Duke ITAC - March 4, 2006 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - March 4, 2006 Minutes


March 4, 2006

Members present : John Board, Shailesh Chandrasekharan, Tammy Closs, Dick Danner represented by Ken Hirsh, Nevin Fouts, Tracy Futhey, Christopher Gelpi, Michael Gettes, Daron Gunn, Paul Harrod, Deborah Jakubs, David Jarmul, Kyle Johnson, Roger Loyd, Gregory McCarthy, Joseph Meyerowitz, Bob Newlin, George Oberlander, Mike Pickett, Dalene Stangl, Molly Tamarkin, Alfred Trozzo, George Turner III, Tom Wall, Robert Wolpert

Guests: Debbie DeYulia, OIT; Kevin Davis, OIT: John Harer, CSEM; John Pormann, CSEM; Bill Rankin, CSEM

Start time : 4:03 PM


I. Review of Minutes and Announcements:

  • None

II. Provost Peter Lange – Discussion

Peter Lange says we are in the phase now of strategic planning where we are receiving the second drafts of every school plan, first or second drafts of every initiative or working group, and trying to knit them into a budget. There is a massive matrix, as you know; one of the ways we think about putting our funding is where the intersections in the matrix occur. Our intention is to have the full university plan completed in first draft in about 2 ½ to 3 weeks. By the 10th of April we plan to have all of the pieces assembled. In April we will be starting to talk to the board about how we are going to fund the plan, and the draft funding proposal will go to the board in may, at which time it is our anticipation that they will generically sign off on the plan with the final word in place in October. We have not yet received an IT plan, but we have put a placeholder in for IT as we did with the last plan. It’s too fast moving an environment to plan for except basic infrastructure. We’re anticipating an IT pool against which different IT initiatives will be able to draw under ITAC’s leadership over the next five years.

If you asked me what are the things that have come up, I think I would highlight three. One is classrooms, classrooms, classrooms. That is actually an interesting issue because it doesn’t lay out the same way across every school or every division of a school. What scientists want in a classroom is not the same thing that humanities professors want. The faculty climate survey showed that discontent with classrooms was one of the highest areas of dissatisfaction. We are expecting to address at least a significant piece of classroom technology issues through investments in “learning centers” or complexes of classrooms that would probably have staffing attached. There will certainly be one on Central Campus, probably one on West, and there is also some work around Lilly Library as we move things from there to library service center.

The second significant area is what I would call the software around the hardware of IT: web designers and the need for more technology staff. Almost all of our staff, some dramatically so, feel understaffed in their ability to deliver services. It’s not really research computing and it is not just teaching computing, it’s somewhere in between. We have to think very carefully about how we’re going to address this issue. I’m not really interested in creating seven full-time paid positions that are only ¾ engaged because their services can’t be distributed. We have to be careful not to overstaff.

The last issue is research computing. We have a core of initiatives pretty intensively research-computing oriented. We will have to service those, and to the extent we can create shared or core facilities we will do so. There are some instances just won’t be able to do so.

John Board says Owen Astrachan asked a question, though he couldn’t be there today: Current numbers suggest 95% of students at Duke have computers, which means there are 5% we don’t know about. What information do we have on these 300 or so students?

Peter Lange says it’s a very good question, but I don’t have an answer. The best thing would be to survey/sample students to find out. I’m not even sure if I believe the number; I don’t even know how that number is derived.

John Board says in the various IT planning committees, one take on the symptom in classrooms is faculty are beginning to have expectations that certain technology will be available in a classroom. People get assigned at almost random buildings to teach. The non-Duke way to sole this problem is the central classroom authority: we’re probably not going to run that way. In an issue with cross-school divisions, how can we get some sanity?

Peter Lange says there are two different issues here, one is state of classrooms and the other is assignment of professors to specific classrooms. In our decentralized budget system, the responsibility of classrooms is on the schools. The “solution” would be for OIT or someone else to create a minimum standards to the deans, or for us to put into strategic planning to pay to reach a basic level. The registrar does try to assign undergraduate courses to classrooms commensurate with what a professor says he/she needs for a course. We also get anecdotal stories that classes are supposed to have x, and x isn’t working or isn’t there. I think the better approach would be to come up with a proposal for a minimum standard and then try to get the deans to buy into that, over some period of time.

