Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Bijan Raminzad, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.
Swinburne University of Technology is a world-class university focused on science, technology and innovation, with a reputation for high-quality research. It has four campuses located in Melbourne, Australia, and Sarawak, Malaysia, that offer courses in technology disciplines aimed at preparing students for jobs in industry.
The university offers an extensive range of degree courses in computer science, information technology, data analytics, software engineering, cloud computing and more. University researchers collaborate with leading digital technology platform providers and industry embedded partnerships to drive innovation and create impact.
The Department of Computing and Engineering Technologies recently launched a new unit, Multi-Cloud Computing Architecture, created by Bijan Raminzad. The unit uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) to connect to other cloud providers and prepare cloud architects and engineers to meet increasing demand driven by organizations embracing a multi-cloud strategy.
Raminzad, a Sessional Lecturer at Swinburne, has a master’s degree in Science, Major Networking and Telecommunications. Since 2013 he has taught and developed different courses focused on software managed networks, Cisco routing and switching, and now multi-cloud computing architecture with OCI and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
After 10 years of developing courses and lecturing, Raminzad accepted a Principal Cloud Architect position with Oracle in Melbourne in tandem with overseeing the Multi-Cloud Computing Architecture unit at Swinburne.
Oracle Academy: What challenge are you addressing with your Multi-Cloud Computing Architecture unit?
Bijan Raminzad: The challenge is the major increase in organizations adopting a multi-cloud strategy and the skills shortage of architects, cloud engineers, and IT support teams capable of meeting this requirement. Multi-cloud involves the use of at least two cloud services within a single architecture. About five years ago, the hottest topic of technology infrastructure was moving from on premises to cloud, to be able to use everything online. Today it’s all about having options that provide more flexibility and security assurance than a single cloud system. The percentage of organizations not adopting multi-cloud is close to zero.
Oracle Academy: What would be an example of multi-cloud?
Bijan Raminzad: Companies are looking for the best breed of cloud for their specific requirements. For example, one cloud may provide excellent storage services, considered to be more cost-effective than other players, so a company will move its storage to that cloud provider. However, there’s another provider that’s really good with end user services — websites, web servers, databases and so on. The key is to connect the two services to form one seamless business solution.
Our course addresses the need for people who can do that, architects and engineers who can orchestrate the integration of two or more clouds. The goal is to turn out graduates who can say to potential employers: “I know what multi cloud is; I know how to design and implement a comprehensive architecture to connect and integrate different services together, how to maintain this infrastructure, and if there are issues, I know how to fix them.”
Oracle Academy: Would you say you are pushing the boundaries of cloud computing education in universities?
Bijan Raminzad: Yes. I believe that the multi-cloud unit developed by Swinburne University of Technology is truly one-of-a-kind. It’s groundbreaking because we concentrate on the architecture, not on the applications and services running on multi-cloud. As illustration, other universities use multi-cloud environments in their teaching, but generally in the context of a single business imperative — security, for example. What they are teaching is security, and what they are using is a multi-cloud environment.
But who has set up the multi-cloud environment that runs the security course? That’s my topic, that’s the reason we set up the unit. It’s all about training multi-cloud architects and engineers, not security people, not programmers. We are one of the pioneer universities, if not the first university, in Australia to do so.
Oracle Academy: Powerful. What drove your choice of cloud providers?
Bijan Raminzad: To deliver a multi-cloud course we needed a minimum of two cloud environments and chose Oracle and AWS. AWS has run their specific cloud courses at universities for a long time and their learning materials are well advanced. We might have picked Microsoft Azure as the other cloud but, with the Oracle Academy Cloud Program offering for free the resources used by major organizations around the world, we decided to incorporate Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) as the twin environment.
Swinburne already was an Oracle Academy member, with lecturers in various units teaching Java, database administration, and related subjects. Hence, it was smooth and simple to adopt the Cloud Program too.
Oracle Academy: How do you use Oracle Academy Cloud Program?
Bijan Raminzad: What we utilize in the semester are the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations I and II courses. We have students enrolled, each with an Oracle Academy Cloud Program account. Whoever signs up for the course receives US$300 in credits, which are used for lab assignments, practical tasks, and for any resources they might need to spin up during the semester. AWS offers a similar credit scheme. We are fortunate to be able to offer students access to two of the major cloud players in the world, virtually free of charge.
