ITAC Meeting Minutes
April 1, 2010, 4:00-5:30
Allen Board Room

  • Announcements
  • Lab and ePrint Maintenance and Directions (Carl McMillion)
  • Duke Intenational Initiatives and IT Implications (Bill Boulding, Kevin Lee)
  • Perspectives on IT (Dr. Peter Lange)


Terry Oas called the meeting to order at 4:03 pm.  Following group approval of the minutes from the March 18th meeting, Terry opened the floor for announcements.

John Pormann announced an upcoming forum with Dell’s high-performance computing team.  A panel of research specialists will be at the Washington Duke from 9:30-2 on April 22nd to engage in broad discussion regarding high-performance computing.  John encouraged anyone interested to get in touch with him for more information.

Carl McMillon explained the March 18th power outage discussed at the previous meeting, which he says was identical to the outage discussed on March 4th in both cause and location.  According to Carl, Facilities Management has installed data collectors to determine the cause of blown fuses behind these outages and are currently monitoring for insight into the problem.

Lab and ePrint Maintenance and Directions (Carl McMillon)

Carl began his presentation with an overview of our current ePrint installation, which has been powered by Pharos’ Uniprint 7.2 since Fall 2007.  He then demonstrated the relationship between the hardware components powering this system, which boasts 145 centrally supported printers in 45 locations.  According to Carl, students, staff, and faculty account for more than ten thousand downloads of the personal ePrint client to date.

In addition to centrally supported ePrint units, Carl explained, some graduate and professional programs offer their own intradepartmental installations, such as the law and medical schools, the physician’s assistant program, the Department of Economics, and the Nicholas School of the Environment, in addition to Perkins Library.  Some group discussion followed regarding the difference between centrally and independently supported ePrint installations.  Carl clarified that departments using their own ePrint installation finance and oversee maintenance of their printers, and do have the option to set their own access policies, if desired.  Tracy Futhey mentioned that a department might elect to contract with Office Supplies for device maintenance.   

In response to a question from Terry regarding department-specific firewalls creating problems when connecting to the more centralized print queue servers, Carl acknowledged that firewalls have been known to create challenges, but his team has found ways to work around them in order to offer these services.

Carl then demonstrated SeePrint, a web application developed by a member of the ePrint staff that allows administrators to manage and support printers by showing whether each printer is functioning properly as well as the printer’s level of paper/toner. This application also feeds such statuses to the OIT website for public consumption.   According to Carl, the primary value of SeePrint is that it allows the ePrint staff to keep an eye on printers remotely and proactively maintain them; there are ePrint team members located throughout campus who share the responsibility of providing this maintenance when problems arise or appear imminent.

Carl noted the campus libraries experienced the most printing volume by far, and mentioned that the average ePrint job has recently jumped from eight pages to nine.   In the summer, the average job is ten pages long.  The team has found some success with duplex printing initiatives with current statistics showing 30-33 percent of jobs being printed in the duplex format.

Regarding stability of the implementation, Carl stated that ePrint has been stable at Duke since February 22nd, after an outage related to an issue with a large log file.   A group discussion followed regarding the infamous 49.xxxx device error known to disable HP printers when a user attempts to release a malformed job from the queue.  The ePrint team sees one instance of this error per 145 OIT-supported printers in an average day, while the School of Law has experienced printers failing en masse as a result of this error. Alvy Lebeck clarified that this error does not automatically spread between printers, but more likely the same malformed jobs are attempted on multiple printers, causing each to fail sequentially.  

As Carl explained, the 49.xxxx error has been a known issue with HP printers for a number of years independent of the Uniprint product., but Pharos does have an HP specialist on staff who has been engaging in discussions with the ePrint team to provide insight into the problem in hopes of minimizing it.  The committee offered several ideas for flushing a malformed job from the print queue before problems arise.

Carl will return to ITAC soon to discuss ePrint and lab maintenance.

Duke International Initiatives and IT Implications/Lessons     (Bill Boulding, Kevin Lee)

Bill Boulding began by explaining that a core goal of the Fuqua School of Business is to be embedded in many global regions and connect these regions to each other, but interesting challenges arise when attempting to set up a networked IT presence in countries with very different sets of rules governing use of technology.  Giving a few examples of countries whose restrictions on free press and Internet access create challenges to providing the Duke experience abroad, Bill noted the importance of being pro-active about understanding and complying with local rules before establishing remote programs.

