4:00 - 4:05 p.m. - Announcements (5 minutes)
The May 13th minutes are approved.
Summer hiatus begins for ITAC with the next meeting on July 22nd.
Congratulations to Charley Kneifel for his well-deserved promotion to Chief Technology Officer.
Evan Levine reports that Microsoft licensing appears to be continuing largely as we are used to due to successful negotiations. A few things will change such as counting licenses, so Duke doesn’t overpay. Victoria Szabo asks about SharePoint and Teams. Charley replies that while Duke’s use of SharePoint is mostly under the covers, Teams use has grown and has offered much value. Access to both of these will be included in the license. Charley credits Jim Churchman, Vice President of Procurement Services and Supply Chain Management.
4:05 - 4:30 p.m. - Organizational Change: IT Merger & Consolidation Updates, Ed Gomes, John Board, Chris Meyer, Evan Levine (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)
What it is: As discussed at ITAC last fall, a number of key IT functions including units from Trinity Technology Services, Student Affairs, Alumni, and Development have merged or are being merged into OIT’s organizational structure. We will share updates on the changes made, lessons learned, and next steps for effective delivery of these critical IT services.
Why it’s relevant: The pandemic has caused the university to closely review its finances, specifically costs associated with strategic operational and administrative services such as IT. While an improving budget outlook has lessened the pressure to reduce headcount, we continue to evaluate areas for more efficient service offerings, better redundancy, employee growth opportunity, and effective use of staff expertise and optimized use of shared IT infrastructure and software.
Evan Levine begins providing the update on the merging into OIT of IT units from:
Trinity Technology Services (TTS)
Student Affairs (SA)
Duke Alumni Engagement and Development (DAED)
While plans for the merging some groups were in process before the pandemic, the pandemic provided motivation to move forward quickly.
Purpose and Principles of the Mergers include:
1. Service quality is prioritized before cost savings.
2. Benefits of scale are realized, and staff can both generalize and specialize.
3. Individual points of contact are still important, but support is backed by a larger team.
4. Local IT remains in place for unique functions and strategy.
5. New areas for OIT are acknowledged.
6. Career paths are broadened for IT staff from smaller units.
Perceived challenges and risks:
1. Staff might leave rather than move; in practice the numbers that have left are small.
2. Perception and fear of change have genuine impact especially combined with covid stress
3. Concerns about centralization:
a. I will lose the one person I go to for everything.
b. I’ll have to go through red tape.
c. Without a local expert, I’ll have to explain everything from scratch every time.
d. There will be fewer jacks of all trades.
Ed Gomes speaks about the 3 areas of Trinity Technology Services that were moved into OIT:
1. Web and Systems
2. Academic Technology Support
3. AV Support including JIT classroom support and AV integration (e.g., Zoom carts)
Chris Meyer speaks about the merger of Duke Alumni Engagement and Development (DAED) where the official staff transition date is July 1, 2021. DAED IT includes analytics, data management, and integration, reporting, internal and distributed application support (such as DADD.) The merger also includes desktop/endpoint support and project management.
Ed Gomes explains that the Student Affairs merger involves using CDSS support for staff but local support for faculty. AV support will continue with the former Trinity team but via a Service Level Agreement (SLA.) Student Affairs specific IT services will remain locally in order tofocus on strategic issues. Evan Levine adds that Student Affairs is an example where local IT does not go away altogether. OIT has engagement groups and ways of staying in touch with local areas so that OIT can hear what is needed. Prioritization of what is important involves feedback from these local areas.
Ed outlines the benefits to be gained from Phase 2 of the Trinity Technology Services (TTS) OIT merger. Staff with higher-level skills now have the bandwidth to work more closely with research faculty and can still provide redundancy. IT staff can work across boundaries with shared responsibilities and share best practices. Commodity services are being evaluated for redundancy and efficiencies. For example, if Trinity IT staff no longer have to support storage hardware, they can focus on faculty and the exchange of ideas.
Evan adds that as we build larger teams, we need to evaluate how these teams can scale for better efficiencies. For example, if the AV team can build internally and grow to meet demand, there is no downside; faculty do not want a different AV interface in every room. To ensure quality, we always need to look towards what’s next and ask how does this grow.
Q. John Board – How many staff moved?
A. Evan Levine - 55.
Q. Victoria Szabo – I’m wondering if you could do a PR push to others like you just did for ITAC. A communication strategy to make faculty feel like this is a good thing and that it is not just about resources being taken away would be beneficial.
A. Ed Gomes – We communicated with faculty initially and now, we are working on a second phase of communication.
A. Chris Meyer – We paid close attention to communication for DAED. Also, a consulting firm is being used to help with analytics.
A. Victoria – Consistency of service is a good thing; it’s nice to hear concrete positives.
A. Evan Levine – There is fear for what is coming but there is not a lot being taken away. We were thinking not much is being taken away so don’t need to communicate it but yes, there should be a communication effort.
