Thursday January 15, 2015

I. Announcements

Tim McGreary – The Edge

·         The Edge, known as the Ruppert Commons for Research, Technology, and Collaboration is located on the first floor of the Bostock Library, and will host the January 29th ITAC meeting in the Workshop Room.  The open house was held on Wednesday January 14th and featured project rooms in action, digital and visualization services, and the digital starship workshop room. 

II. Agenda Items

4:05- 4:15 – Renewed Research Computing, Robert Wolpert, Julian Lombardi, Mark DeLong (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  Meetings were held with various groups on campus to identify use cases and to better understand what these groups were trying to accomplish with technology. We have taken the feedback and suggestions of what faculty asked for and have renewed vision and goals for research computing, as well as a strong financial commitment from the EVP and Provost that includes the School of Medicine.

Why it’s relevant: To provide ITAC with the outcome of those meetings and the direction of research computing.

·         Historical account of Research Computing: Beginning in 2002, a group of faculty decided to develop a shared research computing resource to support researchers here at Duke, forming the Center for Science Engineering and Math (CSEM), and developed a Duke Shared Cluster Resource (DSCR).  In recognition of the shared effort’s value, the Provost’s office allocated one-time strategic funds to maintain that resource for the broader campus population in 2003.  In 2007, a determination was made to transition the resource into the main operations of the University.  As a result, oversight for the Duke Shared Cluster Resource and support for Research Computing were assigned to Vice Provost of Research in collaboration with OIT.  Simultaneously, a proposal was developed to expand support for Research Computing and another one-time support allocation was made and were used to help maintain the existing infrastructure. Consequently, the number of services in Research Computing have been advanced, including networking and storage, access to Cloud services, VMWare services.  In 2012-2013, a group of faculty developed a report on Research Computing, recommending that Duke increase its funding by approximately $1M per year.  The funding would be used to revitalize and modernize the existing Shared Cluster Resource and offer new services. A follow-up report was created in mid-2014 as a result of conversations with faculty to determine what Research Computing is as it is practiced.  The report spelled out how funding would be allocated:

o   Renewing Clustered Computing

o   Building an infrastructure to provide Virtual Machines on demand

o   Collocation of machines and equipment that could not be put into a VM framework

o   Training and education activities

Researchers were also concerned about the protection of sensitive information, especially in the areas of Social Sciences and continues to be a growing level of interest.  There has also been an effort to communicate with groups with organizational elements of research such as the Social Sciences Research Institute or with big data interests.  There are still yet researchers that have not been brought into discussions and as part of an evaluation of the Research Computing Symposium many groups did not display their work.

Questions and Comments

Comment: One way to address lack of participation is to create the community and services that provide a value added benefit to research groups.  Part of that could be basic public relations where there is a community within Duke where people can seek ideas and advice on how to obtain resources and come back with projects.  Many researchers currently discuss research computing more outside of Duke and may not be aware of the resources available to them and how we can help them.  While the workshop was a good step forward, regularizing it may bring more participation because word of mouth will bring others

Comment: Having a physical center on campus would be very helpful to create an ongoing presence to show that the university values and pursues a long term investment in research computing.

Comment: A value add to the research groups is to provide training opportunities for certain tools that are commonly used by faculty.  Faculty will almost certainly send their grad students, creating a fluidity of participation.

Comment: As a grad student who has started utilizing research computing resources over the last year, training offerings have been amazing; everything from the introduction to Linux and UNIX to how to use SLURM made the obstacle of getting onto the cluster very smooth.  Hosting more of those classes would be a great way to get more people involved.  There will be a SLURM (Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management) workshop on 1/23/15 and may become part of a series of regularly scheduled classes, perhaps held at The EDGE to provide a more centralized campus location.

Question: Who teaches these workshops? Many of them have been taught by members of the Duke Community.  For example, the Intro to Linux course is taught by a mixture of OIT staff including Chris Collins, Bryn Smith, Drew Stinnett, and Mike Newton.  We’ve collaborated with the Physics department, specifically with Jimmy Dorff to ensure the content is relevant to scientists.  Since there are nuances in the way courses are taught that are tied to disciplines in research activities, the goal is to seek instructors come from both the academic and the IT communities. In addition, courses are taught by Research Computing staff

Question: Are some of these courses oversubscribed?  The first Linux class offered in spring of last year was full in 6 hours.  We’re expecting more of a stable enrollment this semester. 