One of the primary issues with designing the IT infrastructure for international problems, explained Bill, is the question of how to address the fact that students in some countries will not have access on local networks to the same materials as students elsewhere.  Allowing international students to use Fuqua’s primary network via VPN tunnels could be one solution, but this is illegal in some countries and creates security concerns.  Bill thanked Tracy for providing connections to experts on this topic, and said that joining research or commercial networks were both possibilities for the future.

More abstract than the technical challenges of setting up campuses around the world is creating the human network between them.  Bill explained that Fuqua is dedicated to fostering a sense of community across the campuses, but this can be difficult when time zone differences mean one country is sleeping while the other is working.  Fuqua is working with Cisco to help students feel more connected face-to-face, but would like to do more to encourage members of virtual communities to “bump into” each other academically as well as socially.

Finally, supporting these programs around the world brings challenges of its own.  Bill highlighted both administrative and systems support as issues, and explained that Fuqua is discussing whether it is more advantageous to centralize or localize services such as admissions processes, technical support, and enterprise data systems.

Kevin Lee, Director of Academic Services in DHTS, then presented some information on the School of Medicine’s experiences with a strategic partnership between Duke University and the National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS).  Kevin described intercampus technological efforts as uniform in their focus to share content via various media.  According to Kevin, Duke and Duke-NUS share pervasive lecture capture, an online curriculum management system called Bluedocs, Internet 2 connectivity, and videoconference capability.  Kevin credits videoconferencing with enhancing collaboration between the two universities; “in person” meetings via Skype have helped deans and faculty coordinate more efficiently, and as a result, Duke faculty are able to limit the required travel to Singapore to one visit per year.

Speaking to technological challenges Duke and Duke-NUS have shared, Kevin cited large file transfer speed and reliability and differences between TCP/IP at the regional vs. international context as recurring challenges. Additionally, Kevin stressed the importance of communication between the two universities in order to insure changes required to the other university’s system(s) of record where is not currently automated.  From a policy/security perspective, Kevin noted a need to ensure that intellectual property is protected in both networks and that Duke-NUS is equipped to access Duke’s systems and materials without violating ISO security monitoring initiatives.

In conclusion, Kevin said that the project roadmap is becoming clearer as the program grows.  The Graduate Medical School (GMS) partnership between Duke and Duke-NUS went live in August of 2007, with new facilities opened in Fall 2009.  The inaugural class will graduate with a joint Doctor of Medicine degree from Duke and NUS in 2011, the first such degree in the history of both universities, and will represent 130 students from 17 countries.  

The floor was opened for comments, and Terry and Tracy guided a discussion about the distribution of IT services in Duke’s global sites. Bill explained that they would like to have a centralized admissions process along with many other centralized services in order to leverage economical benefits of having a shared enterprise system, but that certainly some systems and resources will remain localized.

David Jarmul asked Bill and Kevin to elaborate on their goals to enhance the sense of unity between the organizations, as well as how pre-recorded lectures are used.  Kevin clarified for the group that lecture capture is offered as an academic resource and not in lieu of live, dynamic classes in real time.  With regard to strategy to unify the campuses, Bill explained that the GMS has created a rich learning environment to encourage collaboration and resource sharing across the two institutions, but they would like to make more progress in the area of creating a strong sense of community between them.  Rather than self-identifying as a Duke or NUS student, the GMS would like to foster a sense of belonging to this shared program through social networks and their own internal network in order to encourage students to communicate with classmates from both campuses.  Susan Gerbeth-Jones asked if web conferencing software was in place and Bill responded that some web conferencing tools have been implemented, though laws very from country to country on how web conferences can be conducted. For example, it’s illegal to use Skype out of Dubai to call a phone number – it must be used computer to computer in order to comply with local laws.

The discussion then turned to memorandums of understanding (MOUs), which define what Duke’s expectations are for academic freedom in a foreign country.  Terry asked whether the intention of an MOU is generally to restrict rights or guarantee them, to which Bill responded that the MOUs he’s seen to not relate to specific agreements about rights given or denied, but rather an agreement to respect the local norms and customs of the region (e.g., promoting subversion of the local government).  In turn, the MOU may also govern what is appropriate for academic use that may otherwise be considered inappropriate for public media (e.g., excluding medical/anatomical resources on the academic network from local laws defining and outlawing pornography).  Ultimately, Bill explained that most MOUs do not contain hard language defining or restricting activity.

Perspectives on IT (Dr. Peter Lange)            

Provost Peter Lange joined the meeting to address some questions sent to him by the committee regarding his thoughts on IT directions at Duke.

