Harvey Mudd College has been the “Lead College” for the Sakai service since its inception in 2006. This means that we provide the service to all the Claremont Colleges and receive some funding from the other Colleges to do so.
About two years ago I began to explore the option of contracting with rSmart for Sakai hosting. rSmart is a company dedicated to hosting Sakai and other Higher Ed applications for a long list of higher education customers. Hosting the service with them would take advantage of their expertise and the scale of their operation, which is based in Arizona and housed in one of the largest data centers in the country. On almost all dimensions of the comparison — cost, architecture, functionality, infrastructure, expertise — rSmart looked to be an improvement over what HMC could provide alone. Exploration of this option took many months, and then in August 2011 I made a formal proposal to the Information Technology Committee (ITC) that we should host Sakai with rSmart. A series of monthly discussions took place, including a visit by the rSmart team in December. However, I did not manage to persuade my CIO colleagues from the other Claremont Colleges and so the ITC voted to accept an offer from Pomona College to host the service. The ITC is now moving forward to bring that recommendation to two other Intercollegiate committees, the Business and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC) and the Academic Deans Commitee (ADC). Assuming those committees endorse the idea, the Sakai service will be provided by Pomona College effective July 1, 2012.
If the service does move to Pomona, end users will not see any real difference in how the service is delivered. Pomona has offered to continue to subsidize the service and to augment and strengthen the infrastructure, which are good things. Over time, they may install the rSmart version of Sakai which would provide some nice additional functionality over the “vanilla” version of Sakai that we have been running.
User support for Sakai questions will continue in the same way as it does now. You can contact the Help Desk for help with issues and if you need advice on how to use a particular tool, you could contact Elizabeth Hodas.
For CIS, the change means a return of time and resources that were being dedicated to supporting the intercollegiate service. During the analysis of the rSmart option, I discovered that we were subsidizing the service by about $50k per year. We were indeed investing time and resources in an important service and received praise from the other Colleges for our work. But we are now looking forward to investing time and energy in other projects that will benefit the College, while confident that the Sakai service will be delivered in the ways we were familiar with.