Duke ITAC - February 12, 2009 Minutes

Duke ITAC - February 12, 2009 Minutes

ITAC Agenda
February 12, 2009 4:00-5:30
Allen Board Room

  • Announcements & Meeting Minutes
  • Perspectives on IT: Michael Schoenfeld
  • Data Center Updates (Angel Wingate, Carl McMillon)
  • Acceptable Use Policy (Rob Adams, Henry Cuthbert, Klara Jelinkova)
  • Introduction of new Director of Academic Services (Samantha Earp, Julian Lombardi)

Announcements & Meeting Minutes

Terry Oas opened by asking ITAC members present at the January 29, 2009 meeting if they had comments on the minutes. Noting no objections, Terry accepted the minutes and stated that they would be posted on the ITAC web site.

Kevin Davis announced that the February 26, 2009 meeting would be held in the RENCI center.
Kevin also mentioned that the Provost’s scheduled appearance at that meeting has been postponed to April 9, 2009.

Perspectives on IT: Michael Schoenfeld

Terry introduced Michael Schoenfeld, Duke University’s new Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations. Mike S. expressed his appreciation for being invited to speak with ITAC.  Mike stated that in his first seven months he has been aware of ITAC’s deliberations via updates from David Jarmul and his regular communications with Tracy.  Mike talked about some of his interest in technology, specifically as it applies to communication.   Over the last fifteen years, Mike noted he has worked to develop and apply technology in his previous capacities. Prior to arriving at Duke, Mike worked at Vanderbilt in a similar capacity to his role at Duke and worked to make Vanderbilt a leader in the area of technology in the use of communication, noting that Vanderbilt pursued specific technologies such as online video and web applications. Prior to that he worked with the Communication for Public Broadcasting in Washington, DC.  In that function, Mike piloted some efforts around the emerging WWW as well as collaboration with the MIT Media Lab.  This exposure to the Media Lab’s projects sparked his interest in information technology.  Specifically, Mike noted he has long been a supporter of the intersection of technology and communication.

Mike opened his discussion with ideas on Duke University’s online presence and web strategy as it pertains to branding.  Mike observed the challenge of having a single coherent online strategy across all units of a decentralized entity like a university.  Duke has a complex mix of online services, activities, and applications, he continued, presenting “a million front doors” into the university.  How do parents, researchers, students, and alumni access information from, and interact with, Duke University? 

These online experiences help to shape the different constituents’ perceptions of Duke, Mike said. Over time, Duke should be able to present the whole spectrum of information available from Duke through any type of device or medium, Mike noted; one implication of this approach is that not every part of Duke should necessarily have the same experience as every part of Duke.

Mike stressed that the specifics on how this happens should be approached with flexibility; clearly, not everything that occurs should look like, or be presented like every other thing at Duke. Mike described his role is to work with faculty, ITAC, OIT, and individual units to help craft the overall experience.  This is not the same as having everything look the same.  Having a unified, singular appearance would be challenging and potentially ineffective. 

Rather than a rigid style guide enforcing what everything must look like, Duke should adopt some standards or guidelines for sites to work within, Mike said.  Web sites should ideally reflect a connection to Duke University but not specifically one look. Mike’s group hopes to facilitate the discussion around what this “umbrella” would look like.  For example, how does Duke create a visual scheme or identity that is flexible enough for internal groups but unambiguously reflects to viewers that they are on a site affiliated with Duke University.  Mike continued that he did not have all the answers, but he hoped to work with groups on campus to help define these parameters.  The next steps would be to come up with these high level views and then how to implement these guidelines while best utilizing the current resources.

Robert Wolpert encouraged Mike to visit peer institutions’ websites to judge the effectiveness of their experiences in developing visual branding on the web.  Robert raised concerns about sites that look uniform, but content owners cease to use them.  The sites may look appealing, however, they are no longer functional.  Mike S. concurred with that concern and stated that the last thing Duke wants are “dead web sites”.  He added that his office would not look to go through a massive, central branding exercise.  Mike stated that he hoped to reach something between that and Duke’s current environment. 