The first question related to the previous segment about global initiatives at Duke.  Provost Lange stated that there are many western schools operating in China, where information is more heavily policed than in the United States, but he has never heard a complaint that schools find that their programs in China are academically restricted.  Provost Lange does believe that China encourages the presence of western schools in their country and has a strong understanding of the issues we are likely to face.  He suggested that should challenges arise, a more open network might be possible in such countries if we keep a strict policy on who uses our networks, but observed that the most important aspect is being open about the issues and making prudent judgments as issues occur.   He does not advise confronting other nations with every imagined hypothetical scenario, as it introduces unnecessary confrontation in what is meant to be a partnership.  In summary, Provost Lange encouraged those working on global initiatives to take up their concerns with peer institutions already present in a particular country for feedback, as our expectations are likely to be very similar.

Terry commented that presumably, a primary advantage to a country hosting schools like Duke is to offer a US-style education to their own students, and questioned whether a US-style education could be provided if basic components of our society, such as an open internet, are not available to residents of the host country.  Alvy Lebeck agreed, asking about a possible minimum standard for information access.  In response, Provost Lange asked Bill Boulding to discuss the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in China, who have been given reasonable independence to conduct academic activities.  Bill noted that CEIBS has been in China for 15 years now and he is unaware of any issues they have had as a result of their location.

The next question pertained to the strategic priority and challenges of unifying the university and medical center networks.  Provost Lange said that the most recent report he had received stated that the institution was working to allow for data transfers between networks for those working with non-sensitive data.  The group discussed this effort during the meeting.  Tracy explained that tests have conducted for these cross-network connections, though Terry noted that he is unaware of any real pilot installation within the medical center.  It was agreed that this subject would be put on the agenda for the next security meeting.  Rafael Rodriguez later clarified that although the VoIP transition is removing some of the older equipment that presented challenges for the so-called Blue/White network effort to support these non-sensitive data transfers, there is still a significant additional capital investment required to deploy the Blue/White network at scale, and a source of funding for that work has not been identified.

The next question addressed possible opportunities for IT to impact cost-cutting efforts within the university.  Provost Lange recognized Tracy and her team as leaders in thinking of ways to reorganize and deliver services more efficiently.  He expressed reticence to implement new technology with saving money in mind, observing that the reality is that adding new technology rarely results in significant savings once additional infrastructure is put in place to support it.  That having been said, Provost Lange said that Duke is as committed as ever to invest in technology that will benefit strategic priorities, and provided the example of international programs which will require investments in quality technology.  He urged the group to keep in mind that what is a cost to some departments is often a savings to others, and technological initiatives must be evaluated on the basis of their overall contribution to the institution.

Provost Lange was then asked how Duke should reach out to students differently given the recent explosion in social media.  His response was that the question supposes a level of control over the phenomenon that may be unrealistic, and noted that Duke is leveraging new media where possible and students are adopting these new services just as quickly.  For example, a mere five minutes after acceptance decisions were made available to students online this year, 6,900 applicants had read whether or not they were accepted.  Provost Lange is open to the possibility that the social media explosion could result in enhancements of the educational experience, but says that the university is has not committed to an overarching vision for social media at Duke.  He did note, however, that Public Affairs and the Office of News and Communications are much more tuned into these media than they were even a year ago, and many departments are adapting these social media independently in order to better reach students.

The final prepared question asked Provost Lange what strategic initiatives he saw coming in the next few years.  In response, the Provost commented that Duke IT would be playing a key role in global initiatives so that universities were not simply connected bilaterally, but truly networked and linked by technology.  The committee was curious to know whether there would be a new 5-year strategic planning period as the current period ends.  Provost Lange’s view is that the current strategic plan, for which midterm corrections were recently held, will last another five years.  Some current initiatives will take three and four years to implement, and he plans to see those through before beginning a new planning period.

Terry then asked the group if they had any additional questions for Provost Lange.  Robert Wolpert suggested that it might be helpful to discuss which of these social media are helping provide education and interaction with students.  Terry discussed one of his Chemistry courses, wherein he received (and responded to nearly each one of) 1500 posts on a course message board during a single semester.  Provost Lange expressed a concern that keeping up with these sorts of resources may overwhelm professors who are not adapting their course structure to accommodate the more dynamic fashion in which the digital generation would prefer to learn.  Terry explained that the message board had enhanced his teaching rather than distracted from it, as it gave him insight into which topics he should cover in more depth.  Provost Lange suggested that Terry’s experience hints at a next stage in interactive teaching, wherein professors spend less time communicating facts (which may be presented via lecture capture, for example, as in the Duke-Singapore program) and more time engaging students in academic discussion.