Duke ITAC - April 5, 2001 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - April 5, 2001 Minutes


April 5, 2001

Attending: Ben Allen, Ed Anapol, Landen Bain, Pakis Bessias, Billy Herndon, Ken Hirsch for Dick Danner, Nevin Fouts, Ed Gomes, Alan Halachmi, David Jamieson-Drake, Roger Lloyd, Melissa Mills, Caroline Nisbet, Jim Coble for Lynne O'Brien, Rafael Rodr¡guez, Jeff Goldman for Ed Shanken, Robert Wolpert, Steve Woody. Guests: Ginny Cake, Chris Cramer, Angel Dronsfield, Chris Meyer, Pam Riley.

Review of Minutes and Announcements:

  • Minutes accepted as submitted.

  • Blackboard Contingent Contract - The contract will not be finalized until the contingencies are met. Funding support plan needs to be in place. The contract is for Enterprise version of Blackboard. Duke has until May 15. Includes authentication and interfaces to PeopleSoft.

  • It was announced that David Lewis decided not to come to Duke after a trip to Durham for the position of Senior Director for Enterprise Communications Infrastructure.

  • Robert Wolpert gave a brief report on the CIO Search Status. He mentioned that there is an ongoing effort to fill the position that Betty is vacating. John Board and Robert Wolpert have met with Nan Keohane, the President's Advisory Committee on Resources (PACOR) (which includes the Provost, EVP, and the Deans of Arts & Sciences and of the Pratt School of engineering), members of the Executive Committee of the Academic Council (ECAC), and others to discuss the challenges and opportunities the new CIO will face, the qualifications needed, and the search procedure. Present plans call for the position to continue to report directly to the EVP and Provost with a dotted-line to the President and a seat on the President's council. A search committee will be formed with significant faculty representation. There is some pressure to move ahead quickly.

  • Billy Herndon announced that Howard Shang (OIT Director of Data Administration) left for an opportunity at a small start up organization. Billy has asked Scott Seaman to be act in the position until a replacement is found.


Customer Communications for Voice and Video

Angel Dronsfield gave a report on several communications initiatives at Duke. The Enterprise Communications Infrastructure (ECI) organization was formed last summer to address the institutional needs for technical voice and data communications. Rafael Rodriguez is leading a sourcing team effort at DUHS for standards for desktop telephones, long distance, mobile phones, and pagers. Other initiatives have been looking at the platforms used in the backend systems to determine what could be done to streamline costs. Mike Mandl is leading an initiative to look at the televideo pricing structure to make it consistent with the cost associated with the services provided. Currently is difficult to determine the costs associated with the services provided due to the complexity of the fund structure. There will be a separation of the data communications "surcharge" from the telephone charge in the upcoming fiscal year.

Additional activities are aimed at reducing the complexity of the telephone bills. There is a group addressing the issues identified by a Gartner Group study conducted last year. One team is addressing the accuracy of the bills. Some recommendations have already been implemented. Another group is addressing the complexity of the telephone bills. This group is meeting with different customer groups to identify the issues and potential solutions.

As a result of all the changes, there was a need to focus on addressing all the activities from the "customer" perspective. Pam Riley has been appointed as the customer communication ambassador for OIT on voice and video. A similar position was implemented at the Health System to address customer communications needs for voice, video and data. Kevin Lee has been appointed DUHS Communications Consultant.

Pam Riley mentioned that the focus is on the senior level positions as opposed to addressing issues at the departmental level. Pam mentioned that she has a lot of experience in the customer support field at BellSouth and over the last four years at OIT.

David Jamieson-Drake asked who might see an increase of the bills due to a different reallocation of the data communication charges. Angel mentioned that this work is still under way and there is no final answer. However, heavy users of data communications are likely to see an increase.

Roger Lloyd asked what the plans are for communicating the upcoming changes to the departments. Angel mentioned that this was a focus area and communication plans were being worked out.

David Jamieson-Drake asked if the prices were going to take into consideration the technology choices people should be making. Angel mentioned that at this point the data collection is focusing on the costs and that the prices are yet to be determined.