QuestionSome of the workshops are based on more entry level topics will attract a continuous group of graduate students will most likely require more frequent offerings to meet that demand. What fraction of the human resources necessary to offer this service  are being compensated by the Provost’s commitment or is there more reliance on the good will of people on campus and is this model sustainable?  We’ve primarily been relying on the good will of Duke Faculty and staff, but want to be careful not to exploit those resources.  We are, however, looking to develop on-demand resources or tap into existing resources such as, being mindful that the teaching with Information Technology can sometimes place the emphasis inappropriately in some cases.

Comment: This will still require some human effort that does not formally exist in an official position.  The allocation of those resources will fuel a process involving the Faculty Advisory Committee whose job is to help guide the direction in how those resources are spent.  The good will issue will eventually reach its tipping point where the demand will dwarf the supply.  On the back end of the training, it reduces overhead by having well-trained people supporting faculty. 

Question: Are there any statistics on what classifications of students, faculty and staff are taking these introductory IT classes?  Graduate students and post docs are among the predominant attendees, with undergraduates represented, faculty being nearly non-existent and staff rounding out the remainder.  The attendance, however, at the Research Computing Symposium was predominantly staff in the School of Medicine and faculty in the Trinity College. 

Comment: There is widespread recognition of how undergraduate students need to be more prepared in terms of IT and computing literacy.  Is it useful to have a discussion about how to massage this effort into more of a status quo?  There is a need to teach IT and computer literacy in addition to academic coursework; all funded with the goal of enhancing undergraduate education.  There is a coordination effort that effects course offering timing.  A concerted effort to build prerequisite course linkages scheduled in a semester would be helpful.   

Comment: As part of our education of students, faculty, and staff, it would be helpful if a map existed across research computing and the other service organizations such as SSRI (Social Sciences Research Institute) and unstructured date to assist new faculty and graduate students understand where they are on the research computing spectrum. 

4:15- 4:35 – Research Computing Symposium, Julian Lombardi, Mark DeLong (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  The Research Computing Symposium was a gathering of researchers at every level to learn about Duke's rich computing offerings, hear University leaders outline plans for the future, and see Duke Faculty talk about achievements accomplished with long-established and newly developed research computing resources.

Why it’s relevant: We will give an overview of the Symposium and highlight key topics from the event.

·         The Research Computing Symposium was held on January 8, with a number of speakers and a full house.  A number of poster sessions were given in the hallway.  34 posters were submitted, and prizes awarded, with a tie for second place.  First prize was four years use of a node on the Research Computer Cluster.  Second prize was a Virtual Machine with 4 CPUs and 32GB of RAM.  Third prize was 1 TB of NAS storage.  An important aspect of having this kind of meeting is to bring the community together and give it some visibility and subsequently fuel interactions and collaborations that cannot be engineered any other way.  We’re looking forward to making this a regular part of life in Research Computing at Duke.  160-180 people were in attendance with more stats on demographics available at a later date.  Mark is soliciting event evaluations and any suggestions can be sent to him directly via email. One of the comments from the poster session said “The poster session was really valuable for engaging with members of the Duke community I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.”  The point of the symposium is a celebration of the way our resources are applied and used.  We would like to see those who were not represent become a part of the event in the future and will be

4:35- 4:55 – OIT Services for Duke Global Initiatives, Kevin Davis (10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is:  OIT recently met with campus stakeholders involved in Duke global programs and travel to better understand the IT needs, challenges and opportunities.

Why it’s relevant:  Thousands of members of the Duke community travel or work overseas annually and ongoing progress is needed to ensure IT services work well anywhere in the world.

·         Duke’s spheres of global activity:

o   Global sites (Duke Kunshan University, Duke-NUS graduate Medical School in Singapore) and partnership sites (Global Health Institute)

o   International programs ( Law School International Studies, Sanford School of Public Policy Global Education , Fuqua  School of Business Cross Continent MBA, Duke Engage, Study abroad)

o   Individual travelers (traveling in fulfillment of Global sites, conference attendance, large scale science site visits, etc)

o   Data from FY13 found about 3,000 faculty and staff traveled abroad on Duke-paid trips, with an estimate of an equal amount of students also traveling. 111 countries represented destinations for Duke Travelers, with almost 80% in Western Europe and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries.

