Information Technology Services

Drop Shadow

December 1, 2011

Minutes of the IRC Meeting, Thursday, December 1, 2011

The meeting convened at 12:00 pm. Present were Chris Wessells, Liza Peterson-Gary, Doug Burke, Indra Bishop, Cyd Burrows, Johan Perols, Rus Fuller, Michael Agnew, Sandra Sgoutas-Emch, Lisa Cannon, Chris Rapp, Simon Koo, David Lopez-Perez, Karl Gruben, Karen Macauley, Jon Yin, Kenny Bates, and Mary Kowit.

Chris opened the meeting by reviewing the major ITS projects in each of several areas.

Infrastructure projects (Doug Burke) – The 10 Gigabit project is huge. It will provide USD with a 10-fold increase in switch capability. ITS will be starting with the data center over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. This project will enhance USD’s ability to do more research computing.

ESNATECH project – one number will follow the user everywhere.

Cisco UCS – The merging of Cisco, NetApp, and VMWare which will create a computing, network, storage infrastructure

A Virtual Infrastructure which will create an all-in-one appliance for computing, storage and networking; ITS is already moving virtual systems every week.

Migration to MS Exchange 2010

The addition of two IBM Power-770 servers; these will arrive already assembled as a unit, making migration more efficient and easier. These will give USD ten times the computing power and capacity and will house systems such as Banner, Xtender, Advance, etc.

Chris mentioned that the NSF now requires grant applicants to provide a data management plan. If anyone needs help producing one, come to him and he’ll be able to assist you.

Doug Burke mentioned that the 10GB system is capable of providing up to 40GB in the future.

EASS Projects (Indra Bishop) – Indra encouraged all users of Banner to feel free to provide feedback to her staff. She introduced Chris Rapp, our resident “Banner guru.” She spoke briefly about developing the faculty dashboard and the inclusion of student photos. She encouraged users to please call if they’d like more Banner training.

Three years ago, all of the data transferred into Banner was done manually. ITS now has about 1.4 terabytes of image data stored (with BDMS Xtender). Several upgrades are planned: an upgrade of Oracle, a DARS upgrade, and a MySandiego portal upgrade. Basically, we’ll be starting over with the portal, with the debut of Luminis 5. An academic scheduling tool is in development. There have been about 16 apps already developed for the MySanDiego Mobile. The staff is now working on developing authenticated apps so students can perform secure transactions on their phones.

Chris stated that in 2010 only about nine percent of universities have developed mobile apps (dmolson.com); USD was among the leaders to roll out mobile apps for students. Indra mentioned that she and her staff meet monthly with the associate deans so faculty members can also communicate their feedback through those deans.

Academic Technology Services Projects - Because Shahra Meshkaty was not able to attend this meeting, Chris Wessells spoke about the ATS projects. Cyd Burrows mentioned the migration process to Blackboard 9, which is currently running in parallel with WebCT until next August. ATS conducted a pilot orientation to BB9, at which they had anticipated about 30 faculty members. There are currently about 70 faculty members using BB9. All new faculty use it and other faculty members have the option of migrating at any time up until August 2012.

Kenny Bates asked what if students are on both? Cyd replied that ITS lets them know at the beginning that they’ll have to log in to both systems; they seem fine with that and provide us excellent feedback.

Chris also mentioned that there will be a major campuswide upgrade to Windows 7. All new computers ordered already come with Windows 7. ITS is looking at the virtualization of desktops. Many training sessions and workshops are available for faculty and staff. The purchase of multifunction printers across campus has begun. Website redesigns are being planned for the various university business areas. We are considering the possibility of having ITS staff conduct trainings for faculty in the various schools.

Classroom technology upgrades continue across campus. ATS is hoping to get more hands-on in learning space design, perhaps having outside experts such as Phil Long at MIT visit USD. Each semester faculty can apply for the STA (Student Technology Assistant) program to get a technology-savvy student to help with their projects.

Daniel Lopez-Perez mentioned how much value he got from his STAs (he has had two STAs) on architectural modeling projects.

Chris stated that ITS is purchasing 60 iPads for classroom projects and invited faculty to submit proposals for using them. The Faculty Technology Showcase, which is always popular and well attended, will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, in 1:00-5:00 pm in the UC Forums.

Budget – Chris remarked that he had never discussed the ITS budget at the IRC meetings. At the University of Rhode Island, where he used to work, 63% of the budget went to staff and salary. Here at USD, only about 47% to 52% (depending on the year) is so designated. The leanness of the staffing provides more funding for technology purchases.

