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October 30, 2019
Sponsored by Oracle
Each year, Brendan Tierney’s students at Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) take a course where they use technology to solve real-world problems for different charities. Last year, one group of students decided to work with a hospital in Dublin that treats people with mental and physical disabilities. After one meeting with staff and patients, the students realized they needed a different technical environment in order to make progress on their project.
Tierney, who is a lecturer at TU Dublin, worked closely with them and saw a way to assist. “I said, ‘You need a database environment and a couple of other things,’” he recalls. “And within 5 minutes I had everyone working in Oracle Autonomous Database.”
What’s an autonomous database? It’s Oracle’s cloud-based database that uses machine learning designed to reduce, or in some cases eliminate, the human labor associated with tasks such as database tuning, security patching, software updates, data backups and other routine efforts. Introduced in 2018, this family of cloud services frees database administrators and other users to do more valuable work.
Free for Educators
To help remove as many barriers as possible for professors and students to realize the benefits of the cloud, Oracle has launched Oracle Cloud Free Tier, including new Always Free services. This means that anyone—from large and small organizations to developers to students to educators to IT professionals—can try services and build applications on Oracle Cloud. The Always Free services are a set of core resources that include two Autonomous Database instances, two compute virtual machine instances, 100 gigabytes of block storage, 10 gigabytes each of object and archive storage, network and load balancing, monitoring and notifications–all available at no charge with no expiration date, as long as it’s still in use.
Tierney applauds this move, noting that it provides assurances to professors that the cloud database they start using in their classrooms will be with them for the long haul. For students, he adds, it means that they’re learning on the best database in the marketplace. And students, whether or not they’re using Oracle Cloud Database for a classroom project, will be able to spin up a separate cloud instance for any side project they’re engaged with—be it pro bono work or an entrepreneurial plan.
In addition, Oracle Academy institutional member educators and their students will be able to access these cloud services and free credits through a new Oracle Academy Cloud Program that includes new training for teachers and curriculum for Oracle Autonomous Database to help students expand their skillset and gain hands-on experience.
Cloud in the Classroom
Professors and students are starting to learn the benefits of the autonomous database for classroom use, as these five examples demonstrate.
Students can get to work almost instantaneously. “I can go in and get the students up and running within a matter of minutes,” says Tierney, who’s also an Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador. “It used to take days, weeks or even months.” If the cloud brought nothing else to the classroom, he says, this would be enough. Jenny Tsai-Smith, Oracle vice president of database product management, hears this advantage cited often by professors she works with: “They love anything that saves them from the drudgery of setting up classroom environments for their students, because what they want to do is spend time teaching.”
Colleges only pay for what they use. Colleges aren’t paying for computing they’re not using. For example, in the summer professors can turn their instances off so they’re not using their cloud credits. In contrast, on-premises computing involves sunk costs for the software licenses and hardware that sit idle when students aren’t using them.
Autonomous database supports the global classroom and the anywhere, anytime student. TU Dublin has links with universities around the world and a robust student exchange program. TU Dublin runs virtual classrooms for many of these universities, letting the students get into the environment quickly—it’s consistent for everyone in the program. Related to this is an anywhere, anytime philosophy. Security requirements for on-premises environments used to constrain students to campus locations to do their work. Now, “It doesn’t matter where students are working,” says Tierney. “In the university, at home, in a coffee shop, on the train—they can work from anywhere.”
Students get the latest database features and computing power for much larger data sets. One of the key benefits of a cloud-based database is immediate access to the latest features and instantaneous software patches. “We can start using the new features as soon as they’re released,” says Tierney. Another, related benefit is the vastly more powerful processing capabilities that students have in the cloud. For example, prior to the cloud, students working on machine learning models would be constrained by their laptops’ limits on memory, CPU power and storage. “They could only work with so much data,” Tsai-Smith says. “They couldn’t look at the huge datasets that would help them improve the machine learning models that they’re training,” which would result in less-effective solutions. Through the cloud, the students can tap into vastly more storage and computing capability.
The training prepares tomorrow’s worker. Students still need to understand traditional on-premises transactional databases, but the autonomous database makes clear that, once they’re in the working world, their value to an organization won’t come from doing routine maintenance tasks. “Autonomous database simplifies everything for us,” Tierney says. “It gets rid of the boring, monotonous tasks and allows all my students to concentrate on adding more value to their applications.” This sets them up well for the workplace, where adding value to a company’s innovations is key to a successful career. “They’ll be able to say, ‘I’ve worked with both and been able to see the benefits of both and what would work best,’” says Tierney.
Tsai-Smith adds that in her conversations with students, it’s clear that working in a cloud environment is something that they all expect to do once they leave school, no matter what type of job they take. “Even more important from an equity standpoint,” says Tsai-Smith, “cloud resources are available to everyone, from the biggest university to the smallest community college.”
Margaret Lindquist is senior director of content for Oracle brand marketing.
This content appeared originally on Forbes.com.
This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.
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