John Board added that faculty seem fairly satisfied with the current environment.  Specifically, faculty and departments are concerned about their branding within their field. John was concerned about the challenge of reconciling that with a larger central effort.  Mike responded that he understands the concern; moreover, the opportunity is how to preserve, grow and sustain that will still recognize that there exist some campus units who want more guidance.  Duke must enable this flexibility to allow creativity.

Dave Richardson followed up that faculty have some questions about the uniformity of support and maintenance for dynamic or database-driven web sites; he noted a lack of overall infrastructure support by Duke for this, such as sites that die when a department loses the funding to maintain them. He continued that faculty recognize that web sites are a face of Duke and that identifying sites with Duke are positive, but that faculty and staff also want to have the resources to maintain these local value-added sites.  Mike noted that Dave raised a good point about resources and ensuring that we keep important initiatives alive. 

Mike S. described the work with Tracy to take advantage and become a leader of online applications – from mapping to mobile services.  Throughout the institution, there are many efforts in this space. Mike said that he has a web communicators meeting upcoming where mapping applications are on the agenda. Some of the items that his office will work on include location-based services and mobile application support.  Specifically, he noted that delivering information to mobile devices is critical to Duke’s future. Mike’s office would like to draft guidelines so internal groups could provide rich information for Duke visitors, such as creating a very robust mapping application, for example, linking the Events calendar to geographic locations.

An ITAC member asked about the methodology for determining the effectiveness of an application; how would Mike gauge whether something is worthy of supporting.  Mike stated that one measure is whether customers actually use it.  Another consideration Mike added was whether the content is provided in the most effective.  He added that he would look to capitalize on the experience and insight of ITAC and faculty to help gauge the effectiveness of these approaches.  On another level, is it contributing to Duke’s overall mission?  Are these efforts advancing education, research, and academic effort?  Admittedly, these final aspects are difficult to measure, Mike said, but are something to aspire to.

An ITAC attendee asked how Mike would incorporate student input throughout this process.  Mike said that his office would look to use existing channels as well as some other possibilities.  Mike responded that major efforts would clearly include other groups on campus and take advantage of those existing channels.  Student input is essential to keep the iterative process going, he continued.

Mike S. discussed the pending redesign of the main Duke University home page, an effort he noted faced immense challenges. Over the last three years, there has been a lot of discussion around overall web site architecture, Mike said.  He described some recent discussions among peer research institutions around their web site architecture, noting that many premiere research institutions have coalesced around some basic themes.
Robert Wolpert asked what some trends over the last five years have been.  Mike responded that they generally have the following:
•    quick access to institution info
•    information for students – both graduate and undergraduate
•    links to health care – if applicable
•    links to athletics
•    library
•    research
•    links to admissions info

Mike said that what has evolved has been the functional delivery of that information.  For example, the Duke home page redesign of three years ago predated online video.  Online video is much more prevalent than it was three years ago.  Mike said that his office aims to present the information in the most intuitive ways and take advantage of great applications, such as online video.  This process will have numerous opportunities for individuals and groups to be able to be involved in the development process.  His office wants this to be an open and transparent process to ensure groups have the opportunity to become involved.

Terry asked if Mike’s group owned the Event Calendar.  David Jarmul and Tracy responded that Deb Johnson is responsible for the look and feel.  Mike S. expounded that his staff adds content and can serve in an editorial capacity.  Terry said that he had made some specific suggestions about the event calendar, including some specific feedback regarding changes to the event calendar to improve its usefulness, for example, keeping track of scientific seminars.  Terry noted a two-fold issue, impacting both the ease with which people can add seminar-specific content and the seminar attendees not using the calendar to find the content.  Citing this example, Terry expressed concern that the system for obtaining feedback from users may not work as hoped.  Terry stressed the desire to ensure that the event calendar feedback process, and other feedback mechanisms in general, are effective. 

