IBM is expanding its SmartCloud platform to meet the IT needs of schools, colleges and universities without dedicated staff or infrastructure. The newly minted IBM SmartCloud for Education includes a set of cloud services and offerings to help educational institutions take advantage of predictive analytics on their student performance, do more effective research, and maximize limited computer lab resources. Here's a quick look at how partners can benefit.

According to the press release, IBM SmartCloud for Education comes in two pieces: analytics and virtual computer labs. The former, IBM Decision Management for Education, is a SaaS offering designed to not only help teachers and staff identify standout students, but also to predict and spotlight those who are at-risk. It can help administrators figure out where best to apply funding and resources. IBM noted at least one education customer is using it to predict with 80 percent accuracy which students are going to drop out.

The second part, IBM Virtual Computing Lab Cloud Solutions for Education, is pretty straightforward: It helps schools set up private or hybrid clouds, in line with the larger IBM SmartCloud offering. Intriguingly, it's built on the open source Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) platform (running on IBM's hardware, of course), and IBM is donating the API code for the hybrid cloud connection to the IBM SmartCloud to the VCL's Apache Foundation team.

For IBM's partner base, this could be an important tool to gain a foothold in a growing vertical. We'll continue to watch IBM SmartCloud going forward, so don't touch that dial.

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