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Webinar – Blackboard Managed Hosting Overview


>> I would like to welcome everyone to our Web cast a piece to jump in the today with Alex and Matt, and you can see their names on the board. both of these individuals are very experienced I have worked with that mat for quite a long time. I want to thank both of these guys for coming on in doing this presentation for us. And giving us information about blackboard managed hosting overview. I am Michael Morloff. now I will go ahead and handed over to Alex and Matt. Think you. This is Matt Lord. What I will do is give a brief overview of the work that we’re doing currently in helping community colleges. Then I will go into a little bit of why people need to go ahead and move into the blackboard managed hosting center. Then I will go ahead and turn it over to Alex to go into more detail as to where the data centers are and what you can do their and the Web services available. The goal of what we want to do today is to give you enough information that you can take it back to campus and say here’s the details is this something that we should be looking at?. And then after that we would do it total cost of ownership model to see if it is your campus. So with that said let’s move on to the next slide. [on the board] right now in the California community college system we have 34 schools in our hosting center. The schools are both large and small. [on the board]. We have been hosting for many of the schools as far back as 2003 2003-and may go back even further than that. We have a rough estimate right now about 290,000 students in the college system are in our manage posting system. And even in these tough times when people are having to cancel some school and those kind of things everyone is growing in their distance learning programs so there is much more focus on teaching and learning in this kind of an atmosphere. If you look at why eight people are looking at managed hosting it boils down to one key thing is they want to spend more time not worrying about teaching and learning. What can we do to move road blocks of the way? On this next slide is a list of the common challenges and opportunities and reasons to use blackboard managed hosting. [on the board]. In California we have schools that are in areas that could be shut down due to disasters such as buyers or fires or flooding. having a system like this would enable those schools to be able to move every student to an online course if they needed to in a situation like this. Some other schools are looking to upgrade to blackboard version 9 9. There are many other reasons as we look down through this list. Some schools are struggling to attract and retain technical expertise and they feel that there i t resources are spread too thin. Also they may feel that their current high tea status spending too much time maintaining the blackboard IT staff is spending too much time maintaining the blackboard application. So hosting would be read better option for them to better utilize their resources. So when you look at the true cost of ownership it can be a better deal to have a hosting system in managed hosting in place. Now I will turn it over to Alex and he will >> First I want to start a explaining how managed hosting works in blackboard. We have a number of schools in the system for at least seven years. We have been offering services to all clients across the board since 1999, so a little over 10 years. This includes all clients in the blackboard families so to speak. So certainly in North America higher education is what we will call our bread and butter in terms of the number of hosting clients but that includes all so not only blackboard software from versions 6 all the way to version 9 that we’re still hosting for clients. This also includes schools better that are using Vista as well as other software systems. We have for-profit universities and nonprofit as well as secondary schools too. we currently have about hundred and 85 individuals who are dedicated to hosting blackboard manage systems. We have two data centers here in the United States and we have two data centers in Amsterdam and we have one data center in Sydney Australia. So for the most part about 90 percent of our staff is located in or around those data centers. We do have some staff who are located in our Washington DC Center which is where I reside when I’m not traveling. I’m going to try to keep the presentation not too technical but certainly if you have technical questions please ask them and I will answer them throughout the presentation. A couple of statistics that like to throw out our how hosting relates to how critical blackboard has become. We are managing an enormous amount of data for our 800 + clients. Over 2 PB currently. for the first eight years of hosting clients-it took us that long to get to on one of data. And it took us a shorter time to get to double that. We have been experiencing a tremendous growth with the blackboard system. This dish shows how critically important blackboard has become in general. The amount of data that is being looked at by faculty is really telling on how much that is being utilized. Above and beyond things like discussion boards-assessments and that sort of thing when you get into the detail of what these can provide. So just kind of an understanding of where we come from and how we fit into the blackboard organization, you’ll notice that this is actually one of our Network Operations centers that you see on the board now. This is in one of our United States facilities. I want to spend a couple of slides making sure that everyone understands what kind of service manage