·         Common themes and feedback

o   Internet access: Access to wireline broadband, wireless broadband, and cellular networks in developed countries has improved over the last 5-10 years and most stakeholders reported very little trouble with establishing connectivity.  A challenge for Duke with level of engagement in developing countries is related to the establishment of sites where it’s harder to bring in this kind of connectivity and doing so usually requires an upfront investment including funding and time.  In other cases, there may be a long-term commitment to a country but we don’t always choose the location of the site within the nation and the quality of connectivity will rely on what is provided at the site.  In general, international education activities (i.e. Study abroad) are hosted global partnership universities and tend to be heavily connected. There are some small Duke-leased sites such as Duke Corporate Education and Fuqua study abroad offices have outposts where 1-5 Full Time Employees are often relying on wireless networks provided by the building or on local broadband purchase, but without endpoint management. 

o   Cellular access: Coverage was generally not an issue for Duke-paid cellular subscribers.  However, knowledge of activating and deactivating global features isn’t as common and can prove to be quite costly upon returning to the US from international locations.  There are some expected changes to global plan options as negotiations with existing service providers is completed.  For those with person-paid phones, many are working directly with their carrier to determine ways to get connected.  Commonly, SIM (subscriber identity module) cards are purchased in-country along an abundance with more economical choices than in the US. However, if travelers have not unlocked their phone prior to traveling or if the phone is under contract, the experience can prove to be confusing and lead the use of multiple devices for Wi-Fi and calling.  We surveyed a group of students on study abroad and of those who responded, more than 95% had a working cell phone with coverage or brought their cell phone and used it on Wi-Fi only. There is more guidance needed on global plan offerings, what to do before traveling internationally, and what to do after arrival.  More start-up U.S. carriers are starting to compete on better international options, but not as much with established carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.)

o   Web and video conferencing – Most schools reported having site-to-site telepresence capabilities through codex, providing single-screen technology.   However, there were a few common challenges for why the technology is not used:

§  Network/equipment effects – Communicating between sites can sometimes prove challenging when there are equipment mismatches from one site to the other. 

§  Time zone differences – In FY13, 25% of Duke Travelers went to countries with more than an 8-hour time zone offset from the U.S. 

§  Logistics and complexity – When using a client on a computer to schedule a call or video conference, a user has full control over the experience.  But if there is a need to reserve a conference room, booking IT support, ensuring colleagues at other sites have done the same, testing the conference bridge where applicable before the call are all some of the required steps to establish a conference call, sometimes taking upwards of 30-40 minutes and leading to the use of more ad-hoc solutions.  

·         There was good feedback around WebEx as an alternative in cases where there was a blending of home users and on-campus users as well as the Law School, DKU and others are using WebEx for outreach to admitted pre-matriculate students or matriculated pre-arrival students as part of the orientation process.  In other cases there were suggestions for its adoption for distance learning/education.  A number of classrooms are investing in USB/AV bridges, allowing laptop connectivity and to cameras and microphones. 

o   Device and data security/storage: International travelers are being discouraged from storing sensitive data on computers, particularly when traveling to countries where intellectual property may be at risk.  Travelers are encouraged to have as little data on their devices as possible.  Albeit connectivity is better in many countries, there is a reticence to rely on the availability of a file server for data.  Findings solutions that bridge this gap or approaches that recognize the need for storing data on devices and making distinctions between sensitive and non-sensitive data is a challenge.  Ongoing work by school IT departments to encrypt laptops would be a help in this space in the loss of a device.  The presence of Box also allows us to easily reach outside collaboratives.  Finally, sites with poor connectivity and access to Box or file servers is not reasonable, may be candidates for encrypted local storage or managed storage devices or appliances.

·         Recommended global IT priorities

o   Service improvement opportunities:

§  VPN – The service was found to function well, but there are so many choices of context that are not always easy to decipher from the names which  option would best serve the needs of the user. 

§  eduroam – A significant number of students from the study abroad survey had good experiences with eduroam, and almost the same number had never heard of it, even though they were at universities where this network was available. 

o   Program support/guidance: Understanding IT needs and pointing people to local IT resources and solutions. 

o   Education & awareness campaign: Much of the stakeholder feedback commended services such as Box, eduroam, VPN and global cell phone plans, but people were not aware of them. 

