Content, Connection, Continuation: Catch the Highlights From Cloud Forum 2024

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By Bob Flynn - Internet2 Program Manager, Cloud Infrastructure & Platform Services

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Despite the lateness of the day, the suitcases lined up along the walls, the work and family duties calling, and minds exhausted from 2.5 days of stimulation from presentations, workshops, and discussion, the majority of Higher Education Cloud Forum 2024 attendees stayed to the end to wrap up with the annual pluses and deltas discussion. Discussing topics ranging from how to better source ideas for the unconference to whether the “heavy hors d’oeuvres” at our reception constituted a meal, the group was just as engaged as it had been all week. 

What is it that keeps these weary clouds from drifting away?

The Content

We opened with a welcome from Stanford CIO Steve Gallagher before jumping right into the annual State of the Cloud Survey results, presented by William & Mary’s Phil Fenstermacher. The schedule continued with presentations, a research panel, an unconference, and a FinOps workshop led by the University of Central Florida’s Jonathan White.

Group of professionals listening to a presenter at cloud forum 2024.

We had over a dozen excellent presentations, provoking discussion, many laughs, and no small amount of empathy. Highlights included:

  • Telling Our Story: The Somewhat Painful, Probably Never-Ending Search for Cloud Metrics – Rick Rhoades, Penn State (Slides | Recording)
  • Leveraging the Cloud in Response to Campus Demands for AI -– Tim Werth, Purdue Global (Slides | Recording)
  • Landing Zone Accelerator at CU Boulder – Jason Armbruster, University of Colorado, Boulder (Slides | Recording)
  • Overcoming Nephophobia: Case Studies – Kari Robertson, University of California Office of the President (Slides)

The unconference and FinOps workshop featured small group breakouts leading to in-depth discussion and debate. Unconference topics included:

  • hybrid cloud 
  • cloud security operations
  • talent management
  • moving out of the cloud
  • secure enclaves

This year’s research presentations and the following panel discussion opened with remarks from Ruth Marinshaw, chief technology officer of Stanford Research Computing. The researchers were interesting and engaging, and the panel, moderated by CU Boulder’s Jason Armbruster, was frank and informative. Unlike previous years, we put all of the researchers in a single block and made them available to a virtual audience with the assistance of the excellent Stanford AV team.

Group of three panelists presenting in front of professionals.

The Connection

The 2024 Cloud Forum, hosted this year by Lucrecia Kim-Boswell and her colleagues at Stanford University, was our 10th annual and marked a moment for reflection and celebration. People come back to the Cloud Forum year after year, not only for the valuable exchange of ideas but also for professional networking and rewarding friendships. This year’s reception was held at the Computer History Museum. It gave us a chance to celebrate our anniversary in style. Where better for dozens of geeks to bond over the Atari 2600 and the Coleco Vision, ENIAC, UNIVAC, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, and so much more?

Large group of professionals taking a group photo on a building staircase.

We’ve racked up some impressive numbers in the Cloud Forum’s 10 years. We’ve had 616 individuals from 165 organizations attend. This year alone, we had 100 individuals from 55 organizations, collectively representing 388 years of Cloud Forum experience. This year’s attendee badges featured colorful numbers reflecting how many times they’d attended, from the 42 first-timers to the two “10-timers.” First among those veterans is Cloud Forum founder Sarah Christen, deputy CIO for Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medicine. At this year’s event, Sarah was recognized as an Internet2 Cloud Superhero for her pioneering community contributions. I happen to be the other 10 on the list (interpret that however you will!). We had several 6s, 7s, and 8s at this year’s event, but strangely no 9s. 

The Cloud Forum itself stands on the shoulders of other individual and community efforts. My introduction to the power of this community came when I got wind that Oren Sreebny, long since one of my personal Cloud Heroes, hosted a could architecture summit at the University of Chicago in the summer of 2015. Although I was already part of the group helping Sarah organize that first Cloud Forum, in one day in Chicago I got a clear image of the power of working together. It brought home to me the potential of what we could accomplish together.

Sarah Christen cloud superhero award.

In an effort to recognize the proud and growing history of the Cloud Forum, we created special commemorative laptop stickers for each host of the event, past and present. Each attendee received the sticker(s) for the year(s) they attended. A special shout-out to my colleague, Nidhi Yadav, who mined past years’ registration lists for the data, and my daughter, Tess, who helped me not only get the right number of stickers on attendees’ badges but also get the right commemorative laptop stickers in each badge holder in preparation for this year’s event.

Graphic of four university buildings in a two by two layout format.

The Continuation

It’s possible I was reading the room wrong. Maybe everyone stuck around at the end just to be the first to hear about the location of next year’s Cloud Forum. On the last slide of the last session of the last day, we announced that New York University will be hosting the 2025 Cloud Forum. The exact dates are TBD.

Planning for CF25 will begin in June. If you’d like to be involved, email me at bflynn@internet2.edu.

The Conclusion

All Cloud Forums (Fora?*) are models of community engagement. From the planning committee to the presenters and workshop facilitators to the attendees, the Cloud Forum’s ethos of “by higher education, for higher education” is what makes this event so special each year. Post-Forum surveys overwhelmingly show “networking with peers” as the most valuable aspect of the event, with one attendee describing the Cloud Forum as “Easily the best Higher Ed IT conference in the country. It’s not a conference as much as a community outreach group.”

Combine the force of that commitment to the community with the excellence of the work being done by the members of this community, and you have a recipe for magic. Serious professionals tackling significant challenges in a spirit of collaboration and a large dose of fun make the Cloud Forum something special.

*I asked Google Gemini what the proper plural was for “forum,” and it responded, “unless you’re specifically referring to the historical context of ancient Roman public squares (fora), it’s best to stick with ‘forums’ for the plural of ‘forum.’” I don’t think that this settles the question for me. While we have locations for the next couple of Cloud Forums set, who is to say if we might not end up at the Rome campus of Mohawk Valley Community College one day?