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NITLE press release   Date: 11/18/10 Bookmark and Share

Smith Among 15 Colleges Collaborating to Test Concept of Shared Virtual Computing Lab

Georgetown, Texas—Fifteen colleges and universities, including Smith have agreed to jointly test and evaluate a proof-of-concept model for a shared virtual computing laboratory. The Collaborative Virtual Computing Laboratory (LabSTOR)—led by Allegheny College, Harvey Mudd College, Middlebury College, and Occidental College—has spearheaded the collaborative effort. The National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) will manage the proof-of-concept exploration, working in close coordination with LabSTOR.

Smith joins participating schools Allegheny College, Carleton College, Colorado College, Harvey Mudd College, Kenyon College, Luther College, Middlebury College, Millersville University, Occidental College, Rollins College, University of Richmond, Wesleyan University, Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and Whitman College.

Late this fall and continuing through spring of next year, virtual computing laboratory (VCL) software will be fully implemented in an inter-institutional ”private cloud” and made available to participating institutions for testing and evaluation. A small-scale but robust test of sharing virtual computing resources between institutions at a national level, the proof of concept aims to demonstrate the potential of the software and the efficiencies that can be created by resource sharing, particularly among smaller institutions. It also aims to define associated hardware needs for future growth.

The longer-term goal of the LabSTOR project is to create a resource broadly available to nonprofit institutions of higher education. By pooling resources from multiple institutions, the project seeks to develop high-quality, cost-effective virtual computing services—in particular, a shared, private cloud focused on supporting teaching and learning. It also seeks to create an active community of participants and an independent nonprofit organization, governed by its members, that will continue development and maintenance of a widely shared infrastructural resource.

"For liberal arts colleges, increasing student and faculty access to software and high- performance computing services is key," said Pamela McQuesten, vice president, information resources, and chief information officer at Occidental College and member of the LabSTOR project’s interim steering committee. "An inter-institutional approach to lab virtualization will also help colleges save on costs, whether they are capital costs, software licensing, or labor costs related to building lab images. Especially in the area of licensing costs, we believe that working together can benefit all of the colleges involved."

"At NITLE, we are especially pleased to be part of this project because it demonstrates how liberal arts institutions can collaborate to research and address problems common across our institutions," said Eric Jansson, director of NITLE labs. "This project addresses operational efficiencies and if successful will result in improved access that benefits students."

About LabSTOR

LabSTOR is a collaborative project focused on building a shared virtual computing laboratory (VCL) that allows member campuses to make software applications remotely available to their students and faculty. The project seeks to reduce the need to invest in local computing infrastructure (which is often underutilized), and also intends to help reduce costs in configuring and maintaining complex software images for installation in local computing labs. LabSTOR’s goal is to provide participating institutions with access to High Performance Computing resources in a shared environment. The project is based on successful similar projects at North Carolina State and the George Mason University.

About the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE)

NITLE (pronounced “nightly”) helps liberal arts colleges integrate inquiry, pedagogy, and technology. NITLE works to enrich undergraduate education and strengthen the liberal arts tradition. Established in 2001 with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, NITLE is the key organization for liberal arts institutions seeking to engage students in the unique learning experience that liberal education provides and to use technology strategically to advance the liberal-arts mission.

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