Duke ITAC - May 26, 2005 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - May 26, 2005 Minutes


May 26, 2005

Members present : Owen Astrachan, Pakis Bessias, John Board, Angel Dronsfield, Brian Eder, Nevin Fouts, Tracy Futhey, Michael Gettes, Guven Guzeldere, George Oberlander, Mike Pickett, Rafael Rodriquez, Dalene Stangl, Molly Tamarkin, Robert Wolpert

Guests: Jane Pleasants, Procurement Services; Roger Lewis, DUHS Procurement Services; Heather Flanagan, OIT; Jeff Abbott, OIT; Ginny Cake, OIT

Start time : 4:05 p.m.


I. Review of Minutes and Announcements:

  • ITAC cancelled - June 9th

    John Board says there will be no meeting in two weeks. Expect a normal meeting in four weeks.

  • Tracy Futhey says the first connection going directly from the North Carolina portion of NLR [National LambdaRail] is up and live. It connects researchers at NC State with folks down in Atlanta . It's a connection from our [ North Carolina ] site to the Atlanta NLR hub, and it's the first one directly supported by researchers here. That project continues, and we hope the next one we'll be able to operate will be one of our [Duke's] own.

    John Board adds that it was a 10GB link, funded by someone from UVA.

II. DPG Closing and the Future of Printing Services at Duke - Angel Dronsfield, Jane Pleasants, Roger Lewis

Angel Dronsfield says we announced in April that we're closing the Duke Publications Group (DPG). We worked through a transition plan, and we kept three people on board working very closely with Roger. They are currently working on the longer-term plans.

Jane Pleasants says one of the important messages she wants to make sure those across the campus get is that this is not the rule, it is not absolute that everyone will go down this path. Our commitment around this program is one of service and value all around the campus. Print is something that people don't understand very well, don't know what it should cost, what two- three- or four-color means. Roger has a background in printing, and worked for Creative Services previously. Roger came to work in Health System Procurement and established contracts with preferred print companies around town, developing a process whereby the requests would come in and customers looking for printing could be supported. She says Roger has done that, and has done it amazingly well for the last several years. Jane says when we heard DPG was closing down we wanted to make sure the transition was as transparent as possible to the customer. Our other goal is to reduce cost and remain high quality. We intend to get a lot more announcements put over the next several weeks and months.

Roger Lewis says what we've contracted in the past have been newsletters, publications, things that come out on a regular basis. We've had savings in some instances of 20 percent. Some of the folks Duke groups may have interacted with in the past are all resources to go to for competitive bids if Duke customers need that resource. Roger says if groups have the expertise within their departments they should feel free to use them, and says agreements have been made with designers to minimize paperwork. We have a stationary vendor we've made an agreement with, and they are working on a website so people can order stationary online.

Jane says our business cards have been outsourced for some time. We want to add value and not create a bureaucracy or create a lot of rules around this. This is how we've seen the program grow in the medical school and medical center.

John Board asks do we know what percent of Duke's printing was historically going through DPG?

Roger says traditionally 20 percent of Duke's printing was handled through DPG. Total print spending for the med center and university together is about seven to eight million dollars.

Jane says the copy center is an important part of this overall program. It isn't going away; it has always been separate. We intend to utilize them, and we're encouraging them to put a print-on-demand service in the medical center. Our website lists all of the info about the program at www.procurement.duke.edu . You'll see there are FAQs and instructions as far as vendors we're contracted with, and it has our contact information.

Roger says we've also set up an email alias, print@duke.edu .

III. Draft Report: Computing Facilities & Infrastructure - Mike Pickett and committee

Mike says Tracy Futhey and Peter Lange asked us to think about things that might run out or wear out in the next years. We broke it out into several areas.

Communications: We were able to do the most detailed work in this area because a detailed evaluation had been done recently. We found that the network was in pretty good shape at this point. Over next five to ten years there is a possibility major shifts could occur, but that doesn't seem likely. As for the wireless data network, we probably need to become more ubiquitous. Our cable TV plant is definitely at the end of its lifecycle. We talked about the impact of facilities and infrastructure on the medical school, but we did not hit the health system, so this is a campus evaluation. We think there will be huge debates over where our old telephone switches fit along with new technologies like cell, VOIP, etc.

Facilities: We talked about how we are going to have to think a lot about how we plan space. As machines get better/faster/cheaper, the impact on the desktop is decreasing. But as high performance computing is becoming more popular, we are just out of space. It's going to have impact on cooling, power, chilled water, structural weight ratings, security, monitoring, and ways think about space. Michael Gettes is looking at if we can do something with the Telcom Building . We also see a need for disaster planning for critical university systems and deferred maintenance adequacy review. We may not be maintaining this adequately; we need to see if there has been a paradigm change. Finally, we need to look at consolidation of IP space.