John Board asks with the success of the DDI projects that we’ve had to date, have these things been so successful that we see building in perpetual support for this class of device, or eventually become something with no central support?

Peter Lange says I don’t know, for a while we will keep going with central support. It’s obviously been something that is very good, very consistent with what we’re trying to do. It’s difficult to work this kind of thing into budgets of schools, so that means we have to fund it centrally.

John Board asks are there any applications that have surprised you, or surprised by not being there?

Peter Lange says I don’t follow this to the detail. We had an interesting discussion about the library about how long Blackboard materials should be saved. There is an argument to be made that after two years we shouldn’t save them at all. The second argument is that aside from being a resource for faculty, saving materials is good for historical preservation. If we’re going to have long-term storage we need to think of as monetary issue.

Molly Tamarkin says I wanted to voice my support for any central provisioning of central classrooms or web services. Looking at our budget now, 1/3 of our budget going toward that, and it’s holding us back from pursuing innovative things.

Mike Pickett says in reference to Central Campus planning and how it relates to technology: I was on one of committees brainstorming themes for Central Campus. Is there anything you have seen so far that might have implications for technology infrastructure?

Peter Lange says the units currently expected to go on central are the Franklin Center; all languages, literatures, and culture departments; art and art history; all international study centers; the Center for Documentary Studies; and the film and video program. If there is a programmatic overlay to that, one of them is what would be called “visual studies” or “visual culture”. It’s anticipated that there will be a library outpost on Central, from the standpoint of what’s there will be mostly focused around visual culture/studies.

III. Computation Science, Engineering & Medicine (CSEM) update and planning - John Harer

John Harer syas CSEM stands for Computation Science, Engineering & Medicine. When CSEM was created there was a ubiquitous need in research efforts for computing. I took over the leadership and initially focused on trying to encourage people to do more serious research in computing. We started off helping people figure out how to use clusters. When Tracy Futhey showed up she started the idea of a shared cluster resource. Now we have 200 nodes and 75+ users located in the North Building.

We’re concerned about the people who don’t have the resources to have 100 nodes on their own. The model is the user buys the nodes, and we do everything else. Another thing we do is the Visual Technology Group headed by Rachel Brady. An area we’ve been trying to develop is the database area, trying to manage large data sets. We also have a variety of workshops where we try to teach people about parallel computing. We’re on a variety of different grants and hold different topical seminars. It’s an interesting unit that tries to do service, teaching, and research. The support side is the most visible, but the other two are what make it fun for us. Strategic planning has focused on variety of things. One issue we identified: how do you stay ahead of the curve? We’ve done pretty well with cluster computing. A lot of leadership has to come from OIT and ITAC; we also need more Jeff Chases, people who are experts in cluster computing, whose research are really about that. We try to be a repository for campus expertise and do outreach, but we really need to do more.

The last thing I should mention is education. The center is working with Bob Thompson to develop an undergraduate certificate; the other idea is to have modular courses. In our case the focus would be based on the fact that a lot of faculty want graduate students to have particular skills but can’t teach the course every year. We’re exploring with CIT if we could create modular courses; beyond that, we want to continue to grow our workshop. I think a lot of people don’t know we exist and what we offer, and we’re working on that.

Robert Wolpert say it may be helpful to remember that we had a mainframe in 70’s, and through a process students and investigators got access, but there was no one in that facility to help you with problems that come up. I don’t think it’s reasonable to think someone is going to be there to hold your hand.

Michael Gettes asks can you predict what the 2 and 4 year capacity will be and how many nodes you expect to have?

John Harer says we run those numbers all the time, and it changes all the time. It’s hard to give you an actual number, but we’d guess we’ll reach capacity, say, next summer. If people with resources for a large numbers of nodes come on, then the rate increases a great deal.

IV. Computer labs annual refresh plan - George Ward, Kevin Davis

George Ward says this year there are only 50 systems to upgrade; last year it was 100 Linux systems. We have urgent needs in residential labs: those machines are four years old and need to be upgraded. We’d like to dip into the pool of older Mac G5s for these labs and hold off on the multimedia project labs.

Kevin Davis says we had hoped to do a complete replacement and get the latest/greatest new equipment. We will do small upgrade of the East Campus media lab, which has some of slowest machines.

