Duke ITAC - October 28, 2010 Minutes

Duke ITAC - October 28, 2010 Minutes

ITAC Meeting Minutes
October 28, 2010, 4:00-5:30
RENCI Engagement Center
  • Announcements and Meeting Minutes
  • FARS (Faculty Database) Project Update (Jim Roberts)
  • IT and Energy Efficiency (Steve Palumbo, FMD)
  • Exchange Migration Update (Debbie DeYulia, Mark McCahill, Sanjay Rao)


Announcements and Meeting Minutes

Alvy Lebeck called the meeting to order, asking for any revisions to the previous meeting’s minutes.  Noting none, he opened the floor to announcements.

John Board described some ongoing efforts to track the track and correct slowness in large data transforms across the Duke network.  John encouraged all users to report any instances of markedly improved or diminished network responsiveness in order to better track the problem.

FARS (Faculty Database) Project Update  (Jim Roberts)

Executive Vice Provost Jim Roberts began the presentation by thanking some major contributors to the FARS project:  Faculty Data Systems & Analysis Manager Julia Trimmer, who was unable to co-present due to a conflicting Faculty Data Project commitment, OIT ADS-Web Manager Richard Outten, and Associate University Librarian for Information Technology Molly Tamarkin.

Jim then gave some background to the first phase of the project, which included consolidation of faculty data from FMS, FPS, and SAP into the new Faculty Data Repository.  The project team also rolled out dFac, a faculty appointments system, in the SAP portal.

Having done all this, Jim said that the group is ready to tackle phase two of the project, which will consolidate activities data from FReD and FDS and create a data hub to provide access to data pertaining to activities and appointments, students, courses, and grants. This phase will also include a set of public faculty profiles hosted from a central location, as well as one or more tools for editing these profiles.  According to Jim, a steering committee (organized by Provost Peter Lange, and including Ann Brown from ECAC/Medicine, Roberto Dianoto from APC/Romance Languages, Tracy Futhey from OIT, Alvy Lebeck from Computer Science, Sally Kornbluth from Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Mary Frances Luce from Fuqua, Deborah Jakubs and Molly Tamarkin from Libraries, Paolo Mangiafico and Jim Siedow from the Provost’s Office, Kevin Moore from Arts & Sciences, Phil Morgan from SSRI/Sociology, Mike Schoenfeld from News and Communications, and himself) and a management team (organized by Provost’s Office Project Manager Julia Trimmer, and including OIT Technical Lead Richard Outten, Ed Gomes from Arts & Sciences, Billy Herndon from OIT, Paolo Mangiafico from the Provost’s Office, Paula Morrison from DHTS, Molly Tamarkin from Libraries, Anton Zuiker from Medicine, and himself) have been established to plan and execute this phase of the project.

According to Jim, the current phase of this project has five components.  A needs assessment was conducted by 22 faculty and 40 administrators this spring, followed by a recently completed evaluation of options.  The team is currently focusing on a strategy roadmap, to be followed by a pilot for stakeholders and subsequently, an organizational rollout.  In the current phase, the steering committee and management team are considering ways to create faculty links directly from www.duke.edu that are consistent and maximize faulty benefit while minimizing faculty effort through integration with enterprise systems.

Jim says the group’s vision is to provide well-supported tools useful to faculty; consolidate existing workflows by implementing tools to support grant and annual reporting processes, supplying faculty affiliation information for institutes and centers, and representing faculty activities using public information (to be repurposed for websites, bio-sketches, CVs, etc); make interests and accomplishments of Duke faculty accessible across all schools and institutes; and to provide reliable, cost-effective enterprise technology to support this new system.

Jim then discussed the benefit this system will bring to the following:

  • Faculty Members – the new system will allow faculty members to feature their work on a professional-looking profile page with a clean, easy to cite URL (e.g., faculty.duke.edu/firstname_lastname), keep an online CV or bio-sketch up to date with full text publications linked to citations, share publications broadly and increase their impact, track citations, control public views of the faculty profile page, embed profile feeds into other websites and blogs, and connect with collaborators based on shared interests identified through this system.
  • Students – through this system, students will be able to more easily find faculty with expertise in particular areas, find publications/courses/research by a particular faculty member or research area, and learn about professors’ research and other activities, as well as the activities and capabilities of various campus departments and centers.
  • Academic Administrators – by integrating the new system with enterprise systems and automating updates where possible, academic administrators can count on a more up-to-date repository of faculty information, with which they can keep tabs on faculty activities, indicate affiliations with institutes and centers, identify international activities and expertise, and more easily indentify and promote collaboration.
  • The public – any interested party will be able to find comprehensive, consistent, and up-to-date information about Duke faculty members, as well as find experts on particular subjects and read faculty publications.

Ultimately, Jim said, the new faculty data system will: encompass multiple tools that together can provide the basic functionality already provided by FDS and FReD; populate publication citations from online sources such as PubMed, Scopus, ISI/Web of Science; create web profiles from combined data from various institutional sources; enable (but not require) faculty, delegates, and administrators to edit profiles and configure information displayed; integrate seamlessly with the open access repository; offer an updated, enhanced feature set with an easy-to-use interface, and be embedded in a human support system.