blackboard hosting provides. It falls into two categories really. Certainly the reliability and infrastructure that we provide a number two is what I mentioned before is having that hundred and 85 member staff is that having all that supports and expertise in delivering the software on a 247 basis. Talking a little bit about the redundancy of limiting single points of failure and just the overall reliability that manage posting offers. I talked a little bit about the data centers. Tier 4 is essentially an industry term and this represents the best in industry so to speak on a 1 through 4 tiered system. So it here for a data center is the highest level of data center that you can provide. Multiple Internet service providers gives us a constant access. Our peak bandwidth time is the beginning and ending of semesters. We had developed a very true A-side, B-side network from the intricate down to both sides of the network which provides a maximum level of redundancy. It is about limiting single points of failure at anytime. We do not want to have issues that cause interruptions and so we bring in our expertise to provide solutions to problems that come up it immediately. What we really try to do is to eliminate any type of single point of failure. . This allows us to do things like maintenance-Well certainly we have maintenance similar to what you have on campus we are able to limit the number of maintenance windows that we have throughout the year because of our a-side , b-side design. So this is a very good design that we continue to look at and enhance. Certainly with power in dealing with data centers nowadays power is paramount. We have multiple uninterrupted power supplies within the data centers and these are backed up by diesel generators that can run the data center and for up to a period of a week at a time without any necessary refueling. So it is really about redundancy at the hardware level but also things that factor in when you are delivering a system like blackboard in terms of Internet service providers and things of that nature. Next want to briefly touch on the idea of how black board beyond delivering the infrastructure and things like that Hall does this service itself deliver. One interesting statistic is that the majority of our clients that come in to manage toasting and actually manage the software on their own at some point throughout the history of being with blackboard. I would say roughly 85 percent of our clients move into managed hosting at some point and had done it themselves to begin with. We think that institutions can significantly save costs versus trying to replicate any type of service that we are providing on an annual basis. The other aspect of the cost-control basis is what type of solution to you deliver in terms of is this an annual cost and things of that nature. Yes, it is very much a fixed annual cost in that you pay a set annual fee per year that allows you to use the license. It is very similar in managed hosting. We have a one price option that allows you to have everything related to the blackboard system whether it is hardware failure, whether it is one of grayed or 100 upgrades whether it is multiple course restores-so really from a cost control standpoint I relate that to almost a fixed budget when it comes to blackboard. With a managed hosting solution you know what your cost is an you know you going to pay on an annual basis to deliver the software. So they’re no unexpected hardware costs and no cost related to personnel whether it is turned over or on call or emergency type maintenance-anything related to upgrades. Those costs are eliminated with Managed hosting. >> We have a question in the chat window-zero it looks like it was answered. >> Please feel free to ask me a question said to have of things that you are unsure of. Scalability [on the board]. The way the environment and end user traffic needs to be scaled. Traditionally when we think about this depending on what type of person you are you may say we need task hardware. And certainly this factors into this concern of scale ability. Or if we’re adding a new set of users that previously were not using the blackboard these are some things that you can look at with some proper planning and take advantage of thinking about what does that mean in terms of the blackboard application. Certainly from a managed hosting capability we have environments built to scale meaning we can add additional resources or additional application as the load increases and from what we’re seeing from are monitoring or from some type of use we can see whether we need that certain services for you. I think some of the things related to blackboard that you see that are not quite as easy to plan for but certainly are related to scale ability are things around and with and storage [on the board]. As I said in the beginning we have seen an exponential increase in the amount of storage that we’re beating in these type of systems. Certainly in enterprise class storage is certainly has significant cost. So when you’re looking at a total cost of ownership in terms of what it takes to deliver blackboard sometimes institutions are looking simply at all I have a couple of people that are dedicated to running and and I have this dedicated hardware and they forget to look at things like the level of bandwidth and the level of storage amounts you are taking in and what those backups are taking. There are dramatic cost their but increasingly with the level of usage of blackboard those are increasingly harder to pinpoint exactly what you’re going to see from a growth standpoint. What that means in manage hosting is that we really do not copy you on any of your