Oracle Academy: How do you actually teach the unit?
Bijan Raminzad: It’s a 13-week semester, during which I present the main elements of cloud computing. We begin with AWS and, after a one-week break, move onto Oracle Cloud. The students get to know the similarities and the differences, and then we dive into the core of the affair — the interlinking of services between environments, including mission critical requirements such as disaster recovery.
The teaching course comprises weekly live lectures and practical labs, supported by pre-recorded videos, hands-on assignments, multi-choice quizzes, and exams. In the final weeks, students tackle a pure multi-cloud assignment whose purpose is to give hands-on experience in connecting two cloud environments and using them for a single purpose.
That assignment involves deploying a website that handles images. The required Multi-Cloud infrastructure for this assignment is literally a replica of the Proof of Concept (PoC) that Oracle has deployed for so many clients to show how multi-cloud works.
The front-end of the solution runs on an AWS web server. That website saves the data — metadata, photos, thumbnails and so on — on a storage bucket in OCI, with a MySQL database to keep all the images metadata. The exercise basically shows how to bring up a compute instance on AWS, set up a database on OCI, set up the storage area, and then connect the two, along with relevant security services.
It's a real-world scenario and it requires advanced skills from high-achieving students who use whatever they have learned in the semester to build the solution: compute services; networking and security; storage and databases. Students are assessed on deployment, presentation, and a live demo.
Oracle Academy: Do they go in-depth into the networking part?
Bijan Raminzad: Not in this course. They get exposed to different types of connections, but the unit does not do advanced hands-on networking. How to actually set up an Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) tunnel and Virtual Private Network (VPN) — the glue that links clouds — is something we separate out as a research topic. We do that because of strict course requirements that are defined by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), where a research component must be included in this computer science unit. Hence in this assignment, based on the Oracle PoC, I leave students to research how a VPN connection works and how to establish the connection that ensures that the webserver, hosted on AWS, communicates with the database and storage services on Oracle Cloud.
Oracle Academy: And do the high-achieving students sit for professional certification?
Bijan Raminzad: In a three-month long semester, we don’t have time to cover professional topics. But we do prepare them to be certified, both by Oracle and AWS, at Cloud Architect Associate level. Nonetheless, those who follow the Multi-Cloud Architecture unit graduate with skills and credentials that guarantee them cloud architect positions in industry.
Oracle Academy: A trailblazing unit. What are the benefits of using the Oracle Academy Cloud Program?
Bijan Raminzad: I would highlight two main benefits of using the Oracle Academy Cloud Program: having updated learning materials and having access to the real cloud environment. Firstly, the Oracle Academy Member Hub provides a web portal for educators like myself to access courses, pre-recorded videos, practical lab environments, documents, quizzes, exams and more. To simplify management, they are all integrated into our universitiy’s Canvas learning management system and continuously refreshed.
Being up to speed with these materials is of incredible value. If new features or updates become available that impact the cloud lectures or labs, Oracle Academy updates the materials and resources accordingly. We in universities just don’t have the resources to do that and keep up with the speedy updates.
The second major benefit is the OCI environment. Globally, Oracle provides $300 credits for trial Oracle Cloud Free Tier accounts, but usually for only one month. As Oracle Academy Institutional members, we get one whole year for teaching and learning, which is fabulous. Plus, we get excellent support throughout the 12 months at no cost.
In conclusion, I’m thankful to Oracle Academy for the opportunity to set up this completely new unit. It has had lots of traction and enrollment has increased significantly. Swinburne is leading the way! This success was also reflected in one of the Swinburne’s official news pages.* Recently, I presented the unit at the Higher Education User Group (HEUG) event in Brisbane. Many participating universities pricked up their ears.
Oracle Academy: That’s terrific. And outside of university and work — what are your pastimes?
Bijan Raminzad: I like to decompress with plenty of activity and fresh air. I do that by playing soccer, playing tennis, and also working out with mixed martial arts in the gym.
With my partner I regularly go hiking and camping. She and I like to get out into the bountiful nature around Melbourne and we both love hanging out with friends — often around a barbecue pit. So, any day the sun is out, if you can’t find me, look for a barbecue party!
Thank you, Bijan Raminzad, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.