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In the Fall of 2019, Dr. Scott Midkiff, Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technology, directed the formation of a working group charged with assessing the use of cloud computing at Virginia Tech and making strategic recommendations for the Division's overall approach to the use of cloud technology to meet enterprise needs as well as supporting the use of cloud computing by faculty in direct pursuit of the University's research, instruction, and outreach missions. I was asked to serve as chair for this working group, and to assemble a team of thought leaders and technical experts from the various units of the Division to undertake this important work.

In developing our Strategic Recommendations for Cloud Computing6 the working group first engaged in an informal assessment process that interviewed IT professionals using the cloud for the delivery of enterprise applications and services at the university, including many of those responsible for cloud-based applications in the Division. Those we interviewed articulated many useful observations and concerns regarding their experiences, and a number of recurring themes emerged. By far, the most common refrain heard again and again from those we interviewed was the need for documented standards and common practices to help govern and guide our use of cloud computing. The document before you is a direct response to those concerns.

Establishing standards and practices is a challenging proposition in a large information technology community, compromised of both a central IT organization as well as IT units embedded throughout departments of the university. Successful examples of documented standards and practices are born of real experiences in the relevant technologies by those engaged in the actual practice, rather than dictated from the top down in a large organizational structure.

The Internet provides an excellent example of a pragmatic approach to the proposal and adoption of practices and protocols through a community-driven process in which promising ideas are documented through the Request for Comments (RFC) process and allowed to flourish (or perish) based solely on their own merits. Our intention, with this document, is to adopt a similar approach in recommending standards and practices for enterprise cloud computing at Virginia Tech.

Practices become “best” over time through their demonstrated utility and efficacy. It is also the case that the “best practice” in a particular context may not be available or well understood right now. What we have put forth here are a set of recommendations that we believe to be both helpful and relevant to our circumstances and history as an organization and institution. These recommendations are unavoidably imperfect and incomplete.

What you have before you is therefore not only a document, but an invitation. It is an an invitation for you to put these ideas into practice and return to comment on your experiences; an invitation to contribute in ways that improve and expand upon this work. Working together as a community, we can ensure that these recommendations continue to reflect our best knowledge of what is both possible and practical, with the objective of improving what we do based on our collective experiences.

Carl Harris
Cloud Strategy Working Group Chair February 2021