Marist College’s partnership with Vicom Infinity helped create a cutting-edge technology center for technical curricula, research projects and a unique community-building initiative

Marist College may not carry the cachet of Big 10 football factories or attract Ivy League-magnitude endowments. Its 6,300 students attend classes on an attractive but low-profile campus, tucked into a suburban setting in Poughkeepsie, New York, about an hour’s drive north of Manhattan.

But that doesn’t mean Marist doesn’t have big goals or wide-ranging vision into how to create a world-class IT center. The college has long enjoyed many benefits from its close proximity to one of IBM’s biggest North American R&D facilities, including access to IBM’s technical talent, internship programs with the computer giant and early insight into the commercialization of Linux and its potential impact on the university’s IT roadmap.

When former IBM executive Ellen Hancock – a Marist trustee – heard about Marist’s plans to build a state-of-the-art computer center for the school’s computer science and mathematics department, she and her husband stepped up to become major patrons of the program. As the development of what would eventually become the Hancock Technology Center moved forward, Marist began looking for a technology partner that could put in place a turnkey IT solution of hardware, software, services and consulting. Not only that, Marist needed a partner to help them navigate the complex maze of applying for federal grants, since the technology center also would generate a number of ground-breaking technical research programs. Finally, Marist wanted an organization to help them link up with local start-ups in the Poughkeepsie area and drive job creation and economic development throughout the surrounding Hudson River Valley region.

Ultimately, Marist turned to an organization with the requisite technical, business development and community outreach experience necessary to make the Hancock Technology Center a reality: Vicom Infinity.

Marist selected Vicom Infinity for several reasons. First, numerous company executives had worked at local IBM facilities and had built trustful relationships with Marist officials over several years in installing and supporting IBM equipment in the school’s business operations. Second, Vicom Infinity provided numerous mainframe configurations to help Marist in writing the grant application, which would turn out to be a crucial funding source when the National Science Foundation helped fund a significant part of the $35 million project, the Hancock Data Center.

But third, and perhaps most important, Marist was strongly committed to running Linux on both the mainframe and blade server platforms, and Vicom Infinity had extensive experience with Linux on the mainframe. IBM enthusiastically lent support for the initiative, since the Hancock Technology Center represented a “net-new” installation of its System z mainframes. Combined with the zBX Blade Extension servers, the infrastructure supported Linux on both mainframes and blades, as well as Windows and Unix on blades.

Vicom Infinity’s tight relationship with local IBM representatives helped create a well-integrated team for Marist in all project phases – pre-sales planning, system design, application development, deployment and training. The deployment took place over a two-year period, with the center launching in early 2012.

Although the center is primarily under the auspices of Marist’s computer science and mathematics department and is widely used for college curricula, its resources are used by a broad range of students, faculty and researchers on a number of projects. For instance, one key project was a sophisticated data analytics initiative of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, a widely cited source for public polling data at the local, state and national levels. The center also functions as a magnet for local start-ups that may not have access to sufficient computing resources on their own in their early stages, and helps create networking opportunities between Marist and the business community that have resulted in significant job creation programs.

Vicom Infinity teamed with Marist College to launch the Hancock Technology Center, enabling Marist to use technology for research or other cutting-edge instructional programs. Today, the new center is a dedicated, state-of-the-art resource for IT leadership and innovation.

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