usage meaning certainly from a contractual stand. We deliver some limits on storage but we did not go back in the year and charge our clients for an overage in one month in bandwidth or an overage in storage. We look to at least from a band with prospective we look at how client is using the band with throughout the year because we certainly expect spikes around the beginning and the end of the semester. With storage we certainly see clients go over there storage quota quite often but what we do with the client is help them to figure out what their data retention policies are or if they even have one and then help implement those plans. So let us know what needs to be archived and removed from the system. We have seen you know this is something we have increased in capacity planning because we have seen this dramatic growth. So we will get on the phone with the client and ask their data retention policy is because we see eight years’ worth of data in the system and certainly that is not needed but certainly it is something that they could potentially be paying for in terms of storage so we like to go through an exercise at least once a year with our client and do some kind of data cleanup and really see where they are in terms of data storage. And then we work with the clients to see what kind of changes they need to make throughout the budget year and figure out what if anything needs to be added in their budget once we get things cleaned up and figure out an aggregate usage over the course of 12 months. So the managed hosting services is very much in on demand service in terms of not only the storage and and with which are truly on demand but we do not physically capture but also did be able to have it ability to add other So kind of moving away from the Infrastructure side of the house and moving a little bit more to when I thank if you talk to our clients they see as really more the fully manage side of this either small or large clients. I think that the fact that we have a hundred and 85 individuals across the globe that work in a true follow the Sun model provides us with the unique ability to deliver the software. One of the things you see up here [on the board] in terms of what I say to turn key in and managed hosting operation is very similar support process the you have now in terms of calling the 800 number and opening a ticket behind the blackboard for those of you familiar with behind the blackboard. Opening tickets with our support desk-we have this same process in terms of managed hosting. What you will see is that you’ll start to use the 800 number or the ticketing system for everything related to blackboard. Meaning of right now your opening tickets for product related issues but now you’ll continue to open tickets for project related issues but you also open tickets are rounds things such as course restores or talking about future pension policies and how we can help you clean this up. A couple of things are around the this model is within managed hosting not only from a support stand. Can you call and talk to someone in support but also from an operational standpoint. We have operations engineers and TVA’s and Infrastructure engineers to work on a 247 basis as well. 4/7 basis.this includes holidays and weekends and all the time. >> We have a question related to the upgrades that you did in 2009 and the percentage of success. Can you explain it to% that he did not have success with? >> That is actually a great question. Certainly in 2009 we did over 1200 production servers. So we’re doing numerous upgrades per day. And there is rarely problems that we see with the upgrade itself, meaning the update or something itself with in the product, a or with the hardware. But there’s really problems with the day-to-day operations that we have not seen before which kind of positions as uniquely to deliver the software, but when we actually go through an upgrade process with our clients we give that client a window. Typically what we like to do is do a practice upgrade on what we call the staging server where we do in actual clone of your data and do a test upgrade to the version you are moving from and to and this also allows the end-users to get into the system and see what it’s going to look like. So within this six hour window we will make it clear with the client because we’re usually doing is doing this from 2 A.M. to 8:00 a.m. or a some time in the middle the night and it is not always convenient or possible to get in touch with the system in minister on the campus side So what will do is we will set the expectation that if we’re looking at running over that window, that six hour window that we have given our client, what we will do instead of continuing with the upgrade and trying to troubleshoot will actually role that climb back to the version that they were on when we started the upgrade and have no upgrade loss as far as the update. Certainly there is still on the version that they were prior to the upgrade but still we went over the time window time so when this happens we consider that a failure upgrade. Some of the steps take longer than we thought and so what we will do is we will roll back client back again until we can do it correctly and with no issues. So we may be able to complete your upgrade an hour after the six hour window that we plan for and that it would be successful but we still consider that a failure because we did not meet with in the six hour window. So a couple of things that we do in tandem with the company in general-one of the big issues right now that we have started implementing a couple of years ago is our annual back-to-school project. We do this once a year right now but we are