Questions and Comments

Comment: eduroam is absolutely great and works flawlessly.  The various VPN options are somewhat cryptic.  The cell phone issues are prevalent.  How much is paid for global plans is on the carrier.  On the one hand, it would be helpful to provide people with information on how to make decisions, but on the other hand will that lead to advertising one over the other?  There are at least enough commonalities between the top two carriers with roughly similar costs.  There are some programs that only use global cell phones for one or two months out of the year.  However, there are carrier-enforced constraints that require at least a 6-month commitment.  Many of those programs have acquired unlocked, inexpensive global phones.  The program coordinator or faculty member will then buy SIM cards, install them and they’re ready to go.  We’re discussing whether it would be useful to provide a flip phone loaner program for students and others who travel. 

Comment: Wi-Fi calling can be added to local home plan and as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi.  Currently only T-Mobile offers this service, but AT&T has announced the availability of this feature as well.  T-Mobile also allows free data roaming that allows for email and maps and may prompt some of the larger carriers to follow suit.  While T-Mobile has good international rates, they do not participate in the campus DAS network, limiting coverage on campus, but great coverage internationally.

Comment: Be mindful that it doesn’t cost more to manage the box of loaner phones than the box of phones. 

Question: There are countries that block SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) calls at their borders to force callers through their public networks.  Do we have a repository of countries and behaviors or should we think about building one?  One of the recommendations of this possible project is to have international travel tips for those countries most frequently traveled to.   

Question: Is there a way to publish SIP numbers to call on Wi-Fi internationally using our Cisco system?

Comment: There are phones available for purchase with two SIM cards.  The biggest thing is to prepare – calling ahead drops the price significantly.  One of the channels we’re targeting is business managers in various departments who are managing the invoices. 

Question: Do we have a website that lists traveling recommendations country-by-country? There is an older page on the global site and one of the efforts we’ll be discussing further is once the information is updated, where it will reside. 

Question:  Is there enough staffing to have someone come over and talk people through what to do?  Sometimes the language on a Website is not always sufficient to help the average cell phone user.  Can a meeting be requested when a group of students is going to travel internationally to assist with educating them on what needs to be done?  Country-by-country information is helpful, especially for countries where data is at risk (Russia for example) that might not be a part of those most traveled to.  There have been some conversations with Duke Engage and Study Abroad where this information is shared with students during orientations.  If there’s an interest in doing training for a larger faculty or student group, please contact Kevin Davis, and we’ll include school IT since they will be providing support.

Comment: As a Divinity School faculty member who’s leading a trip this semester, I’m only familiar with Duke Travel because they come to the school and present each year about registering.  That’s the only site I’ve visited and the only site I’ve used in planning and resourcing international travel.  Linking to them might be a good idea.  

4:55- 5:10 – OIT Monthly Awareness Campaign, Kevin Davis, Jeannine Sato (5 minute presentation)

What it is:  OIT has created a monthly awareness campaign in an effort to inform Duke students, faculty and staff of IT services and tips for productive and security technology while traveling. Improving awareness of Duke IT services is a key activity to improve the IT experience for travelers.

Why it’s relevant: We will provide an overview of the planned topics for each month and take a deep dive into the first two topics. Going forward, we will highlight one topic each month at ITAC for a deeper dive discussion and feedback that will help shape the campaign content.

We’re excited to have Jeannine Sato join our team as a Communications Strategist and while she’s only been here two weeks, she has already made headway in some articles on Duke TODAY.

·         Global IT & Education Monthly communication campaign

o   The goal is to expand Global IT service knowledge around

§  Productivity: Can Duke and personal work be completed while traveling

§  Connectivity: How accessible are you and by what means (SMS, Voice, Email, etc.)

§  Security: Challenges with data at risk in a number of countries and along with device theft are things that we’ll consider.

o   We’ll focus on one topic per month to communicate key messaging.

o   We’ll work to create a communications plan and approach around each topic, each differing based on the target audience. 

·         After meeting and brainstorming with Duke Global, we came up with some Global IT Communications Channels aggregations.  In the next couple of weeks, Kevin and I will draft different types of communications for the first topic

o   Mass communications (Duke Today, Managing@Duke, websites, digital signage, etc)

o   Duke global outlets (Global newsletter, websites, etc)

o   Administrative groups (Library staff, IT departments, Departmental business managers, etc.) Members of these groups are in a position to inform or advise international travelers and set up plans in advance. 

