Tuesday 2 December 2014

edge: Cloud vs Web Hosted

There is a bit of debate about as to what is cloud vs what is web hosted. Some answers to these questions seem dependent on the nature of the application and others on the underlying hardware architecture. We believe edge is cloud and here is why.

First up, edge is a highly collaborative multi-tenanted application. It is one application where schools link people (that only exist in edge once) through relationships and assign responsibilities to people to enable them to perform actions based on relationships. So, for example, as a caregiver of several students in several schools, you only need one login to edge and can see information about those students which you are defined as a caregiver and granted access from the respective schools. Similarly, as a teacher across a number of schools, login to edge, select the school you have a relationship with and undertake required functions (enter attendance, achievement, pastoral information, look up contact information, achievement etc). Only those schools that have applied responsibilities to you as a teacher appear.

Individual schools can customize key aspects of the school environment within edge to suit personal needs. So while it is one application, it is configurable at a school by school level with features available based on school type.

edge has an API layer. Admittedly the whole application architecture is not implemented that way but a lot is and increasingly so. The web interface is then a consumer of the API so too can an App (such as our windows 8 App for teachers) consume the API. This enables third parties to get data from edge without having to understand all the intricate data structure and business logic layers in an open, secure and standards based approach.

Virtualized. Components of edge can be scaled and grown through virtualization technology and in order to do this leverages industry standard components. Microsoft SQL server being key as the underlying relational database which is not only highly scale-able, but robust enough to handle copious numbers of simultaneous connections.

Data sharing and collaboration. The architecture of edge is such that data sharing and collaboration is intrinsic to the application. No data needs to be moved across instances, duplicated, replicated etc etc. as students, teachers and caregivers change schooling relationships and responsibilities.

Integrated. So far edge has been integrated into Ministry of Education services, NZQA, Xero, PoLi payments, paystation (credit card payments), The Nelson Loop, Google+, Windows Live, Yahoo, Facebook,  MUSAC Library Manager, MUSAC Financial Manager, School-Links, e-asTTle and NZCER, with work underway with N4L. This integration was coded by the developers once and then schools choose to switch the feature on and off depending on their needs.

Why we believe edge is truly cloud and not web hosted is that web hosted solutions tend to have data locked in separate databases and need to migrate data manually or specifically (manually) enable sharing resulting in duplication, replication and a diminished collaboration experience. Further, a web hosted solution could still be put on a server in school. edge will not ever be available for local school implementation. Does it matter? We believe it does. We believe 21st century learners and educators are increasingly working across physical boundaries and technology, like edge, can assist in enabling an easier and more productive experience.