Duke ITAC - January 21, 2010 Minutes

ITAC Meeting Minutes
January 21, 2010 4:00-5:30
RENCI Center

  • Announcements and meeting minute review
  • Update on library technology initiatives (Deborah Jakubs, Molly Tamarkin)
  • Guest wireless network demonstration (Bob Johnson, Sanjay Rao)
  • Computer standards – update on standards, configurations, and pricing (Ginny Cake)

Announcements & Meeting Minutes

Robert Wolpert called the meeting to order with announcements, welcoming Ben Getson as a new DSG undergraduate student representative for the committee.  Kevin Davis thanked Dave Lennon for his past year’s service helping with ITAC logistics and minutes and welcomed Mary McKee in providing assistance for the role over the coming year. Tracy Futhey and Dave Bowersox announced Glenn Setliff’s move to the School of Nursing.  

Tracy congratulated both Glenn and Klara Jelinkova on their recent promotions.  Tracy noted that Klara has been selected as the University of Chicago’s next Chief Information Technology Officer and will be leaving Duke on February 19th.

Update on Library Technology Initiatives (Deborah Jakubs, Molly Tamarkin)

Deborah Jakubs began with an overview of the Library system’s five-step plan for technology initiatives in 2010 through 2012.  These steps include improving user experience, providing digital content and services, developing new research and teaching partnerships, supporting University policies, and enhancing library spaces.  Molly Tamarkin then provided more detail on these initiatives, how Duke compares to peer universities, and what the library system is doing to improve in each area.  

The first area on which Molly presented was discovery architecture, or the aggregation of indexes from many data formats.  Discovery architecture tools are available for purchase, and the library system is currently assessing vendors and discussing budgeting for acquisition within the next year, although she noted that no one tool can realistically be expected to meet all of the library’s needs.  Robert Wolpert asked for clarification regarding what this tool would do better than the products we have already implemented within the university.  When Molly explained that licensed content is difficult to index, Klara Jelinkova offered that the Google Search Appliance already licensed to Duke can be used for authenticated search, something worth considering during this evaluation.

Molly then discussed technological initiatives to leverage social networking services and provide more access to mobile applications.  The library system is hoping to encourage crowdsourcing to aggregate tags on resources, and has already implemented an article recommendation service to suggest further reading on a topic on the basis of what other resources have been accessed by people reading a particular article or resource.  Additional efforts are going toward mobile interfaces to the library catalog and digital collections.

One of the most important adaptations on the part of the library system, explained Molly, is accommodating the natural transition in demand from printed to electronic resources.  A Kindle loaner program will begin on February 1st, each device offering the 85 titles with the most holds on availability.  To further support the availability of relevant resources, the library system has also experimented with “patron-driven acquisition”.  Molly explained that during this trial period, if more than ten people accessed a significant portion of an e-book offered by the library, the book was purchased for the physical collection.  This was not advertised, but gave way to the purchase of 348 new books – a number limited by funding, not interest.

New systems and services offered by the library include AdViews (http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/adviews/), an archive of historic television commercials digitized by the library system and available on iTunes, and DukeSpace, a digital space for storing electronic theses and dissertations.  There has been interest in using this space for storing data and sources for these works as well.  The library will need OIT support moving forward, as these many of these initiatives will require storage space and identity management services.  Additionally, the library is hoping to take advantage of services offered by OIT in order to centralize their technical administrative services such as mail, directories, and calendaring.

The library system is also committed to taking an active role in the scholarly information lifecycle.  Terms of licenses to materials can create many obstacles to offering content in an accessible way, and Paolo Mangiafico is currently working on a Mellon grant to examine the logistics of implementing an open-access policy at Duke.  A possible partnership between NC State and UNC is being discussed, and recently, Duke led the effort among fourteen universities in the planning phase of OLE, the Open Library Environment initiative funded by Mellon and owned by the non-profit organization Kuali.  Molly wanted to especially thank Lynne O’Brien for her work with Kuali OLE (http://www.kuali.org/ole), which aims to provide a community-source software package for academic and research libraries along with a governance model in which the academic community can collaborate to own and govern the resulting intellectual property. Kuali OLE is now in the development phase, which is led by Indiana University and co-chaired by Deborah.

Molly and Deborah’s presentation was followed by a discussion about the challenges of distributing copyrighted materials and the role of libraries in advocating for less restrictive policies by publishers.

Guest Wireless Network Demonstration (Bob Johnson, Sanjay Rao)

Sanjay Rao introduced the new guest network to provide free wireless access to visitors at Duke.  Addressing a question from Klara Jelinkova, Sanjay explained that a decision was yet to be made regarding which ports to make available via this network.  Robert Wolpert asked Sanjay to project how this new network may affect traffic load on OIT’s systems; Sanjay explained that this is relative to the access point, but a bandwidth throttling mechanism could be utilized. Rafael Rodriguez noted that a user must be physically near an access point in order to connect to the network.

Sanjay noted that they were avoiding the use of  “guest” as a name for this network, as the medical center has already implemented an open network using this SSID.  Rafael reinforced the importance of maintaining this distinction.

Sanjay then demonstrated the process of connecting to this network and the options to create a terms acceptance page if desired.  Henry Cuthbert offered his insights on this issue.  

