Fayetteville, AR- The Sam M. Walton College of Business and its information systems department at the University of Arkansas and Microsoft Corporation have formed a joint venture to establish a consortium of universities around the world.

Consortium institutions will have the ability to leverage large-scale real datasets (for example, Sam’s Club and Dillard’s Department Stores) on an enterprise-level Microsoft SQL Server 2005, which is part of the technology gift that Microsoft has donated to the University of Arkansas.

The announcement was made Tuesday, Nov. 7, by Tom Casey, general manager of Microsoft SQL Server, and Bradley Jensen, Microsoft academic relationship manager. The Microsoft representatives are on campus to meet with Dean Dan Worrell; Paul Cronan, holder of the M.D. Matthews Chair in Information Systems and director of the Enterprise Systems; and Fred Davis, chair of the department of information systems and holder of the David D. Glass Chair in Information Systems, along with key Walton College faculty and staff.

The consortium is composed of information systems and computer science departments from universities around the world. Instructional materials developed by members of the consortium will be made available to all members for use in teaching and research.

“Access to this enterprise server will give students in the consortium universities the ability to access large databases, mine data, construct data warehouses, and utilize business intelligence using real business data,” said Cronan. “The Walton College will manage and operate the server hardware and the datasets. Including Microsoft in the enterprise system curriculum provides students in the Walton College as well as students in the global consortium of universities with valuable resources to enable them to more fully understand how to redesign business processes and improve business decision making.”

The gift from Microsoft includes basic software, MS SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Visual Studio Team Systems and Microsoft Visual Student.NET 2005, analysis & design/project development software, data warehousing software, and Great Plains enterprise resource planning software.

Casey said: “Microsoft is pleased to be working with the Walton College and the University of Arkansas. The goal of our academic program is to keep academic labs, faculty and students on the leading edge of technology. For students, the availability of curriculum based on real business data and real enterprise software will help prepare them for greater success in business.”

The datasets housed on the system are real business data that have been donated by such organizations as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Dillard’s, Acxiom and others.

Davis said, “The goal of the Enterprise Systems Initiative is to become a source for world-class data mining, data warehousing systems, and business intelligence courseware. We want to help future IT professionals better understand how to integrate data across diverse large-scale computing platforms to support management decision-making.”

Data warehousing and business intelligence are critical concepts today in business and other organizations. They use enormous databases to allow knowledge workers to answer complex questions and perform sophisticated analyses necessary for managing the enterprise.

Cronan added: “This gift from Microsoft continues to transform the university into a ‘world class’ information technology center. With this hardware and software gift, students can utilize multiple large-scale computing platforms as a routine part of their studies.”

The Walton College’s Enterprise Systems Initiative also houses major technology gifts from companies such as IBM, SAP, NCR and Oracle. Davis said: “The University of Arkansas offers its students a unique combination of ‘industrial strength’ technology, and we are looking for ways to share these resources globally to leverage these generous donations. Trends are pointing to a severe global shortage of professionals with the right enterprise-level skill sets, so universities need to be preparing students to hit the ground running as they enter the information technology workforce.”

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