Introducing the Cloud Sprites Program: Supporting cloud adoption in the academic sector.

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We’ve invited Dr Lili Tcheang, Managing Director of our partner Pitch Black Pikka, and former neuroscientist, to put pen to paper on the Cloud Sprites program Strategic Blue have just launched, with Pitch Black Pikka’s help. Over to you, Lili…

Calling all researchers!

Have you transitioned your research activities from desktop machine to the cloud? Wouldn’t even think of looking back? Wondering why cloud adoption isn’t more widespread at your university? Willing to do something about it? As former academics now working in machine learning, we at Pitch Black Pikka certainly are. That’s why we’ve signed up as teaming partner for Strategic Blue, helping with the newly-launched Cloud Sprites program.   We’re looking for other researchers and academic administrators who are willing to champion adoption of cloud in their communities.

Cloud adoption has unique challenges in the academic sector, where budgets can be tight and cloud spend is perceived as uncontrollable. Small mistakes made as you learn to grasp the tools, exacerbate fears of uncontrolled spend, resulting in less cloud adoption.  I know, I’ve done it. I built a machine learning model to test out on one of the large cloud providers, checked everything worked as expected and closed down the instance. Having checked that my spend had gone to zero the next day, I was happy that everything was as expected.

However at the end of the month, there was residual spend on my account that couldn’t be explained. I looked into it more and eventually found a daily charge. But not on all days, just some days after I had shut down the instance. That was weird. I drilled down further and ascertained that the charge was specifically for storage and that shutting down the instance did not automatically delete the storage that was created with it. But why wait a few days before administering the charge? After even more digging, it turned out that since this was a new account, there was an associated amount of free credit for storage. How nice, except in my case, all it did was mask the fact that something was running in the background that I no longer needed but wasn’t aware of until I got the bill at the end of the month.

In fact the time spent trying to understand what was going on was more valuable than the spend itself. Now multiply that issue and many similar ones across hundreds of academic researchers in one institution getting themselves up and running on the cloud. Whilst each one is a small spend, they could accumulate to large amounts that a researcher or their administrator have to find a way to pay for. Sure there are notification services that alert you to spending anomalies, but why take the risk when you can just put a desktop server on your grant and have done with it?

If you’re a researcher reading this, and you’re thinking, “because you could iterate on your research way faster by scaling into the cloud, and always be using the latest, fastest machines!”, then you’re the kind of Cloud Sprite we want to hear from!

Strategic Blue’s goal is to support further adoption of cloud across more universities. The Cloud Sprites program is enlisting researchers and administrators from across Higher Education, in the US and UK and soon into Europe, who are willing to share cloud adoption best practices and provide some peer-to-peer support. 

So if you’re a researcher who has some experience of the pitfalls of moving to the cloud, but you made it there in the end, we would love to hear from you. If you think you can contribute towards the Cloud Sprites program and offer some guidance to your fellow academics, Strategic Blue has several benefit programs to help. Incentives include cloud credits, funding for Cloud FinOps training or technical training and certifications for you and financial offers for your institution to help them manage their cloud spend more cost-efficiently.

We’re also looking for the unsung heroes of university administration.  Those that support researchers who try to do something new, like leverage cloud, rather than something easy, like buying another box.

If you have hard-earned know-how in how to procure cloud that could potentially help your peers in another department, or even another university, we’d like to hear from you too!

The advent of COVID-19 has fomented the realisation that robust and remote computational resources are helping researchers work uninterrupted under ever changing external constraints. Pitch Black Pikka together with Strategic Blue are supporting researchers and administrators who’ve taken the first steps and want to spread the word within their institution and the wider community.

Pitch Black Pikka is a Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Consultancy. ML and AI represent an exciting growth area that most data-driven organisations need to build into their business processes to deliver value and maintain a competitive edge. However, for business executives overwhelmed by the tsunami of technological change facing them,  it can be difficult to understand how best to harness and then deliver on this potential. Pitch Black Pikka seeks to address this, helping business executives get up to speed on ML & AI so that they can approve the right funding and resources to the right projects. 

If you think you’ve got what it takes to become a Cloud Sprite, please consider putting in an application at

To find out more about Strategic Blue’s partner Pitch Black Pikka, please visit:

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