Maintenance and support costs continue to grow. Oracle is one of the worst offenders. Every time our student enrollment goes up, so do our Oracle support costs.  Chris expects an increase in Oracle maintenance of over $100,000 in 2012.

Doug Burke said that our Internet Service Providers doubled our bandwidth for no extra cost. Chris pointed out that periodically ITS has to hire a lot of consultants. In looking at the ITS budget slide, Rus Fuller inquired why our wireless costs had dropped. Liza Peterson-Gary said it was due to the fact that we had paid off a lease. Doug said that next year’s cost would be minimal. Chris praised Doug’s team for doing an excellent job. They won an InfoWorld award two years ago and also increased revenue by selling wireless to guest users at USD.

Doug said that most of the telecom costs are in maintenance and support. USD is beginning to move to VoIP. Due to the fact that we’re running out of conduit space, all new buildings and remodels will go to VoIP. Simon Koo remarked about the very high long-distance call charges.

Johan Perols commented about computer costs being higher on the USD website than one can find online as an individual. Liza said that our three computer vendors are HP, Dell and Sarcom. Chris said that the computer systems we order are higher-quality systems plus they come with a 3-year warranty, asset recovery, and Computrace. They also arrive already set up with the USD image, which saves desktop techs a lot of installation work.

Johan commented about the irritating need to get his ID card rekeyed each semester for lab access, which takes about an hour each time. Indra suggested finding out whether Campus Card could automatically renew you if you are using the same lab in the next semester. She also said ITS is currently working on redefining roles. Chris mentioned the possibility of getting someone in each school who could rekey cards or simply permanently encoding faculty cards for computer classrooms where they teach on an ongoing basis.

Lisa Cannon inquired about better remote access for those who are grading from home, etc. Doug said to use the VPN tool (egate@sandiego.edu). Store your documents on a network drive and you can access them that way. Rus Fuller suggested the use of Dropbox as a way to access your files. Simon asked whether if we’re moving to virtualization, one might use that.

Doug questioned the efficiency of that process and said perhaps part of our pilot program would be virtual. Rus commented on the difficulty of getting the services of a desktop technician and that he’d been waiting for 5 months to get his new desktop installed; Chris suggested that it may be to high turnover in the desktop support staff but that 5 months for delivery and setup of desktop systems is not acceptable. Daniel asked about the compatibility of BB9 with the library software and e-reserves. Chris said we’re trying to get things a bit more stabilized at the library. It’s certainly something we’d love to do. There would be a combination of Innovative Interfaces Inc. products and Blackboard.  Karl Gruben and Chris mentioned that the recently formed Copyright Committee will need to look into copyright issues specific to e-reserves.  Karl raised the possibility of there being copyright violations specific to e-reserves and so not all materials may be able to be loaded into Blackboard.

Karl also commented about the unreliability of the Echo360 system installed in the Law School. Cyd agreed that there has been intermittent appliance failures and poor customer service on their part for the past 6 months. ITS is working on bettering the situation and the company knows that we are going to move to other more reliable lecture capture solutions if the problems persist. Over the past three years Echo360 has been working fine within other areas of the university, specifically in the School of Business.

Simon requested information regarding virtual desktop initiatives at the university. Chris replied that this is still in an experimental phase. The technology is still questionable because costs would be shifted from the desktop to the data center.

Simon asked about the necessity of having to hand-carry so many forms around to various offices for signatures and whether that could soon be done electronically. Specifically he cited forms to enroll students in independent study and/or internships. Chris remarked that there are well over 100 e-forms already developed, including some workflows. ITS will consider requests for developing e-forms for independent study and internships as well as for travel expenses.  Indra said to send all your requests to mysandiego.edu. Johan asked about the possibility of submitting expense reimbursements electronically. Indra replied that there is a whole set of new apps in the works, including iExpense.

Karl addressed the difficulty of getting new hires set up for access to the remote drives they need, that it sometimes takes a couple of weeks. Also, there is no training program for what faculty have available. Chris replied that all new faculty get an orientation. He agreed that we have a primitive Identity Management system to have accounts, roles, and ID’s provisioned quickly. Doug said that we have one person to service the whole campus and we are still using an old paper form. Indra pointed out that HR is also a part of this equation. Chris said that the fundamental problem is that implementing a modern Identity Management system is very expensive and often falls behind other higher priority projects.

Johan asked whether faculty can upload their grades into Banner from Blackboard 9. Cyd responded that once our new instance is implemented, yes, that will be possible.

The meeting adjourned at 1:30 pm.