ITAC Meeting Minutes
April 29, 2010
Allen Board Room

  • Perspectives on IT: Dr. Tallman Trask III
  • Announcements and Meeting Minutes
  • OIT Exchange Project and dCal Migration   

Perspectives on IT  (Dr. Tallman Trask III)

Terry Oas began the meeting by announcing a postponement of the meeting minutes review and announcements portion of the meeting in order to begin the discussion with Dr. Tallman Trask.  

Dr. Trask first asked if the group had any specific questions they would like to ask.   Observing a general interest in budgetary issues, he spoke to the state of Duke’s financial situation, expressing contentment with Duke’s response to date to the economic downturn and noting the good fortune Duke has experienced in being able to retain the vast majority of its workforce through innovative cost-cutting initiatives across campus.  

Dr. Trask then shared some findings from the Duke Administrative Reform Team (DART), which has determined that the infrastructure required to track and bill for services offered at Duke often carries costs comparable to what is recuperated through charging for these services.  As a result, he explained, OIT is now looking at alternative ways to provide services without the necessity of a complicated billing model.   Tracy Futhey cited telephone service as an example of this phenomenon, and provided data pertaining to the cost of providing this service relative to the cost of tracking that usage in order to bill individual customers.

Dr. Trask also commented on the state of Duke’s investment portfolio, which he believes is in a relatively stable position.

Addressing a question from John Board regarding IT initiatives in international programs, Dr. Trask indicated the likelihood that future international programs will involve technical partnerships with corporations in order to mitigate regional challenges with integrating international campus networks.   Dr. Trask also emphasized the importance in involving OIT in these conversations before any particular direction is decided for a given program.  A group discussion ensued regarding the challenges of providing the Duke experience in countries with more restrictive policies on the sharing of information.

Dr. Trask asked the group if anyone had any further questions for him. Terry Oas inquired as to whether recent discussions about the costs of merging the blue (university) and white (medical center) networks would prove to be a boon or a hindrance to the project’s execution.  Both Rafael Rodriguez and Tracy Futhey provided further detail on the specifics of these discussions.  Commenting that the blue/white network convergence presents both technical and political challenges, Dr. Trask indicated that budget cuts would make an initiative of this scope unlikely for the current year, but suggested that should current responses to the economic crisis prove successful, this project could be tackled as early as next year.

The committee thanked Dr. Trask for his time and perspective.

Announcements and Meeting Minutes

Terry Oas opened the floor for announcements and comments regarding minutes from the April 1st meeting.  Noting no objections, Mark McCahill was called upon to present the next topic.

OIT Exchange Project and dCal Migration  (Debbie DeYulia, Mark McCahill, Sanjay Rao)

After introducing Debbie DeYulia and Sanjay Rao, Mark McCahill introduced the OIT Exchange project with a diagram juxtaposing the workflow of past enterprise communication tools at OIT with the simpler workflow resulting from the integration of Microsoft Exchange to provide both email and calendaring services.

The move to Exchange, explained Mark, started a year ago with 2700 users in the Fuqua School of Business, followed by the Duke Legal Council.  Since then, the group has been systematically migrating Lotus Notes users from different groups across campus.

Mark then explained the rationale behind the associated dCal migration, citing several weak points in the current implementation that could only be remedied by another major system change (e.g., upgrading Oracle Calendar to Beehive).  Since Exchange already includes a calendar component, this was an opportunity to address the current issues with dCal and consolidate our enterprise systems.  New features packaged with the Exchange Calendar include better integration with the Microsoft applications suite, ActiveSync mobile device support, and native compatibility with Apple computers.

Planning for the dCal migration effort began in November 2009, explained Mark, and was piloted within OIT on March 27th.  Microsoft will be handling the dCal calendar migration for everyone who used the system during the last year, or about 2200 users.  The migration will bring forward the last 30 days’ calendar information, as well as all future meetings, tasks, and contacts.  An April 22nd CLAC meeting found no show stoppers for a May 21st migration; the migration will conclude May 24th at 8am.  With the Exchange calendar in place, NotifyLink will be decommissioned June 30th.

Mark then discussed the team’s departmental migration strategy, which involved train-the-trainer sessions to help identify issues and document new processes, user communications, and any necessary client software upgrades.  Accounts are made available two weeks prior to the migration so that users may familiarize themselves with the new system and, if desired, archive historical dCal data.  Those who have configured dCal to allow for delegation of meetings will need to do this again for Exchange, as the two applications function differently enough in this capacity that delegation preferences cannot be configured automatically.

Mark recommends Microsoft Outlook for calendar power users due to smoother handling of delegation and enhanced integration between the applications, but noted that most users should feel free to use the client of their choice.  Linux users may try a Lightning plugin that will allow them to view their calendars, although in the team’s experience, scheduling meetings on a Linux machine may be easiest via the Outlook web client.  

In other lessons learned, Mark advised Mac users to upgrade to Snow Leopard before configuring Exchange.  He also suggested limiting the number of delegates on any given account to two or fewer. Users who intend to use both SUNmail and Exchange should be sure to verify that meeting invitations are sent to Exchange in order to assure their inclusion in the calendar.

A group discussion ensued regarding the committee’s experiences with Exchange.  John Board explained how he set up SUNmail to duplicate meeting invitations on the Exchange servers to avoid lost meeting data while using both systems simultaneously, while Debbie DeYulia, Rafael Rodriguez, and Ed Gomes discussed problems with repeating meetings migrated from dCal, a problem Ed suggested could be alleviated by way of a manual migration.

Terry Oas commented on the volume of calendar power users on Mac operating systems, and inquired as to why Entourage, the Mac equivalent of Outlook, was not recommended for these users.  Mark responded that power users who tested Entourage reported some incompatibility with iCal, and recommended that administrative assistants or other heavy users of the scheduling application find a way to use Outlook for the time being.  Debbie noted that Office 2010 for the Mac is expected to retire Entourage in favor of what is supposed to be a full-featured Outlook client.

DSG representative Mark Elstein expressed concern that undergraduates using dCal may be unaware of this migration and asked whether the group intended to send a mass email to all dCal users.  Debbie responded that an email was sent to students, emeriti, alumni, and faculty to announce this switch.

To conclude the segment, Sanjay Rao fielded some questions regarding the link between meetings migrated to Exchange from dCal.  While Microsoft will capture and replicate dCal meetings in Exchange, he explained, there is always a risk that the link between equivalent meetings in the two systems will not be established.