Ginny Cake added that the last event calendar steering committee discussed some of Terry’s concerns.  The group, including Deb Johnson, is examining the technical challenges with addressing some of the feedback, Ginny noted.  She described some of the specifics issues regarding the scientific seminar suggestion.  Terry clarified that the issue is not the Event Calendar per se, but the process for getting successful feedback.  Terry continued that his goal was to highlight the potential effectiveness of this application. Robert Wolpert echoed this point.

Bryan Fleming said that much of what the discussions focus on is the feature set.  The issue is not just the feedback loop, but also the mechanism for making decisions based on any feedback.  Bryan continued that an application’s usefulness is more important than the number of features it has. 

David J. contributed that by a variety of metrics – number of events, number of users – event calendar adoption is increasing.  Robert W. raised a concern that if the academic community finds the event calendar has not met their needs, they will abandon its use.  Mike S. said that these innovations cannot be viewed as static.  We have the ability to make changes to improve these systems.

Data Center Updates

Angel Wingate stated that the campus has for some time had data centers in the North Building and the Bell Building. Several years ago, a process began to make decisions about the next generation data center to address the capacity concerns of the extant data centers.  This was coupled with the hospital’s construction plans for the Bell Building land space.  Duke now has a tier three facility in Fitzpatrick.  This center is referred to as Fitz East.  Phase one construction in Fitz East ended last summer, with phase two construction currently underway.

Carl McMillon informed the committee that Fitz East is a 5000 square foot facility today.  (4000 sq. ft. is raised floor space for hosting infrastructure and 1000 sq. ft. supports the power and cooling.) Tier three is a description of the high availability rating for that facility, with the facility having redundant power and redundant cooling for critical applications.  The health system completed their migration on July 26, 2008.  The university completed its migration on December 21, 2008, with all critical university applications now hosted in this environment, including SAP, web hosting, SISS, Identity Management, and many others).

There are 137 racks in the facility with 200TB of storage.  Carl added that this effort is consolidating an original of five data centers to two data centers.  John B. asked how quickly Fitz East Phase one was being filled.  Carl responded that about overall 60% of the Fitz East space is currently utilized, with OIT at ~85% of its space.  Fitz East is only enterprise applications and does not house research computing/HPC, which remains in the North Building. 

Terry asked about a reported power and cooling issue a few months ago.  Carl and Tracy clarified that Fitzpatrick West, a separate departmental data center that had been temporary space for some enterprise systems, did have a power event months ago. Carl said that those systems are now in Fitz East, and that the new data center’s design has greater redundancy in building systems, which both minimizes the risk of outages and allows FMD to perform facilities maintenance without impacting service delivery.

Carl noted that North 154 is over thirty years old but remains the primary failover facility. This space is used collaboratively between the university and the health system.  The North Building facility is not as efficient as we would like, Carl added. 

OIT performed some tests over the holiday break to determine the temperature profile in the North 154 data center.  These tests revealed limited time to react to rising temperature in the event of an air handler issue.  As a result, OIT reconfigured the data center. This project was begun in December in collaboration with FMD, OIT networking, and OIT systems support to move a great deal of material and double the extended run time. 

Terry asked if chilled water went into the North Building.  Carl responded that the data center is still direct expansion cooling.

Carl introduced John Andreala, the Data Center senior manager, who began with OIT in December.  His first day was the first day of the project.  Angel added that the North Building data center was originally designed for mainframes and not what it is currently used for.  She added that DHTS’ mainframe was running in failover mode in North while the new DHTS mainframe is being installed and configured in Fitz East.

Acceptable Use Policy

Klara Jelinkova introduced Henry Cuthbert and Rob Adams.  Kevin Davis distributed copies of the draft acceptable use policy.  Klara stated that ITAC first stated a policy in 1997.  This original policy was originally driven by privacy concerns. Since 1997, several new drivers have emerged, including the presence of legislation like DMCA, HIPAA and e-discovery.  Changes to legislation impacted some of the provisions in the original AUP, Klara noted.  Klara continued that this group wanted to make sure that Duke continued to cover privacy to the extent possible.  Rob A. added that this policy also covers the Duke Medicine, something important to achieve as interdisciplinary studies as people move across the institution.

