Duke ITAC - May 27, 2010 Minutes

Duke ITAC - May 27, 2010 Minutes

ITAC Meeting Minutes
May 27, 2010, 4:00-5:30
Allen Board Room
  • Announcements and Meeting Minutes
  • VoIP Migration Update (Angel Wingate, Bob Johnson)
  • CSG Update (Tracy Futhey, Kevin Davis)
  • Service Classification Effort (Billy Herndon, Kevin Davis)
  • The Link Update – Two Years In (Debbie DeYulia, Ed Gomes)

Announcements and Meeting Minutes    

Terry Oas called the meeting to order at 4:04 pm.  Noting no objections to minutes from the 4/29 meeting, he then opened the floor for announcements.

Tracy Futhey discussed some organizational changes mentioned in Duke Today.   The DukeCard Office, Auxiliary Systems, and Duke Postal Operations will now be reporting to OIT.  These groups provide services that have traditionally required intricate connections between IDMS and other enterprise data systems, and OIT looks forward to the enhanced collaboration that will be made possible through this reorganization.  Tracy named Angel Wingate, Chris Meyer, and Amy Brooks among OIT leaders assuming new responsibilities in this move, and indicated that more reports on these changes would be forthcoming.

Debbie DeYulia announced a new group of Exchange migrations.  The migration went well, but an issue was found that required two groups to be temporarily routed back to DukeMail.  Debbie’s team is now working on support and delegate access for these groups to get them back up and running with Exchange.

VoIP Migration Update (Angel Wingate, Bob Johnson)

Bob Johnson started the segment with a general status on the VoIP migration.  According to Bob, the project is 53 percent complete, with all campus-related departments switched over. Health systems migrations are at 30% overall, the original schedule having been delayed due to network upgrade work and additional emergency phone requests which are now complete. The communications center and campus police will be migrated toward the end of the project due to dual DUHS/campus support role.  Meanwhile, the VoIP migration team is regrouping and strategizing to compensate for earlier delays and get back on track.

Lessons learned thus far, according to Bob, include detailed advance planning (establishing routine maintenance windows before implementation, requesting a third-party network design and project plan assessment, instituting a solid change management process, and establishing departmental contacts and role expectations early in the process), as well as comprehensive support before and after the migration, such as having multiple project communication vehicles as well as visible executive support for standards and policy.  If there’s anything they’ve learned, says Bob, it’s that solid support on day two is as critical as a successful initial implementation.
Bob says that consistency across migrations allows for a “cookie cutter” approach, ensuring better ongoing support and credibility with the user base.  All in all, he feels the project is going very well.

He then opened the floor to questions.  Tracy Futhey asked how this project will reduce costs to Duke.  Bob responded that early retirement packages offered this year have scattered data for the Return on Investment analysis, but that we were on track to recuperate costs for this initiative within 24 months.  He would like to collect more historical information and come back in the July timeframe to provide more detailed reflection on the extent to which this initiative will save money for Duke.

Terry Oas inquired as to VoIP phone features that may be interesting or useful to those faculty and staff still waiting on this switch.  Bob compared the functionality of VoIP phones to what we have come to expect from mobile phones, such as the ability to pull up missed calls.  Power users are pleased with these changes, he says.  Additionally, VoIP phones are completely portable – an employee can take his or her phone to a new office location without needing to arrange any sort of formal transfer.

Angel Wingate asked Bob to speak a little about the soft phone implementation.  Bob mentioned that there are only about 200 soft phones in circulation, the major problem being that people prefer not to wear headsets.  Terry asked if a wireless VoIP handset was available; Bob said that such handsets are available and he could pass one along for testing.

Another question was asked about changing analog phone sets to VoIP phones, as these have not been replaced.  Tracy said this would be a question to look at after the migrations currently underway were complete and it was time to look at the remaining 20% or so of users.

Angel wrapped up the discussion by acknowledging Bob’s efforts in pulling the VoIP implementation team together despite challenges such as staff changes.

CSG Update (Tracy Futhey, Kevin Davis)

The Common Solutions Group is a consortium of top-tier research universities that meets three times a year to discuss common services, though Duke has scaled back to participating in this forum only twice a year in order to reduce expenses.  Having recently returned from Georgetown to attend a CSG session, Tracy Futhey and Kevin Davis were asked to present what they had learned.

One of the topics covered at the Georgetown CSG meeting was research computing, a talk that Tracy said differed from many CSG workshops in being less technical and more oriented toward strategies for funding such programs.  Tracy believes that Duke is on par with peer universities with regard to funding research computing, but mentioned that Julian Lombardi and Jim Siedow recently attended an NSF workshop on the same topic and would be calling on them for their insight into the situation later in the meeting.

The second workshop Tracy attended pertained to strategies for data storage.  While the CSG participants all recognized that common storage is allowing universities to drive down costs, a model proposed by Princeton’s Serge Goldstein particularly intrigued Tracy.  Goldstein asserts that we are entering an age wherein the expense of tracking and charging for storage may outweigh the cost of storing data forever.  Assuming a 20% yearly decline in hardware costs and a 4-year cycle for refreshing storage, Goldstein calculates that theoretically, a university could charge users twice their current storage costs as a one-time investment and the extra money could be saved to finance continued hardware purchases.  Though Tracy isn’t sure that this is an immediate direction for Duke, she feels it should be considered and evaluated as a possible future storage strategy.