Applications: We looked at enterprise applications (financial, student administration, e-mail, calendaring). One thing noted is there would be regular upgrade cycles, like every two-to-three years, and establish a common upgrade fund for programs that tend to fall through the cracks and don't get upgrade funding built in. The other thing talked about were impacts of self-service and the idea that enterprise applications are getting older but still functioning because we're adding functions to them. There is also replacement contingency with Blackboard and PeopleSoft. There's going to be something that in the future we just decide that we need to replace it completely. Finally, some of these other things aren't brand name, but we more or less depend on them for things we do.

Security: Are there things that will change with security over the next few years? Threats are increasing, we have to go through on regular basis to review and check.

Support: Are the right amount of resources being invested in tech support to support the mission? How much can be done remotely, how much can be self-service? What is the impact of new devices that become critical to doing your mission?

Organizational Structures and Business Processes: What we've seen at the university in the last few years is big reward for changing our organization structures, in Genomics, etc. But have we figured out how to provide support in interdisciplinary or remote settings? The answer is a resounding “no”, but we're working on it. Are our work processes evolving to take advantage of our technology tools? What we figured out was that we've learned a lot just going through the outline of what we need to look at periodically.

Robert Wolpert asks what about new construction of the French Building , CIEMAS, etc.? I'm afraid there will be massive new demands that we won't be prepared for.

Mike Pickett says they didn't officially have that included in the report.

John Board says this report will frame the questions that we need to answer in more detail as we look at strategic planning.

Molly Tamarkin asks do you think under organizational structures that you need to add concern of facilities that are not local?

Mike Pickett says there is a section on remote monitoring.

Robert Wolpert asks is there, as we move toward identity management, any expensive things we need to anticipate in security?

John Board says at the moment that is only implicitly mentioned in security concerns.

Guven Guzeldere says in addition to hardware and machines that get old are ideas. Have there been discussions such as this? In the humanities, I'm told by some Arts & Sciences support people that Duke supports only one kind of machine, so if I have a desktop and a Powerbook, they'll upgrade only one. That seems like an old idea to me, that we can live with only one computer.

John Board says your broader question is a very relevant one.

Mike Pickett says because there are layers of support, some things will be supported next to your office, and some not. We are going to see an evolution of service delivery.

Rafael Rodriguez says on the Medical Center side, even the words we use are very important. Now we have the idea of computer support. We need to start thinking of user support. Part of what we have to do is rethink even how we speak. What is it we need to do to get users to get what they need?

IV. DukeMail Update: Uptime, Spam, Virus, etc. - Heather Flanagan, Michael Gettes

Heather Flanagan says the last time I talked about DukeMail was in October, and we were just recovering from a tumultuous time. Since then we have done upgrades to the application structure. We found the root cause for the unexpected problem, which turned out to be an innocuous problem, a bogus bug being reported in the log file. We recently removed mailboxes for 27,000 expired accounts. We added e-mail routing through the mail gateways for 37 additional mail domains, primarily DUHS domains. One question I know people are interested in is how many users are on the system, and how many are active users. We have, give or take, 20,000 active users and 41,000 users overall, so about half aren't logging in and using their accounts. These are activities not of the gateways but of the downstream OIT system.

The numbers for gateway traffic have stayed pretty stable. There hasn't been much viral traffic coming through the gateways, though there was more in May. About half of all mail is spam. The help desk sees a lot of students coming in with virus infected machines, but most of them aren't coming in through our gateways.

Less than 5,000 users are taking advantage of spam filtering on their central mailbox. 20 percent of our mailboxes are taking up over 60 percent of space on our system. The default quota is 100MB, we have some mailboxes over that, but not many.

John Board says I get the sense that it's running pretty well now, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Heather says yes, for today. There's also a good possibility that if we increase quotas, people may use it for file transfer, and I wouldn't be surprised to see usage jump. Also, there are increases in use of Webmail when students are home for the summer.

Mike Pickett asks is there an average delay time between when a message is sent and received?

Heather Flanagan says we have the information of how long it would take a message to be delivered, but not in a form interesting to the user. For incoming mail delivery, on average it takes ten minutes. That's misleading, though, because it takes longer for people whose accounts are full and that gets factored into the average.

George Oberlander asks if you didn't increase capacity or change the quota, how many additional users could you manage/what resource would run out first?

eather says the disk would run out first. We don't have enough growing room now to be profoundly comfortable increasing quotas. I'm not really comfortable answering how many users, because users use them differently. Most accounts start out small, and some segments will then explode.