John Board says I like the proposal a lot. The only technical issue I have is that there is only 1 Gig on the Macs. Is 2 GB not an option?

Kevin Davis says for the media lab we’re actually going to add 3 more GB of RAM. The 2 Gigs on the Windows side is really looking at Vista.

Robert Wolpert asks are the proposed Windows machines dual core processors?

Kevin Davis says we did consider dual core processors, but performance would not be very good under XP and for the extra money we didn’t think the trade off was work it. We did give some consideration to using two CPUs. That has been successful on the Linux end, thought it has heat issues and some labs don’t have the greatest air conditioning.

Michael Gettes says there is also some concern on how licensing will change on multiple core machines.

John Board asks is anyone in your group doing ivsta beta work and seeing how the standard Duke suite does?

George Ward says Robbie Foust does our imaging, and we’re trying to see if we can round one up for him.

V. Organization structure: Academic Systems and Technology Support (ASTS) - Julian Lombardi

Julian Lombardi says I’ve been here about 3 months, and one could argue that has given me enough time to recognize where some organizational changes should occur, and some would says that it doesn’t. So, I developed an organization structure for ASTS that aligns more accurately to needs. This should be considered a point in a continuous process of organizational tinkering that we will undergo over next year or so to continue to align those services. The chart you see here has absorbed everyone previously in ASTS. Let me point out several features of the reorganization. All the way to left you see that before there was no directorate: we had senior managers reporting directly to the AVP. Now there are two directorates, one for Technology support and one for Academic Technology. For Technology Support the directorate is the promotion of Debbie Deyulia. For the others there was some shuffling because of legacy issues aligned under the Help Desk,

John Board asks what are enterprise services and support?

Julian Lombardi says this provides support for departments that have needs to maintain machines, laptops, etc.

There are some reasons for aligning things this way, which has to do with converging based on devices. Academic Technology: this is a directorate for which we will be conducting a national search. It contains within it Student Technology Services, formally known as Academic Technologies, which is Kevin Davis’ group. It remains the same internally, there’s just a change in name. Interactive Technology Development services is a new group and is designed to be a home for integration issues that come with web development or a concern that faces the user. These are all groups that are structured because of a reporting relationship for a human resources reason. The idea is to develop a matrix organization where people are performing functions as part of interdisciplinary teams facing problems coming forward.

The Digital Media Solutions group is led by Tim Poe and is dealing with video conferencing, etc. Relevant to the other discussion is the notion of a research computing group. What you see is a placeholder: I don’t’ know what that’s going to be. We do need someone to determine what the nature of that is going to be in a broad sense. For the next year, the goal is to identify one or more people to work with to help define what this organization might best look like in subsequent years. We might address issues like training and forming appropriate networks with units on campus to provide movement.

You’ll also notice News and Information is the same, Dave Menzies reports directly to me. You will notice there are two dotted line reports. One is the directorship help by Molly [Tamarkin] that provides for interaction at the appropriate level for Arts & Sciences within OIT and also involves being a director in decision making processes. We also have the Nicholas School, which also at this time is looking like a 50% reporting relationship. These relationships are primarily to inform those that are the reports, informing them of what OIT has to offer so appropriate decisions can be made at the IT unit level.

Kyle Johnson says if I’m counting right, I see 17-18 open positions. How long will it take to fill this out?

Julian Lombardi says we’re on the path of filling the organization out. Once we’ve identified the leadership, we’ll look at filling the front lines positions. The idea is to allow for the director to have a say in how the organization is staffed.

Nevin Fouts asks is Stephen Sopp in a new role? Will he no longer be doing site licensing?

Julian Lombardi says yes, we’re exploring the option of site licensing as a business roll. There is an indication of how want to go, but we don’t have that group set up yet. Over the next 4 or 5 months we’re working on the transition of getting that service.

Roger Loyd asks and what about the rest of the university? The plan in Divinity is to expand our use of technology. I find it interesting the idea of a collaboration of schools with OIT.

Robert Wolpert says in other words, there is room for more blue boxes.

George Obelander says can you describe the difference between the responsibilities of News and Information and the web functions?

Julian Lombardi says think of people who write prose and design art versus people who are coding for end users.

VI. Other Business


End time : 5:32 PM