resources for operation of the system, an all-in-one commercial package, DEEPMail, was introduced and had been operated on campus. Main users of the system are students
who are accustomed to use 24/7 mailing services on their cell phones, and many of them are making use of e-mails for their job hunting. Therefore, it became more and more important for Kyoto University to provide a 24/7 mailing service.
To resolve the significant issue mentioned above, Kyoto University thought over of introducing a new system which would be alternate to DEEPMail, and decided to use an external cloud service for the effectiveness of the cost reduction.
Hiroshi Ueda, a PhD in Engineering, and Associate Professor of Academic Computing and Media Studies of Kyoto University says, “Whether it is an on-campus system or a cloud-based system, we have to outsource system maintenance in order to achieve 24/7 operation
required by users. Therefore, it is more efficient to use an external cloud-based mailing service and ask its provider to offer a maintenance service as well. In addition, in the case of an on-campus system, we have to take measures against junk e-mails and
virus by ourselves. We have a limited number of engineers who can take charge of such job. With the use of an external cloud service, we wanted to reduce the workload of these engineers to allocate more resources to advanced services in higher layers."
Ueda added:"The main reason we selected Microsoft Live@edu was that its service contract is governed by Japanese laws and lawsuits relating to the contract are brought in a Japanese court."
Also, based on the service contract, Kyoto University can provide Microsoft Live@edu as its own service. It is an advantage to ensure accountability for students and faculty members. In addition, placing a high value on ensuring that student would send and
receive e-mails on their various devices; Kyoto University considered it as being favorable that Microsoft made a proposal on operation support.
IIMC is constructing an integrated authentication system in order to gradually integrate conventional system-based accounts. As part of the introduction process of Microsoft Live@edu this time, IIMC established a system and a workflow which generates e-mail
addresses from data in the integrated authentication system.
Student e-mail accounts at Kyoto University are called ECS-IDs. ECS-IDs and e-mail addresses of the new student mailing system are not explicitly associated with each other. So, Kyoto University developed a Web application program which displays the correspondence
between ECS-IDs and these e-mail addresses. Also, it developed a system which synchronizes authentication information between the integrated authentication system and Microsoft Live@edu on Windows PowerShell.
And finally, in December, 2011, the new student mailing service, Microsoft Live@edu with Outlook Live, started operation at Kyoto University. Kyoto University plans to completely terminate DEEPMail in May, 2012. At that time, about 23,000 students with ECS-IDs
will be migrated to Microsoft Live@edu.
For mailing services, a wide variety of combinations of user interfaces and platforms are used. Even only in the case of accessing from personal computers to mailing services, many Web browsers are used. Furthermore, as tablet terminals and smart phones
have been widely used recently, terminals are becoming diversified. Also, for client software protocol, it is getting more common to use encryption in addition to POP and IMAP. To satisfy all of these requirements and provide highly satisfied user experience
by the new mailing service, Kyoto University entered into the Premier Support contract, which is for paid services, with Microsoft.
"We heard that Premier Support covers isolation of problems as well, even in the environment including non-Microsoft products. It is wonderful. Our center used to declare, "We support Web browsers only. For other interfaces, users must use them on their
own responsibility." However, such limited support cannot respond to the current situation in which more and more students use e-mails on increasingly diversified terminals. In some cases, an e-mail sent to an ordinary cell phone can be transferred to one
communication carrier but cannot to another carrier. Premier Support covers such a problem and that reassures us." says Kita.
The most valuable result of introduction of Microsoft Live@edu is an advantage in education that students can get accustomed to functions of Exchange Server while in university.
In days just after starting university lives, it's like an extension of high school, students use e-mails mainly for informal commutation with their families and friends. However, around the time of becoming members of research rooms, such communication
shifts to formal communication with faculties and co-researcher students. During the job-hunting time, students have a kind of business communication with companies. Such experience forms the basis of communication which students conduct in social lives after
graduation. Therefore, Kyoto University expects that students can learn how to exchange formal e-mails by using Microsoft Live@edu.
Also, Kyoto University appreciates the point that Microsoft accepts inquiries to its user support by e-mail, Web site and telephone.
"When I made an inquiry, I got a reply from Microsoft not just by e-mail but also by telephone. It is a good point that we can have person-to-person communication with Microsoft people and receive support services for Microsoft Live@edu with trust." says
At the end of May, 2012, Kyoto University will terminate operation of DEEPMail and unify its student mailing systems into Microsoft Live@edu. Following that, the university intends to migrate from Microsoft Live@edu to its successor, Office 365 for Education,
as quick as possible so that they can improve the service level of the mailing system.
Ueda says: "It is waste to use Microsoft Live@edu just for a mailing system. We plan to make complete set of Exchange functions available on Microsoft Live@edu.
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