V. DukeMail Future Plans - Architecture, Features, etc. - Heather Flanagan, Michael Gettes

Michael Gettes says as we design this mail system we want to stabilize the system, make sure it has some headroom, and make sure it can arbitrarily grow. At the time, there wasn't a good horizontal scaling option. There is a thing called Murder, which looks like its getting stable. The University of Michigan is running 24 systems on the backend. We might want to wait another six-to-nine months to see how it shakes out. We're kind of comfortable with the system as it is now, so we don't need to worry too much about the horizontal. Even though we did recently fix the queuing problem, we think our queuing system needs a reevaluation and perhaps a redesign. For anti-virus/spam, today we use Sophos. There is some good anti-spam open source stuff; anti-virus is the advantage of a vendor because they watch this stuff and develop the DAT files quickly. We did uncover what is causing our problem with small device support with email. It is the dot versus slash problem: we use dots, they use slashes.

Mailing list management is being led by Heather.

Heather Flanagan says currently looking of Mailman and Sympa. Both are open source, Sympa has more user tools, but is worse to manage on the backend. Mailman has local support, which is nice. We hope to have a pilot so we can show people what it looks like to use.

Michael Gettes says the next version of IMP version four came our for webmail support. It has shared folder support, caching and performance improvements that won't only make webmail snappier but will impact the IMAP server itself. We want to take a good look at if it's ready for primetime. LDAP based routing, we haven't gotten there yet, but we'd like to.

We're closing in on support for large quotas (1GB, 10GB). Whatever we choose, what happens when a whole bunch of people want it? An interesting case is the University of Minnesota . Their profile looks much like ours, and they have a large quota. So do we go ahead and do it? We're trying to understand how people at Duke use email. We're trying to understand how quota is used within the health system. It warns, but doesn't really enforce quotas. One of our interesting challenges is how to really efficiently back it up and be cost effective. “Secure Mail” is not quite ready, but with IMP-4 out it's an interesting way to deliver secure mail requirements. We're also looking at a “HIPAA-potomized” mail system.

Robert Wolpert asks why are we so concerned about space when we're only using a terabyte?

Michael Gettes says within that terabyte, there are somewhere around 60 million files. That presents operational challenges in and of itself: how do you back up those files? It's not just about the raw space, it's about operationally managing it. Heather's presentation illuminates an area we wish to improve upon, to get better reporting and trending support. The information should be readily there. I don't see this as a service enhancement; we would like DukeMail to be as good as a dial-tone.

George Oberlander says all his folks are on Notes, and they have found that there is no correlation between the number of messages and size of email; the largest hogs are those with few emails and huge attachments.

VI. Status of MacOS: Tiger - Michael Gettes

Michael Gettes says Jeff Abbott, from the OIT Systems group, is also here. While there are a number of items in Tiger that no longer work and need updating, compared to WinXP service pack two, this distribution was a walk in the park. For distribution at Duke, it was released at 6:01am, April 29, 2005. It was 2.8GB (two files) in DVD format. Total downloads: 315, 85 during the first weekend.

Known issues: the kernel driver layer has been redesigned, and the most well-known issue is the Cisco VPN client. Open AFS is being worked on, and this is a serious issue for Duke. There are also issues with Norton Antivirus 9, Adobe Creative Suite, Carbon Copy Cloner to make copies of systems, and Apple remote desktop.

Cool stuff: Mail.app version two is pretty decent. It has a searching capability I wish the other mail clients had. It has smart folders and mailboxes, and the spotlight is quite nice. The dashboard environment lets you go nuts. There is Xgrid support in Tiger clients.

Jeff Abbott says this would effectively turn all computers in our public clusters into a potential supercomputing cluster.

Michael Gettes says Spotlight is one of the long-awaited features. It is the ability to search for anything on the desktop like you would Google the net. It is a fairly simple interface. Some say that it's too simple, some say that it isn't very accurate. My problem is that the trash folder in Mail.app is not indexed. Also, it does slow things down a little bit as everything is going to be indexed.

In other issues, there are some system crashes. We note that because system crashes are rare for OS 10. Virtual PC networking doesn't work. Login/logout Hook is not working, but Tiger now has LaunchD which may be far more interesting.

Items already fixed include NetRestore, which was also an issue for our labs. Most applicationss are working fine, and most users won't experience problems, but our lab support needs investigation.

Guven Guzeldere asks if they are ready to upgrade regular users in various departments?

Mike Pickett says it varies by department.

Michael Gettes says in general, if look at this presentation to get idea of whether problems affect you, the people who support you can look at how you work and decide if it will affect you, and that's how they should decide whether or not you should upgrade.

Jeff Abbott says his problems with upgrading were very few, and none of them affected his work. If you do upgrade, backup all your files, if you can, on another machine.

Ginny Cake says they also have an active list of Mac users talking about this and sharing information.

VII. Other Business


End time : 5:31 p.m.