The Best Advice Ever About the Cloud: From Allocating Resources and Implementing Services to Building Community Connections

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Edited by Apryl Motley, CAE – Technical Writer & Communications Lead, Internet2 Trust and Identity/NET+ Services

Throughout 2023, we asked members of the research and higher education cloud community to share the best advice they had ever received about the cloud and from whom. Without further ado, here are 11 pieces of the best advice about the cloud.

I2 Cloud NET+

1. Incredible growth happens outside your comfort zone (a lesson learned from various mentors).

—Rick Rhoades, manager of cloud services, Penn State

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you don’t know the answer to. It seems simple enough, but so often, technical folks don’t want to appear clueless. We just assume the issue is that we don’t know something everyone else knows. More often than not, half the room has the same question. Even if they don’t, pride is never helpful and just gets in the way of knowledge. I learned that from NET+ Program Manager Bob Flynn, who always encouraged me to ask and was insatiable in his pursuit of understanding.

—Damian Doyle, deputy CIO, senior associate vice president and interim CISO at University of Maryland Baltimore County

3. It is less about the cloud and more about the fact that the cloud creates assumptions of uptime that we’ve never had, especially in education. And, we have to be ready for that. (Steve Townsend, SVP of engineering at Instructure).

—Melissa Loble, chief customer experience officer, Instructure

4. “The best way to succeed with cloud applications is to ‘actively listen’ to your community.” (I’m not sure who said it first, probably Jack Suess or Brian Voss.)

—Bobby Clark, director, CCIT procurement and IT vendor management, Clemson University

5. “The hardest thing in the world is to change the minds of people who keep saying, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ These are days of fast changes and if we don’t change with them, we can get hurt or lost.” (Grace Hopper)

—Kelly Rivera and Hallah Hussein, lead cloud engineer and cloud engineer, University of Wisconsin Madison

Collage of experts giving cloud advice.
From left to right: Rick Rhoades, Damian Doyle, Melissa Loble, Christian Michael, Kelly Rivera, Hallah Hussein, Jon Allen, Sharif Nijim, Tom Lewis, Emily Perry, Kenny Moore, and Bobby Clark

6. “You don’t have to understand all of the technical aspects of the cloud, but you need to understand what it can do and the flexibility it can give you. Without that insight it is very hard to steer yourself [and your organization] into an advantageous position in a cloud world.” (Vint Cerf, Google)

—Christian Michael, public sector training lead, Google

7. “I don’t remember who said it about 15 or 20 years ago at a Common Solutions Group meeting when cloud first started. ‘Always have an escape plan.’”

—Tom Lewis, director of Academic Experience Design and Delivery (AXDD), University of Washington

8. Related to contracting for cloud services, Peter Frazza advises to “avoid ambiguity.” There can be ambiguous words and phrases in initial drafts of contracts, and it is important to get clarity before signing any agreement. When working with vendors, multiple internal stakeholders, and multiple departments it takes to enter into a third party agreement, it is critical that everyone is on the same page. If a term can mean more than one thing, there will be misinterpretations and/or confusion.

—Emily Perry, software supply chain manager, University of Arizona; member, NET+ Business, Procurement and Legal Advisory Council

9. “Focus on experimentation and time to value.” (Adrian Cockroft)

—Sharif Nijim, academic co-director, Master of Science in business analytics, and associate teaching professor of IT, analytics, and operations, Mendoza College of Business – University of Notre Dame

10. It’s someone else’s datacenter, and you’re being charged for everything you do and use. It’s up to you to be creative and efficient (and secure) with how you use it (from a former colleague and mentor from a previous job).

—Kenny Moore, virtualization & cloud administrator, University of Michigan

11. The true cost in cloud service is the exit, not the upfront costs. (The advice came from a group of colleagues.)

—Jon Allen, CIO and CISO, Baylor University