looking at doing it twice a year now. We right now due in late spring and early summer but we’re now looking at doing it during the fall holidays. So for those of you on the phone or not managed hosting client’s right now you probably have heard of this back to school project. Clients need to prepare for this huge influx-traditional influx of users coming back to school and hitting the blackboard system. So what we do from a managed hosting perspective is we actually have a team that looks at a number of historical usage of this system during maybe a year ago to kind of give and apples and apples comparison in terms of what we have seen from September to September-we do full audits’ once we have determined that this client had a significant increase in unique law bans or a significant increase in storage or a significant increase in the and with-We will do a complete ban with an operating system on it to see if we need add additional resources. So certainly our clients are not stuck to any type of schedule. So we will go through this on at least an annual basis to see if there are additional resources are things that we need to do for clients. This helps us to have a good talk track with the clients to identify growth patterns that they are seeing in the system whether it is a round users or storage but also things like the next bullet there [on the board] is we’re developing a client-board and making enhancements to what we call our insight reporting. The insider reporting tool is something that we delivered to clients currently that shows usage of the system. Now there is about 20 or 25 can reports So certainly it’s not hitting everything that it is a good measurement is stick on how you’re actually using blackboard and you can see some historical growth in terms of the number of assessments that are being taken in a given day, the number of unique law against your system over a day or 30 day period, and really start to track those things to see how your system is growing. One of the other big pushes the blackboard is kind of fully into right now is at the end of this quarter, so some time and late March or early April will be introducing are 9.1 version and will be working with our product development team and our 12 managed hosting clients in beta, we’re also working with our own performance engineering and testing team to make sure that the changes that are coming forth with 9.1 whether this means we need add additional resources to the database or on the applications side-how is the upgrade process different and what additional steps to we need data and given it new software? So we’re very much in tune with a company-wide push to make sure that 9.1 is our most stable version ever and that it introduces great technology and feature functionality from the standpoint of really enhancing-I am sure you’ve heard of the new web 2.0 technology they can now we also want to make sure everything is up to grade and figure out how that fits in with managed hosting for us. We also want to make sure that we’re completely ready for the influx of clients that are going to want to move from their traditional models wore their traditional black board model that they currently have. [on the board] you can see that were doing a number of things in terms of transition Services for our CE/vista the client is as smooth as possible. We’re dedicated to making sure that all these clients have a comprehensive set of resources available to transition to the blackboard Release nine. Here is a link that put in the chat window ability to then managed hosting site that will be to the chat window and will also you can go to this link to find out more about the services that we are offering to all of our clients for the release of 9.1. And lastly, and the last thing around 9.1 [on the board] historical the we have delivered a minimum of 99.9 percent of all uptime. in the past week at voice heard that 99.7% is good and as long as we’re beating tat hat we have always been beating that, but but with the release of 9.1 we’re going to be offering a minimum of the 99.9% SLA guarantee. [on the board] (reading). We know that we need to grow with the client expectations they’re out there in terms of how critical blackboard and the elements of this have become an So that is why were going to be promising and delivering this 99.9% SLA. I’m going to stop there. I do not know if Matt has any more comments before we go into our question and answer session. >> There is obviously a lot more to this and each campus has individual questions I’m sure. You can contact myself or Alex at R e-mail addresses which are on the board [on the board]. If you have any technical questions please send them to me, Matt. with that said, and we want to take any questions at this time? >> Mike: yes, we do want to give everyone a chance to ask any questions that they might have at this time. It looks like Frank might be typing a question right now. Let’s wait a few minutes for some questions to come into the chat window. I have a question actually. At at one we have this training that we offer on the blackboard system in in terms of managing and and be able to leverage the resources that you guys have in your operation center across the globe I think would be nice to be able to take advantage of that. But the question is I notice that when we offered our blackboard screening recently that we did have some people from the other side of the House, the Web CT and the clients that were really excited about services that they knew and had come for with some kind of version within their Web CT platform or other type of platforms and they said that they heard around rumors that some of those products that