Klara reviewed some of the changes in the draft policy with the committee.

John B. highlighted that the statement “to protect Duke’s legal interests” is different from the 1997 document.  Henry C. added that the size and scope of the new policy seems to be a good philosophical fit, and that the policy has sufficient flexibility to address current legal statutes and future obligations. 

Alvin Lebeck asked about the wording of the sentence describing loss of data. A discussion ensued over the meaning of that particular sentence. Klara stated that the policy had been geared toward system failure and the loss of data.  Robert W. contributed that maybe the document should be edited to read “loss and exposure” instead of just “loss.” Terry added that if one has information they wish to remain private and secure, it is incumbent on them to ensure its security.

David J. asked what the plan was for communicating the policy once it was approved.  Tracy stated that assuming ITAC approved the draft, the next steps would be to present the document to ECAC and the Academic Council.  OIT would work to communicate the new policy to the university community in conjunction with the Health System.  Klara asked that any further comments be emailed to her directly.  Larry Moneta suggested that the paragraph about password practice should be omitted since it is a practice and not policy.

Bryan F. asked what the student involvement was in crafting the policy.  John B. responded that the draft document has been in authorship mode and that all ITAC members are being engaged at the same time.

Dave R. asked who makes decisions relative to what is in the university interests. Terry responded that this question has been discussed by the ITAC steering committee, but that this is not specifically an IT question.  The policy is an IT implementation of a larger university policy that supersedes it, Terry noted. After some discussion on this topic, Tracy added that though this may not be specifically an IT issue, IT might be a channel to bring the issue to the fore. 

Susan Gerbeth-Jones asked about how this interacts with the Human Resources policy/manual that everyone had to sign.  Susan wanted to know if staff would need to resign the HR policy manual again once the new AUP was approved.  She suggested that the group notify HR of these changes.

Introduction of Samantha Earp (Director, OIT Academic Services)

Julian Lombardi introduced Samantha Earp as the new OIT Director of Academic Services.  He noted that Samantha has over twenty years of academic IT experience and managed the Center for Instructional Technology’s involvement in the DDI project. 

Samantha described the groups that report to her, including Blackwell Interactive, Interactive Technology Services, and software licensing.  In the nine days that she has been with the group, she has heard clearly that people want to define the services offered, wanting to know how they impact the campus, how they engage their customers, and how they get feedback to continue to enhance their service offerings. 

Samantha also noted that she has received numerous questions about data.  Two specific examples are usage of OIT computer labs and an analysis of how faculty find services and use them in their classrooms. Today had marked an extension of the Matlab pilot at no additional cost to schools and departments.  

Terry commented that the Blackwell Interactive group could provide an important function in helping groups design and maintain their content, and he expressed concern about the institution’s use of external vendors for web site needs. Terry asked to what extent the group could provide support for department’s web site needs, and whether Blackwell can scale to meet this burgeoning need on campus. Departments really need advice on how to judiciously spend money for their web site needs, he said. 

Samantha responded that the goal is to be able to meet needs for groups that have a specific project that are able to articulate a need.  Samantha would encourage groups to reach out to Blackwell if they need assistance and guidance.  The current staff size is six members.  Samantha stated that another goal is to have a sustainability plan to be able to have groups increasingly maintain their own sites. 

Alvin L. mentioned that this might not be the right solution for the institution. The central group may design standards, but the scope of support for the institution may be beyond what any centralized group can provide, he added.  Terry clarified his original concern about Blackwell providing guidance to departments about making good decisions, not necessarily doing all of the actual work. 

Julian said that Blackwell could also provide a vendor relationship function. Should the actual workload become to great to meet objectives, Blackwell could outsource some of the components to external groups at very competitive rates. Samantha stated that Blackwell would drive the general guidelines and negotiate favorable rates for groups on campus.

The committee expressed an interest in a future update on Blackwell to delve further into this topic.