- Custom Desktop Development
- North America
Alabama State University, located in Montgomery, AL, is a world-class institution of higher learning that offers nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The 5,600+ students who attend ASU hail from more than 40 states and various countries – all seeking a top-notch education that extends far beyond the walls of a classroom.
When ASU began their Google Apps migration, they encountered one obstacle that is common among the institutional and higher education IT communities: the need to provision each student, faculty, and staff member with a username and password combination. With their legacy IT directory still in place, a batch process could be used to provision users existing in this directory, but new students that would not be entered into the legacy directory. These new students would arrive at ASU with no online identity through the school – making it difficult for the school to deliver each students’ Google Apps information via online channels. In addition to these requirements, ASU did not want to use temporary passwords for security purposes. The school wanted each user to select his/her own password as the account was created, which meant that new students would have to visit the help desk in person in order to have a username and password assigned. ASU therefore began talking to Cloud Sherpas about developing a custom application to help new students self-provision a username and password for the Google Apps system.
The main objective of Cloud Sherpas’ project was to create the self-provisioning sequence, and as usual with account creation, security was of utmost importance. The self-provisioning process would allow ASU’s IT professionals to focus their resources on more important projects, and would save students a trip to the help desk.
To address the security issue, Cloud Sherpas developed a system that can authenticate a registrant’s information against any field in an admin file. ASU’s IT admins could upload a simple .csv file of all student names with the associated ID card numbers and any other information, against which users would be authenticated during the registration process. ASU chose to use the student ID card number as their authentication value.
Cloud Sherpas recommended using Google App Engine to build the custom application. App Engine allowed ASU to take advantage of the same scalable technologies that Google uses for their own apps, and is hosted entirely by Google. As a result, the technology will be able to scale with ASU for the length of their
Google Apps use, no matter how many users they add.
Security concerns in the self-provisioning system were addressed by the same security model as the help desk used to assign usernames and passwords, but moved the process online. Google App Engine allows organizations like ASU to take advantage of the security, privacy and data protection policies that Google has spent 10+ years developing for their own applications.
With Cloud Sherpas’ development of the custom application for user self-provisioning, Alabama State was able to achieve its goals of reducing IT resources committed to user-provisioning and saving students a trip to the help desk to create their accounts. Alabama State and Cloud Sherpas are now exploring ways to extend this application to help provision accounts in other university systems, such as Blackboard, Peoplesoft, etc.