4:30 - 4:50 p.m. - SAP Update, Chris Meyer, Todd Orr (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)
What it is: SAP is the core administrative system supporting Finance, HR/Payroll, Procurement, Post-Award Sponsored Research and Fund Raising for the University and DUHS. Duke has run SAP since 1999 and have been working to modernize SAP by migrating to SAP’s S/4 version. The S/4 project was recently put on hold for one year due to defer expenses and address other SAP projects.
Why it’s relevant: SAP is used by thousands of Duke employees to support core administrative functions. The S/4 project will introduce a new user experience among other improvements and will require a significant change management effort.
Todd Orr starts by giving an overview of today’s talk. Todd said that today's talk will focus on what goes on in the SAP space and functions of SAP, and then, on a forthcoming modernization project.
SAP is Duke's primary non-student administrative system supporting the University and DUHS (Duke University Health System). Some of the areas in which SAP is involved are:
• Finance/General Ledger – Both University and DUHS
• HR/Payroll – Both University and DUHS
• Procurement & Supply Chain – Both University and DUHS
• Post-Award sponsored Research – University only
• Fund Raising – Both University and DUHS
• Budget Development – University only
Next, Todd talks about SAP Branding and lists and explains the different tools SAP offers:
• Duke@Work: SAP portal for Employee Self-service and other browser-based functions
• iForms: HR/Payroll transactions
• Buy@Duke: web-based purchasing for the university and some DUHS.
• dFac: Faculty AP&T system
• DADD: Fundraising
• SuccessFactors: Recruiting and Onboarding
• Concur: Travel and Expense management
• R/3: Client-based access to core SAP functions
Chris Meyer then takes the stage to talk about the technology behind SAP.
Chris Meyer then took the stage and talked about the technology behind SAP.
• SAP is run primarily on-premises at Duke. The first on-prem components went live in 1999.
• User experience is a combination of client-based (SAP GUI) and browser-based (Duke@Work portal).
• Duke runs two SAP cloud (SaaS) applications – SuccessFactors for Recruiting/Onboarding and Concur for travel and expense.
• On-Premises SAP runs SAP’s in-memory Hana database.
• Database size: 2.8 Tb.
• SAP internal support comes from:
o Administrative Systems Management (ASM) – under Duke Financial Services
o OIT Enterprise Systems and Support (ESS)
Next, Todd started to talk about SAPs S/4 modernization platform that is forthcoming. Todd mentioned that this new SAP S/4 has an in-memory database, a new code base, new UX including mobile support. Todd also mentioned that the support for Duke's current SAP version runs through December 31st, 2027.
Moving to SAPs S/4 platform will provide a path to stay on SAP and leverage the existing investments in SAP through at least 2040, said Todd. This project consists of implementing Concur which is used for Travel & Expense. To which Concur integration is complete. It also consists of migrating to a new GL (S/4 prerequisite) which is also complete. Lastly, it consists of S/4 migration which Todd said is underway.
Although this S/4 project has been going on since September 2020 and with the Design/Build phase reaching completion at the end of May with a planned go live in the spring of 2022. Senior Leadership asked that the project be put on pause for 12 months starting on June 1, 2021. A reason for the delay is that there are demands for other SAP projects that need to be addressed sooner. There are also concerns about the change management impact of S/4 on operating units in conjunction with other initiatives. And lastly putting the project on delay will reduce capital expenses.
Deloitte was the vendor as the implementation partner. Due to the delay, Deloitte resources have disengaged. Duke internal resources will continue to work on S/4 as time permits over the next 12 months. The S/4 project is expected to restart in June 2022 with a go live in the spring of 2023.
This concluded the SAP presentation.
4:50 – 5:15 p.m. - New Wireless Initiatives, Bob Johnson (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)
What it is: New wireless technologies and spectrum made available by the FCC position Duke to be an early experimenter with several new wireless technologies that complement both existing Cellular and Wi-Fi services. Along with the familiar with the cell carrier LTE and “5G” terms, there are new frequencies recently released by the FCC available to campuses as a private offering. Both families of technologies present opportunities for delivering wireless services with interesting combinations of range and bandwidth differing from existing services. The presentation will review recent updates to local- and wide-area connectivity at Duke.
Why it’s relevant: These new technologies can be used directly by (rare) appropriately outfitted devices, but they can also be used to backhaul, say, Wi-Fi signals from hard-to-reach locations like campus bus routes, other outdoor areas, and street intersections at the edge of campus. This expands possibilities for routine Wi-Fi service as well as coverage for security cameras and other devices throughout the campus footprint.
Bob Johnson mentioned that a few weeks back he delivered a talk about CBRS (citizens band radio service) to this group. As a continuation of that talk, Bob is discussing two CBRS pilots that are going on: West Campus and East/West CBRs and the East Campus private LTE/5G aa CBRS service pilots.
The first CBRS project is called the West Campus and East/West CBRS pilot; this pilot consists of installing what Bob called “small cells”. Some of these small cells will be placed on buildings and in these buildings, there will be a class B radio. The focus of this project is to extend the WIFI range.