Tracy then called on Kevin to recapitulate a CSG workshop on service management.  Kevin felt that Duke’s response to a CSG survey regarding service management was very in line with that of peer universities.  He observed a lot of interest in brokering services for customers and user groups, and noted sensitivity to campus culture was key in developing effective service management.  Also prevalent were discussions surrounding processes for maintaining and decommissioning services with the same diligence with which the services are established. 

Tracy then discussed three CSG policy sessions, including one she led on shared services.  Tracy reported to the group on a model/template RFP in development between a group of universities with the hope that negotiating with vendors as a group would be to the benefit of all involved. She plans to discuss more about this initiative toward the end of the summer.

Julian Lombardi was asked to discuss the NSF workshop he recently attended to discuss support for research computing.  Julian explained existing funding models as well as new models that could allow us to move away from dependency on physical machines in favor of a more abstracted approach.  Julian believes that we are in a good position to take advantage of emerging funding models, as Duke has already incorporated most of the ideas suggested.

In terms of lessons learned, Julian said it was evident in the workshop that very few institutions are tracking any real metrics for success and suggests that we should work collectively on understanding the true costs of research computing in order to make better decisions moving forward.

Tracy and Terry thanked Julian for his input, and indicated that they would be interested in reserving some time in the mid- to late fall to hear him, Jim Siedow, and Alvy Lebeck discuss this problem in more detail.

Service Classification Effort (Billy Herndon, Kevin Davis)                     

Billy Herndon introduced the service classification effort as having started in late 2009 under Klara Jelinkova, and now overseen by Kevin Davis, who has made significant advancements in this initiative.  

Kevin described service classification as a differentiation between infrastructure and services that helps us prioritize resources and design/recover services appropriately.  Although some services are clearly more vital to university function than others (e.g., broadcast emergency services vs. personal services), explained Kevin, there is a lot of gray area in the middle that this effort seeks to tackle.

Kevin explained that services are being identified as belonging to one of four classifications: essential (directly in support of life or safety, such as paging and emergency communications), critical (vital to operations, such as mail or SAP), sensitive (used for daily university function, such as enterprise applications, e-Learning), and tolerant (non-critical services such as the survey system or personal websites).  He then showed a chart indicating OIT policies for support for services in each classification, noting that in the event of a major IT outage, response times may be affected.

Kevin explained that the service classification is useful in linking infrastructure back to what service it supports, triage of alarms/service events, outage communication and guidelines, change/maintenance planning, and evaluation of service design and redundancy.  OIT is retroactively assigning service classifications to existing services and encouraging project teams to consider service expectations in the implementation of new products and services.  In order to communicate service classifications, plans are in the works for a service catalog to list OIT services.

Billy commented that it hasn’t been easy to determine the prioritization for sensitive services, and so OIT is working on an overlay to make sure that some sensitive services are given priority during peak use times to give appropriate attention to services, such as registration and giving, that are more critical at some times of the year than others.

Kevin outlined next steps in this effort as sharing classification information, completing a key dates assessment and design-classification review, committing to an ongoing annual classification review, and continuing to integrate the service model and classifications into OIT activities.

The Link Update – Two Years In (Debbie DeYulia, Ed Gomes)

Debbie started by showing information for the service desk walkup rates for the last three years.  Technology Advantage Program (or TAP, a program through which Duke offers computers with comprehensive 4-year warranties) computer servicing is down a little this year.  Service desk walkups are most frequently attributed to laptop failure (usually associated with a failed hard drive), ePrint and OS questions, Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) circulations, and wireless connectivity problems.  She then shared survey responses that indicated that customer satisfaction was high in courtesy, skills and knowledge, timeliness, quality, and overall.  The most common complaints were related to DDI fines.

Debbie then turned the discussion over to Ed Gomes, who discussed semester-long courses in The Link.  Spring semester 2010 saw 105 courses, and so far, 19 are planned for summer courses.

According to Ed, videoconferencing support improved this year with fewer problems and improved workflow relating to requests.  The staff at The Link added two HD codecs in July 2009 to expend capacity, and have been responding to more ad-hoc requests for videoconferencing support.  With regard to lecture recording, very few issues have been reported and those that have been have largely been tied to user error in preparation.  Audio and video routing capability was upgraded in July, and several cameras have been re-positioned in order to improve recording quality.

Regarding the Duke Digital Initiative, Ed says that camera loans have increased considerably, with Flip camera loans increasing 58% from spring 2009 to spring 2010.  Usage of HD video kits increased tenfold in the same time period, and usage of web cameras has more than doubled.  This equipment is used for class projects as well as independent creative projects, both of which are encouraged by the DDI.

Ed noted that The Link has experienced a few equipment challenges in the last two years.  Classroom 2 has seen repeated damage to the door locking mechanism, and as a result, his team has had to change some features of the door lock to reduce likelihood of future damage.  Classroom six has needed some table and computer mount replacement as well as experiencing a few documented instances of vandalism toward the end of spring 2010 including damage to chair arms and a broken table leg.

A recent review of current policies has prompted changes that Ed believes could potentially impact the service model.  Most notably, group study room policies changed between the fall and spring semesters with a switch to a response time of one business day.  This change has made it easier for staff to handle the level of requests, and there has been no reduction of use.

Ed mentioned visitors to The Link this year, which include Johns Hopkins University, Penn State University, attendees to Project Kaleidoscope (many schools represented), Davidson College, Auburn University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.  The facility was a big hit during Blue Devil Days, and Ed mentioned that feedback from student tours has been uniformly positive.