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North Carolina State University Cloud Computing Services

North Carolina State University Cloud Computing Services

The Virtual Computing Laboratory (VCL) at North Carolina State University has been a pioneer in delivering secure on-demand computing services for education institutions. VCL was using cloud computing before the term came into popular use: It has been doing research on virtual computing since 2003 and began offering cloud services in 2004.

The VCL academic cloud is based on open-source technology and offers infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and software-as-a-service, including support of high-performance computing services. The advantages of VCL’s cloud computing approach include consolidation of computing resources and technical support services, delivery of applications that would be difficult to install on student computers, and the extension of computing services to education institutions that otherwise would have only limited technology infrastructures.

As of 2009 VCL was serving more than 30,000 faculty and staff. A typical user accesses VCL through a web interface, going through a set of authentication and authorization steps and then choosing the desired kind of computing environment and time period from a set of pull-down menus.

VCL can dynamically move resources from one application to another, producing increased efficiency and lower costs. During semester breaks, for example, when most students are not using computing resources, the system assigns those resources to researchers with heavy computing requirements for activities such as running complex models and simulations.

VCL now offers services on a pilot basis to seven other North Carolina public universities, the North Carolina Community College System, and several out-of-state universities including three in India. Possible extension of these academic cloud services to K-12 schools are being planned.

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