The second pilot is the East Campus Private LTE/5g aa CBRS service. This project is being done in conjunction with Cisco and Dish networks. The main goal for this project is to increase gap coverage on East Campus. This is primarily for outdoor Wi-Fi and for some surveillance requirements that Duke University Police Department (DUPD) has requested for roadways in that area.
Finally, another effort is underway to bring WIFI to the buses. This comes out of requests from students. The way this is accomplished is through carrier LTE signal transmits to and from an antenna that is placed on top of the bus. Then, this antenna is connected to a router that is placed on the bus. These routers not only do LTE but also 5G and will also do CBRS. Bob said that once the CBRS is in place the carrier signal is moved out of the equation and Duke's CBRS will take its place.
Bob said that this is exciting new technology and is excited to implement it.
5:15 - 5:30 p.m. – Common Solutions Group, Tracy Futhey, John Board, Bob Johnson, Charley Kneifel, Jen Vizas, Mark McCahill (10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)
What it is: The Common Solutions Group (CSG) works by inviting a small set of research universities to participate regularly in meetings and project work. These universities are the CSG members; they are characterized by strategic technical vision, strong leadership, and the ability and willingness to adopt common solutions on their campuses.
Why it’s relevant: CSG meetings comprise leading technical and senior administrative staff from its members, and they are organized to encourage detailed, interactive discussions of strategic technical and policy issues affecting research-university IT across time. We would like to share our experiences from the most recent meeting held in May.
John Board says that there have been about half of the usual attendees since Covid but this last meeting had high attendance. John, then, outlines the topics and conversations around each topic.
1. IT Service Funding and Costing Models – however IT is run, whether centralized or decentralized, there is always more work someone wants done than can be done.
1. Dangers of making heroic efforts: sometimes staff think IT can do these heroic efforts anytime but there are actual costs and opportunity costs.
2. Tracy – There is a rubric on which times do things that are charged and how much to encourage vs to discourage staff. But no matter which approach is chosen, there are always some that are happy and some that are unhappy.
3. Priorities sometimes change mid-project; the costs of this are never fully taken into account.
2. Central IT support needs to be engaged in the life of the departments and the life of research. This is different from supporting SAP, for example. Support for faculty and support for research doesn’t have a set schedule.
3. State of Art and Research Computing by Mark McCahill – A survey went out to CSG schools and I spent a lot of time doing analysis. The predictions of moving to the cloud for research computing were correct but the pace was different across institutions and the preferred vendor was different.
a. About half the schools are using Virtual desktop for protecting and keeping data secure. If dealing with protected data, it is easier if it is in the cloud because you don’t have to have a lockdown enclave on campus.
b. High-performance computing is good on campus if you can keep it busy was the consensus.
c. Time to submit a job to the research cluster was all over the place from a few minutes to 5 to 16 hours to get a job submitted.
d. A lot of effort is going into GPU clusters, but researchers want more interaction as opposed to batch-oriented GPUs.
e. One campus fell behind curve on research computing and then, poll vaulted ahead when they obtained funding for 10 years with refreshes built in every 4 years.
f. Charley speaks about a ventilator splitting project OIT did with Amanda Randalsthat took 800,000 hours of computing time that ran over a very long weekend. The project parameterized how to share ventilators given differing patient variables. We worked with Microsoft Azure and were able to obtain credits and help on how to use this Microsoft’s cloud environment in bursting HPCB fashion.
g. Mark McCahill – Charley’s project speaks to when you need a bunch of cores that you just don’t have; you need to go to the cloud.
4. Campus Cellular and Wireless Technologies
a. Bob Johnson says after looking at the survey and the current state of DASes (which bring cell coverage into buildings), it was apparent that Duke is the only university with fully funded full coverage throughout campus. Bob credits Tracy Futhey and Tallman Trask.
b. As far as Internet2, next-gen wifi, and 5G, the question is can we get the carriers interested.
c. MOCN (Multiple Operator Carrier Network) works with carriers and works with dish to provide private 5G LTE. MOCN acts as a unified front to go up against carriers who have cherry-picked sites for 5G although Duke was a recipient. Users are customers and costs should not be passed onto the campuses.
5. How to maintain a sense of purpose among IT staff after the pandemic? John Board says many had no raises and no retirement contributions. The group discussed specifics with respect to IT and a hybrid work environment? How do we keep best of what was gained during the pandemic? Generally, IT has a higher concentration of introverts.
6. AI and ML for the rest of us – Mark McCahill AI and ML are being used to look at retention analytics, to create a course difficulty matrix as there may be some classes students don’t want to take all at once, grade prediction.
Q. Mark Goodacre – Will this replace college advisors?
A. John and Mark – No, but it may help advisors.
Q. Mark Goodacre – Will CSG return to in person?
A. Tracy – Yes, but the soonest will be January 2022 and it may be hybrid.