Jim then talked about the technical components involved in this project and the tools evaluated to integrate them.  The outcome of this evaluation was the selection of VIVO, an open-source semantic web application designed to facilitate a national research network.  Julia Trimmer, Richard Outten, and Ed Gomes attended a VIVO conference in August and returned convinced that the technical talent and closely partnered faculty behind the project made VIVO a solid direction for Duke to take.

According to Jim, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded a 45-person development consortium made up of representatives from Washington University, Indiana University, the Scripps Research Institute, Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medical College, and the University of Florida.  This NIH support has helped expand VIVO to the greater audience and address outstanding issues, such as the profile editor, data harvesters, and installation/infrastructure details still in development.

As for VIVO’s use at Duke, Jim says the team is currently considering a library-based support model, due to the fact that the library system is a trusted, neutral entity with a tradition of service and support.  Though there is currently no specific plan for the role the library system may take in the VIVO deployment, Jim says the team is working closely with Molly Tamarkin to explore the possibility.

Jim said that Richard Outten’s technical team has installed VIVO and is currently experimenting with the data loaders and harvesters, and planning for integration with the library system’s Open Access Repository project.  The team is also exploring options for joining REACH-NC and performing usability testing for active collaboration with the VIVO consortium. With these tasks complete, the team will launch a pilot with willing faculty collaborators (including the Department of Medicine, which has already volunteered to participate) prior to considering a wider institutional rollout.  Jim reminded the council that the VIVO project is generating a lot of excitement on campus, the steering committee and project team have not yet declared the project live or requested funding.

Jim then opened the floor to questions.  John Board asked if, as a faculty member, FDS and its successors would still be his portal for accessing and editing appointment and publication information.  Jim responded that many items would be automatically populated moving forward, and that FDS would be decommissioned.  John noted that many departmental websites are managed through FDS, to which Ed Gomes explained that VIVO would replace FDS as the central source for faculty information used to populate these websites, but that the project team would work closely with departments dependent on FDS in order to ensure a smooth transition.  Jim agreed with Ed, saying that various issues have been leading to FDS’ retirement for some time.

Terry Oas commented that a recent look at this FReD profile revealed many entries to be 8 years out of date or more.  Considering how much administrative time could be saved across campus with this new system, Terry was curious to know when the Duke community could expect to have VIVO in place.  Jim responded that the team hopes to have completed some of the proposed pilots by spring of next year, and if those pilots go well, he hopes to have a more formal recommendation at that time of how to move forward with an institutional roll-out.  Terry then asked how long a campus-wide implementation would take once the decision is made to move forward.  Molly Tamarkin offered that VIVO is still in development and the particulars of how certain features are implemented will determine the complexity of VIVO’s deployment as an enterprise service at Duke.

Robert Wolpert commented that the proposed VIVO implementation appears to be an improvement on the current system in many ways, but said that the problem of out-of-date publication and activity information is very widespread and will be difficult to conquer.

Dave Richardson raised some concerns about privacy of faculty information; if such information is being populated automatically, he said, there should be a way for faculty members to control who has access to their data.

Terry Oas said he agreed with all the feedback presented but wanted to call particular attention to the preparation of training grant proposals, a tedious task requiring hundreds of hours collecting data that could easily be populated by a centralized system such as VIVO.  David Richardson said that this was a great example of the kind of information that would be necessary for some individuals but might not be appropriate for all to see.

Joanne Van Tuyl shared that she makes an effort to keep her information in FDS up to date, but found it difficult due to inadequacies in the current system’s format.  Robert Wolpert commented that FDS was originally created for math professors, which can explain why the system is not always perfectly suited to faculty in other departments.  One thing that has made FDS tolerable though, Robert continued, is that Dr. Yu has always been very responsive with FDS support.  He expects that the new system will be larger and have more inertia but be less responsive.

John Board asked about the rationale behind establishing one more faculty departmental profile page, when ostensibly the vast majority of faculty already has at least one such page.  Jim responded that the idea is to make it as easy as possible for both members of the Duke community as well as the general public to search Duke faculty through a single interface.

In closing, Molly Tamarkin commented that VIVO’s power lies in taking feeds from a number of systems and aggregating them in a way that makes related data available to other systems.

IT and Energy Efficiency   (Steve Palumbo, FMD)

Steve Palumbo began by thanking ITAC for inviting him to speak.  

Steve works as the Director of Energy under Facilities Management, where he is in charge of the Energy Systems branch.  This group oversees Duke’s steam, chilled water, and high voltage systems.  The steam system distributes 350°F steam at 125PSI across campus to heat and control humidity in buildings as well as to sterilize instruments for research and medical uses.  This system features two plants and 35 miles of distribution piping across campus.  The chilled water system sends water out at 40°F across campus to cool and control humidity in buildings as well as to remove heat from research and medical equipment; this system features two central plants, six satellite plants, and 14 miles of distribution piping.

As for Duke’s high voltage system, the university purchases 100% of its power from Duke Energy at 12.5KV and distributes it underground across campus to all buildings via over 70 miles of Duke University-owned cables.

