Network Visionary: IlliniCloud Reimagines the Digital Classroom

The idea of the IlliniCloud Cooperative began as a simple suggestion from one colleague to another in a small rural school district, but it soon spread to virtually every school district in Illinois and its neighboring states. One of the oldest ideas in Midwestern farm country culture, a cooperative allows small, rural communities to pool their individual resources for the collective benefit of all. Jim Peterson, Head of the IlliniCloud, says that when Jason Radford, CTO of the IlliniCloud, made the suggestion, “We both knew immediately it would work.”

Prior to the introduction of the IlliniCloud, each school district was essentially its own technology silo with virtually no sharing of computing resources. “It wasn’t a good utilization of the technology,” says Radford, “or of the tax dollars.” Radford and Peterson made the case to their peers in school districts around the state that if they were going to try to solve educational technology problems one district at a time, in isolation, it wasn’t going to work. Their colleagues agreed. The IlliniCloud was born.

The First Educational Cloud Cooperative

Powered by VMware NSX, the IlliniCloud brings enterprise-grade computing and digital services to school districts that could otherwise not afford them. NSX enables the cooperative’s members to move services they formerly housed in expensive hardware into software, making these services far more economical and easier to scale as participation in the cloud continues to grow and expand. Just as important, NSX with micro-segmentation enables a level of security that is critical to protecting student data privacy.   

Peterson points out that the IlliniCloud also debunks the notion that school districts never cooperate with each other. Within just a few years, the IlliniCloud grew from its beginnings in a casual conversation between two colleagues to more than 900 school districts in Illinois and seven adjacent states. If it can work in the formerly siloed fiefdoms of academe, imagine the potential the cooperative community cloud concept offers for other organizations, agencies, and even vertical industries in the United States and worldwide.

Watch the video to learn more about networking visionaries Jason Radford and Jim Peterson and the IlliniCloud Cooperative. Then read the full story of how Radford and Peterson took the classroom to the cloud.