Managed Service Providers (MSP) are organizations that are aligned to and deliver on the Ed-Fi mission of providing technology and services to connect education data systems. They are experts who specialize in designing, deploying and supporting Ed-Fi connected systems and offer full services and hosting. With a managed solution, schools and education systems obtain secure, scalable Ed-Fi infrastructure along with other related services. Our MSPs can be identified by the Ed-Fi Managed ODS / API Platform Badge and currently EdWire, Education Analytics, Instructure and InnovateEdu. We engaged these important stakeholders in our work through a Special Interest Group (SIG) which met three times this year, spanning many topics from Ed-Fi core technology, deployment, automation and other aspects to improve delivery of Ed-Fi solutions. There were three areas of particular focus for MSPs:
1.) Managed Service Providers Need Automation Technology and Approaches to Reach Scale
Managed Service Providers were consistent in endorsing automation technology and approaches for their organizations to effectively reach scale. MSPs use automation for many aspects of their core IT operations and in numerous facets such as deployments, configuration, system health checks and security scans. Automation, paired with flexible, on-demand resources from cloud providers (Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform), allow MSPs to accommodate demand in ways that traditional on-premises installations would be limited.
Members from the MSP SIG both prompted new updates to the Ed-Fi roadmap, such as the Admin API and Single Sign-On for Ed-Fi Tools technical designs, which were created and reviewed as part of the SIG.
MSP SIG members also shared their best practices for solutions for Ed-Fi automation, which was helpful to review both for MSPs and to confirm roadmap deliverables.
2.) Ed-Fi Technology is Core to Managed Service Providers
From this MSP SIG, we’ve learned that Ed-Fi technology is delivering on core values important to these partners’ businesses and in support of a greater mission within K-12 data interoperability. We’ve heard directly and indirectly, the enthusiasm and passion for Ed-Fi work — its technology deliverables, its convening ability across numerous related communities and other aspects — and many identified that Ed-Fi is a core component into partner businesses and the work they deliver.
3.) Other Product Roadmap Features
From this discussion, we’ve learned and supported best practices MSPs use that are complimentary to the deployment and usage of Ed-Fi Technology. We’ve gathered details in feature requests to continue to support the growth of the MSP sector – such as the support for external cache for the ODS/API to work better in cloud configurations, optimizations to release delivery cycle via Docker, setup and configuration of the ODS/API via Admin API and more. These topics are in processes with the Ed-Fi Tech Team and additional roadmap considerations are being added to address these concerns to support MSP growth and more Ed-Fi deployments.
As a result of the MSP SIG, teams have been moving forward to deliver on requests that came from the group. The following features and deliverables are on track this year for release to meet needs identified by the MSP SIG:
- Admin API – this is a new product that allows for automated creation of vendors, applications, and credentials for the Ed-Fi ODS / API. Ed-Fi has had the Admin App available, however it takes end-users to point and click for the creation of these important entities. Admin API provides an API-based interface to these operations which MSPs will use within their deployment infrastructures to provide more efficient delivery of these elements.
- Support for External Cache in the ODS / API Platform – the MSP SIG signaled the need for external cache support to support scalable, multi-hosted versions of the ODS / API Platform. This feature is planned for delivery in the next available platform release, starting with ODS / API 6.0 and will be optional based on configuration. Portions of this functionality came as a community contribution by Instructure.
- OpenID Connect Support for Ed-Fi Tools – the MSP SIG described how end-user tools should support OpenID Connect (OIDC) to support third-party authentication systems, such as Azure Active Directory, Google Apps for Education and internal OIDC systems. This feature is planned to be included in both Data Import and Admin App releases this year. This functionality came as a community contribution by EdGraph.
We appreciate all the efforts from the MSP SIG, and we’re geared to continue this progress into the school year 2022-23. We will continue to convene with our MSPs at this year’s Ed-Fi Summit. You can get involved in these conversations and developments at the Managed Service Provider session on Wednesday, November 9 @ 11am CT!