Steve then showed graphs of month-to-month electricity use as well as rates for each type of utility.  He then noted that increasing power density is shifting the balance of the cost in data centers; before long, energy costs for these centers is expected to exceed equipment cost.  Next to data centers usage, the biggest energy demand comes from campus HVAC systems.

Steve suggested that IT administrators save money by scheduling big jobs for off-peak hours when energy costs are 41% lower.  Peak periods are between 1pm and 9pm Monday through Friday during the summer, and between 6am and 1pm Monday through Friday during the winter.  Steve also explained that demand charges, based on how much energy a company has to keep available for a customer, are calculated based on your highest 30-minute usage interval during peak hours.  This is another way in which money can be saved by pushing energy usage to off-peak hours when possible.

Another strategy for maximizing energy efficiency at Duke involves heat recovery, or capturing heat generated from data centers and redirecting it where needed.  This requires an available heat sink and a method to transfer heat, but has proven a good option in other university settings, Steve said.  The University of Notre Dame, for example, heats a greenhouse with excess heat generated by their High Performance Computing Department.

Steve said that users are becoming interested in the energy efficiency of their workstations, and as a result, it is easier than ever to purchase energy-efficient machines and configure them to use only what is necessary.  Steve recommends reviewing ENERGY STAR targets, as well as VESPA, EPEAT, TCO, and GREENGUARD standards.  Regarding Duke workstations, one major question is when machines should be configured to enter standby or hibernate mode, as well as when to automatically shut down.  According to Steve, ENERGY STAR power management standards recommend that monitors be set to turn off after 15 minutes of inactivity, and system sleep modes to go into effect after 30 minutes.

A Duke Administrative Reform Team (DART) initiative recently looked into implementing software that would automatically shut down systems to save energy.  At a cost of $5-$10 per client per year, an estimated $40,000/year could be saved in energy expenses.  According to Steve, the DART committee opted not to immediately move forward with the software deploy.

Steve then opened the floor to discussion, leading with a question regarding whether Duke considers ENERGY STAR ratings when selecting computers for sale through the Technology Advantage Program (TAP) or recommend specific power management settings or minimum ENERGY STAR ratings for non-TAP computer purchases.

Alvy Lebeck asked why DART chose not to move forward with the power management software implementation, to which Ed Gomes responded that the team concluded that the same results could be achieved at lower cost by leveraging remote management of operating system settings.

A group discussion followed regarding efforts to cut energy costs at Duke.  Steve mentioned a university goal to reduce energy consumption by 15% by the year 2020, a challenge compounded by growing computer utilization on campus.

Exchange Migration Update  (Debbie DeYulia, Mark McCahill, Sanjay Rao)

Debbie DeYulia began the presentation with an update on groups yet to be migrated to Microsoft Exchange.  Next month, 165 Lotus Notes users from Human Resources are scheduled for migration, to be followed by 177 Notes users in the Police Department, and 6 Notes users from a financial services group.   This will conclude the first round of migrations.

Mark McCahill then discussed new features to be gained by upgrading Duke’s version of Exchange to the 2010 version.  These features include web access for Microsoft Outlook (full support for IE 7+, Firefox 3+, and Safari 3+), improved availability in having the ability to fail over individual mailbox databases, rather than the entire system, in the event of problems, and more efficient use of disk space, between 60-70% lower I/O requirements. According to Mark, the migration from Exchange 2007 to a coexisting Exchange 2007/Exchange 2010 setup should be relatively seamless.

Terry Oas asked if the gains in storage efficiency with Exchange 2010 would allow for larger email storage quotas for users.  Mark said this was a possibility, but said that although Exchange 2010 is capable of higher quotas, the input/output load the database servers can bear may limit the amount by which quotas could be increased.

Mark then demonstrated a web interface for Exchange 2010, highlighting features that are normally only available via desktop applications, such as meeting reminders.

According to Mark, the group is currently engaged in functionality and compatibility testing, as well as validating new storage building blocks.  Mark encouraged anyone interested in joining the test group to contact Laurie Harris.  The group plans a pilot server setup in November and an initial migration of OIT staff in December.  Once these steps are completed and more is known about potential bottlenecks, Mark’s group will commit to a timeline for stepwise college/department migrations, reconfiguring Exchange 2007 servers/storage for Exchange 2010 as these migrations proceed.  

Terry asked for confirmation as to whether graduate students had been moved to Exchange.  Mark replied that the graduate school was not on Exchange, but that any school or individual who would like to be moved only needs to ask.  Terry commented that he would like to be able to share his calendar with graduate students, but is unable to until they are moved to Exchange.  John Board noted that the graduate school has its own IT infrastructure, so OIT should be respectful of what the graduate school IT administrators prefer.

In closing, Tracy Futhey reminded the council of the Common Solutions Group’s Request for Proposal project, in which several vendors of email/calendar/collaboration services have been invited to propose services tailored to a higher educational environment to a group of universities looking for such services.  By Monday, Tracy said, the CSG will have a better idea of whether a suite exists that may be a better option for Duke.