might be available in the 9.1 platform. What kind of a time line or looking at before this version will be available? >> We are anticipating that to the 9.1 version software will be released at the end of March. We actually did not provide the software in the earlier then a host decline could get it. We just want to make sure that once the software is made available from a managed hosting perspective is important to know that we do not dictate to our clients on what version they need to be on or when they need to upgrade. As long as it is a supported version of the software-and as I mentioned we have some-and we’re supporting some historical and older versions of the software. We leave it up to our clients when they want to of gray. So all of this testing and with the help of all of our beta clients who want to make sure that we’re prepared for day one at that the software is released that the clients could move up to it if they wanted to. From a managed hosting perspective we will be able to upgrade our clients and that on the day that the software is released. Again that will be the end of March or early April. >> When you talk about user guides are you talking specifically about the functions of using the software? >> Yes. You can go to the blackboard Web site and navigate to our sandbox and go ahead and put yourself up on a 30 day trial version of blackboard 9. And this is 9.1 is out you can jump on that. And with that, when you registered their what they will do is it will start the blank course for you and then in the building out course there is a lot of tutorials on how to use blackboard. So that is a really good way to get started. >> The next one kind of segues into the next question. The question was I understand that 9.1 is not out yet but is there any way that we can access that to start training on a or anything like that? I and I understand the answer to this >> Certainly. So there is to kind of free environments their clients can get to one of which is the preview account. This is Big G A version of blackboard which is version 9.0. And then the NG playground, well it does not say that it is 9.1 and it is a future release of the blackboard software. For the most part of what you are seeing in that NG playground is for all intents and purposes what you will see in 9.1, however there are few things that you are getting a peek into that may be 9.2 or the service pack that will be introduced later with 9.1 or something like that, but I think it’s safe to say is a good view of 9.1 will look like but it is certainly not what the final version of 9.1 is going to be. And unfortunately unless your clients in our beta program there is really not a view to his show anybody exactly what 9.1 books looks like at this point in time. What I can suggest to you is to go ahead and download that license to a test server so that you can see what version 9.1 will look like in its final stages. >> We have another question about concerns about their summer session. , being that if the end of March is pretty firm as far as when version 9.1 will be out. >> Sure. That is a very firm date in terms of the end of March or early April is the timeframe that we are looking at to do an official announcement and a marketing announcements that the 9.1 version has been released and is generally available and can be downloaded through blackboard. I would say that is a very firm date considering we’re so close to that. I know there’s a lot of internal thinks that we can not necessarily talk about right now but it is a very firm date that that is when the 9.1 version will be released. >> Are there any other questions or comments or concerns for Matt or Alex? This is a question as far as if we’re already managed posted can we get on the schedule now? >> Absolutely. We actually allow clients to upgrade to 9.1 or any version 12 months in advance. We have clients who have already submitted tickets for upgrading at the end of summer or even earlier. The only thing is since the official release date has not been announced if your ticket says we want to upgrade and May 1st, certainly that could be something we could certainly nail down. If you want to open a ticket for earlier, as a late March or April we can certainly get the ticket and and but if the 9.1 version has not been released yet as of that date obviously will not be able to upgrade you then but we can certainly tentatively give you a spot on the calendar for any day you choose So certainly feel free to submit a ticket and get on the schedule now for when you are thinking about upgrading and specifically what day to the 9.1 version. >> Any other questions? You guys are asking very good questions here and I think we are getting some good information about the managed hosting solution that you guys offer. You know here at one we do use the managed hosting solution and have greatly enjoyed it and we will also very soon be writing at the ticket to do the upgrade to the 9.1 version. OK, it looks like they’re probably no more questions so we just ask that you guys evaluate today’s seminar. We value our opinions and we ask that you complete this survey with the at the URL provided on the screen [on the board]. He should be able to click on that link in the chat window. we really appreciate doing this. If there are no other questions we thank you very much for attending our session today on the blackboard managed hosting overview. I wanna thank both Matt and Alex today for providing great information that we will be allowed to use. You can visit our site and again at the URL on the board [on the board]. Thanks again for the presentation.[captions ended]

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