Customer Story: The Role of the Data Center in Supporting One of the Fastest Growing Universities in the Country

“From the perspective of our own staff it’s as if the data center was on campus. But the support, dependability, reliability, and security that IO delivers is far better than we could ever have afforded ourselves.” That’s Gordon Wishon, CIO of Arizona State University. Here’s his story.

This is a recap of the full customer story that’s available at https://www.io.com/customers/asu/

By every measure, Arizona State University is big – and growing bigger. Yet when Gordon Wishon took on the role of CIO in 2010, the university’s IT infrastructure did not reflect a world-class institution. Right away, Wishon had to decide what to do with five on-premises data centers across four campuses – none of them capable of meeting the university’s needs.

The new CIO had a decision to make: Invest the resources to renovate and then continue to run those on-premises data center facilities, or find a partner to provide world-class data center services.

Growing big, growing fast

Arizona State University is one of the fastest growing universities in the country. In the last ten years, the on-campus student population has grown 43 percent. Online enrollment grew that much last year alone. Research volumes have tripled in the last decade. And the university plans for that rapid growth to continue, targeting an on-campus population of 85,000, an online roster of 100,000, and research expenditures of $700 million by 2020.

Expanding access to more students in Arizona and around the world is an important part of ASU’s mission. But rapid growth puts pressure on the university’s IT infrastructure and services. “As an IT organization we needed to be prepared from an infrastructure perspective, a scalability perspective, a growth perspective to meet that mission,” explains Jay Steed, Assistant VP for IT Operations and Customer Support.

IT also supports ASU’s world-class research, which requires high-speed networking, access to high-performance computing and storage to support ASU’s wide range of research activities.

Renovate aging on-prem data centers, or colocate?

The fundamental challenge, as Wishon explains it: “The scale at which we operate places great pressure on our infrastructure – in particular on our technical staff ­– and on our ability to keep up with demand. The demand curve continues to grow while the resource curve is generally flat. That led us to pursue creative solutions to traditional IT infrastructure needs.”

Facing a renovate-or-buy decision, the university decided to find a partner who could deliver higher quality data center services, for less money. They saw the opportunity with IO, and took it.

“We have a Tier III data center practically in our backyard,” explains Wishon, referring to the IO data center just four miles from ASU’s main campus. “So it was a fairly easy decision. It made great sense for us to colocate at IO rather than make the capital investment to renovate aging data centers that I couldn’t afford to maintain over the long run anyway.”

At ASU, the money now can be used to invest in the faculty and the research and the students and the learning outcomes.

IT is free to focus on the mission

ASU considers IO a partner in technology service delivery. Wishon explains, “We do consider the IO data center to be part of the campus, part of our network infrastructure. From the perspective of our own staff it’s as if the data center was on campus. But the support, dependability, reliability, and security that IO can offer is far better than we could ever have afforded ourselves.”

With IO providing data center services, Wishon and Steed’s resources are freed to focus on their core competencies – serving the technology needs of students and faculty.

Allowing ASU’s IT to keep pace with tremendous growth

Colocating at the IO data center in Phoenix, Arizona State University has been able to keep pace with tremendous growth, serving the IT needs of students and researchers on-campus and online. Just five years ago, the university’s on-premises data centers were incapable of meeting the needs of a world-class educational institution. In IO, ASU found a data center services provider that could deliver higher quality service at a lower total cost – practically in the university’s backyard.

Arizona State University is colocated in a data center module at IO.Phoenix. Learn more about the Phoenix data center.