·         Suggestions for communication ideas:  How would you like to be communicated with about this information?

Questions and Comments

Comment:  It’s a tough problem.  One of the examples you presented was Duke TODAY; Do I go there every day? No.  Is there a propensity for me to miss something there? Yes. Mass communication is a broad sweep providing snippets of information.  A good website could perhaps be the answer to the problems presented here.  However, there have been many variations of the same website focusing on different target groups.  There isn’t a one size fits all approach to this.  We’ll need to experiment with different avenues of communication and possible be all things to all people. 

Comment: The interesting thing about this is people won’t want to read about it when you present, but when they need it.  One of the things we’ve done for travelers heading to DKU for instance is provide a one page tip sheet

Comment: Another tip for international travelers would be to have travelers to save something in an email file or wherever they save things.  Creating an email tag, integrate something in the Duke Mobile App, Global newsletter. 

Comment: The School of Nursing has its own newsletter that is very heavily read, and maybe having a tech tip for international travels would be helpful for other schools with the same type of communication offering. 

5:10- 5:30 – Deep Dive – OIT Awareness Campaign, Kevin Davis, Jeannine Sato, Paula Batton, Shilen Patel (5 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:  The January Awareness topic is the Extended Hours for the OIT Service Desk, followed by Multi-Factor for travelers in February.

Why it’s relevant: We will review the Service Desk hours and provide an overview of the services and support provided by the OIT Service Desk. Additionally, as multi-factor has become key to securing sensitive data, it is even more critical as the members of the Duke Community travel. We will highlight the services offered by Multi-Factor and clarify options for authentication services internationally.

·         January Topic – Extended service desk hours 24x5 (EST) with staff available via chat, ticket & phone with a preference for chat to accommodate requests faster.  The service offering is not just for those traveling abroad, but for anyone working non-standard working hours.  The service started for back to school at DKU, helping their IT staff with support without having to wait for extended periods of time due to time differences.  Paula Batton and her team have done a tremendous job with this new level of support.  If there is anything people in your schools need help with routine tasks off hours, give us a call we’ll be glad to chat about them.   The hours are from 7PM – 5PM on Friday is continuously covered. 

·         February Topic – Multi-factor authentication (MFA) – Key Message: It’s important and easy to use MFA when traveling.  Keep your data safe abroad by activating MFA before your trip.  Smartphone/tablet? Duo app for pass codes (with or without internet).  Basic cell phone? Pass codes by SMS.  International phone numbers can receive passcodes via SMS in all but three countries worldwide. 

·         The perception for most travelers is it’s not easy to use.  We are looking to raise the awareness for smartphone travelers that even if your device is not connected to a cellular carrier or Wi-Fi, it can still be used as a secondary factor. 

Questions and Comments

Question: For someone in the School of Medicine or School of Nursing, is the IT Service Desk the right place to call or is it DHTS? If the service is outside of something the IT Service Desk supports, we’ll direct the requestor to DHTS or vice versa.  Both the IT Service Desk and the DHTS Service Desk use the same support tool so tickets and requests can be passed to either team easily.  

Question: What about YubiKeys? YubiKeys are still mentioned on the help site.  However, they can be somewhat challenging to set up.  In cases where the end user is not technically savvy and/or where there is limited Internet connectivity, these were not a useful and convenient option. 

Comment: What I really like about the YubiKey is there is no time delay.  Sometimes apps do not provide real-time responses.  The Duo App has a key icon in the upper right hand corner and when pressed provides the code instantaneously with or without a service provider connection.

Comment: In talking with faculty, multi-factor does not have to be enabled for everything.  You may want to when traveling internationally.

Question: Is the recommendation to crank up the number of sites you use Multi-factor to login when traveling? We’ll be working with the ITSO on a recommendation. In general, if traveling to a country where data is at risk, then turn it on for everything.

Comment: If you are suggesting multi-factor authentication to your faculty or staff, the IT Service Desk has had success with instructing users to enter as many devices as possible

We’re also proposing to add onto the page where the devices are listed to add more links for forgotten devices and forgotten password and new device.  A user can receive codes using their challenge response verification.