Robert Wolpert gave some background on the original thoughts on the establishment of the surcharge. A deliberate decision was made not to meter the data charges because it would hurt the institution in the long term. Wolpert urged that while it may be appropriate to revisit the decision, the strategic impact of the decision must be carefully considered. Melissa Mills cautioned that we didn't want to tax resources that we wanted encourage individual users to exploit.

Voice over IP Trial Update

Handled as an announcement since John Board was not at the meeting. A proposal to implement a trial for VoIP at the School of Engineering at no cost to Duke has been made by Cisco. At the end of the trial, some other organization at Duke will be used to implement the technology.

SISS Update-Difficulties Friday and First Findings

Chris Meyer mentioned that there were some difficulties last Friday when Senior registration was opened. Right after registration opened up, the rate of students who could register was reduced to a trickle. Web servers were going through a constant "restart" process. The bandwidth from ResNet was reduced and it helped to reduce the thrashing on the web servers. At the same time, the vendor providing the Snareweb authentication services was contacted. With the help of the vendor technical staff, the seniors were able to get registered.

A post-mortem has been conducted to identify the issues and action plans. Rob Carter stated that the problems from last semester hid the issues that surfaced this time. Major issues last time were in the back end servers. To make the changes to the back end systems, changes had to be made to the front end systems but due to insufficient time were not able to do as thorough testing as it would have been desirable. A large number of issues have been identified that must be addressed.

Alan Halachmi stated that he has been charged by the DSG to look into the issues. It was clear to him that people were focused on addressing the issues promptly. Several student have been getting SQL errors. Which bring up the issue as to how aggressively is the system being tested. Also an issue with round robin DNS has surfaced. Alan suggested some potential solutions to the DNS problems.

Robert Wolpert asked if the problems that surfaced had implications for other systems that are being planned to use the same authentication mechanism.

Alan Halachmi stated that the students are reaching the end of their patience with the problems that are occurring with the registration process.

David Jamieson-Drake asked if the ResNet communications bandwidth had been restored to a 100 Mbits. The response was that it had.

Alan Halachmi wanted to know whether the students in the cluster were experiencing the same authentication problems. Rob mentioned that they had experienced a problem in the clusters but it was unrelated to the problem experienced with student registration. Performance on the web server with authentication is different than authentication with the PCs.

Mass Storage Update

The discussion will be postponed. There is an initiative underway for a very large storage facility and "big pipes" to access them for scientific researchers. John Harer and John Board are involved. Will schedule this meeting at a future time.

Digital Certificates-What will we do with them?

Chris Cramer has been looking into what Duke could do with digital certificates and PKI. Chris has ambivalent feelings about the value of a public key infrastructure at Duke University. Chris believes that a digital signature could be of significant value for e-mail and also useful for departments who are interested in IPsec. Chris doesn't see a value for digital certificate for authentication on the University side. He believes that there may be opportunities for use in the Health System where the speed and ease of use of a smartcard type system for certificate management may out-weigh the financial overhead.

The floor was open for questions. Robert Wolpert asked who makes the decision about digital certificates.

David Jamieson-Drake that it may be necessary to do for workflow applications that include organizations outside the administrative groups. Currently, Lotus Notes has a good authentication mechanism for workflow that stays within the Notes users but no good solution exists when dealing with "outside" groups.

Robert Wolpert believes that one of the downside is that the certificate needs to be stored somewhere. Therefore, you're either limited to a single system or you need to carry the certificate with you, such as a smart card.

Ken Hirsch brought up the issue of the need for a central place for an authentication server.

Other Business

Robert Wolpert opened the other business and particularly asked for comments on the search for the new CIO.

Melissa Mills mentioned that Betty embodied strong teamwork and a team builder and that these are qualities that Duke would be well to continue to foster.

Alan Halachmi mentioned that Betty was able to communicate to Senior Management in a manner that was comprehensible no matter how complex the technical issues

Rafael Rodriguez mentioned the need to not backslide on collaboration issues between the Health System and the campus.