Student representative Ben Getson questioned whether students would eschew registering their machines properly via NetReg if a readily available open network were available without registration. Tracy Futhey pointed out that every time a student accesses his or her machine after an idle period, he or she would have to go through the terms acceptance page again, which may provide some incentive for registering one’s computer via NetReg.  Ben indicated that this issue would likely be especially pertinent for smartphone users, as the NetReg process is more complicated for these devices.

David Richardson encouraged the group to evaluate the decision as to whether to include a disclaimer page to the network on the basis of the two major concerns thus presented – whether the page affected Duke’s responsibilities in a meaningful way and whether the presence of a disclaimer page would provide a sufficient motivation for members of the university community to register their computers via NetReg.  Calling for opinions on these points, David suggested that guests not be bothered with a disclaimer page unless the group could demonstrate a benefit to Duke in its inclusion.

A discussion ensued regarding whether this open network would de-incentivize registering of machines via NetReg. Robert Wolpert suggested that a timeout could be implemented on the new guest network if this were a concern.  Klara Jelinkova cited Princeton’s policy of allowing an unregistered computer to connect as a “camper” for up to seven days, and brought up the question of identifying more clearly what we are hoping to control via the registration process.  Agreeing with Ben’s sentiment that smartphone users are unlikely to go through the NetReg process, it was noted that this should be a point for future evaluation.

Robert asked about the advisability of the disclaimer page’s inclusion in any service offering. Henry suggested that such a page be included if adding this page did not create a substantial problem for anyone else.  Wayne Miller supported this decision, offering that he felt more comfortable when connecting to a network with a click-through page, and that the page’s text can be helpful in explaining the intended use for the network.  Ginny Cake offered that the current text is quite long and suggested that OIT take a similar approach to the click-through page offered by DHTS’ guest network’s much simpler disclaimer page.

Henry suggested that we pilot this program in order to examine its implications more closely prior to an institutional rollout of the guest network.  This could be done, offered Sanjay, by restricting the new network to certain buildings or access points.  In response to a question by Rafael Rodriguez regarding visitor demographics, John Board explained that the most use of OIT guest credentials has appeared to take place within university libraries.

Molly Tamarkin raised some issues about the library system’s very specific needs to allow services to people physically present in the library facilities.  The resulting discussion addressed possibilities to accommodate this need, and Klara presented authentication and identity options for library users seeking access to selected materials.  More discussions are expected regarding a specific course of action to accommodate this need, and future discussions on policy regarding this network are expected to follow.

Computer Standards (Ginny Cake)

Ginny Cake opened with a big thanks to the standards team and sub-team (Jim Rigney, Tom Brosnan and Ed Gomes) and particularly to Rafael Rodriguez for sharing his experiences from the DHTS perspective.

Ginny discussed Duke’s general guidelines for computer purchases moving forward.  This policy was summarized as buying and supporting only one computer per user (selected for compatibility with the user’s job functions), using centralized storage over individual hard disk storage where possible, maintaining a cycle of 4+ years’ life for laptops and 5+ years’ life for desktops, and replacing monitors only when they break.

The proposed model for role-based purchasing grouped specifications for hardware purchases into four levels customized to accommodate the job functions from those who primarily use their computers for word possessing and access to web-based applications to those who frequently run resource-intensive software on their local machines.  Customizations to these machines become possible at level three, should they be necessary. Explaining that ergonomics and ADA regulation both played a large role in the selection of these computers, Ginny then showed a breakdown of the Lenovo and Dell configurations for the laptop and desktop options at each level.  Pricing for Apple units was still pending at the time of the presentation.

All machines listed in the proposed plan are available for purchase at the price indicated through the Duke Computer Store.  These vendors have discussed possibly offering customized websites to make future purchasing easier, and delivery for all units will default to the Duke Computer Store.  Buyers are encouraged to continue routing purchases through the store, as they are better equipped to verify the condition of the machines on delivery.

Other initiatives to save on hardware purchases include self-insuring computers’ fifth year of operation and an arrangement with Dell that will provide additional loaner units at no cost when computers are purchased in bulk.  Ginny provided breakdowns of the savings associated with these initiatives, and suggested that Duke Computer and Repair be the first response for computers in need of service in order to centralize this service and avoid distractions in other branches of the university related to departments fixing or arranging repairs themselves.

Ginny then opened the floor to questions from the committee.  Molly Tamarkin asked when these changes would take effect, and Ginny stated that agreements with Dell and Lenovo are effective immediately.  Rafael Rodriguez shared that since Lenovo units must be shipped from China, the company will often offer a discount if you can wait more than two weeks for them to ship via lower-cost methods than air freight. Tracy suggested that purchases be aggregated, perhaps by quarter, in order to take full advantage of this.

Student representative Michael Ansel asked if these new policies would affect pricing for student computers.  Jim Rigney explained that while these purchase agreements could certainly be leveraged to provide lower-cost laptops to students, the benefit is uncertain, as most students opt to buy higher-configured computers than those discussed in these plans.

David Richardson noted that this plan is beneficial to Duke in the reliability of the delivery process through the established channel as well as enhanced compatibility between units, and projected gains in long-term robustness as a result of more organized purchasing of equipment.  Rafael mentioned that driver compatibility is another issue that can be mitigated by structured purchase agreements, and Jim shared that his existing agreement with Lenovo has worked out very well – over the past years, pricing has remained constant while specifications have consistently improved.