Computing Committee update

This Fall the HMC Computing Committee has been meeting monthly to discuss CIS services and strategy. The Committee’s purpose is to represent the interests of faculty and students, advise college leadership about technology needs and policies, and advise the Chief Information Officer (CIO) on computer policies. The committee membership changes every year, with members appointed by the Faculty Executive Committee. This year, the members include:

  • David Money-Harris (2019), Chair
  • Weiqing Gu (2020)
  • Jessica Wu (2020)
  • Raissa Diamante (staff representative, ex officio)
  • Joseph Vaughan (CIO, ex officio)
  • Nick Draper ‘19 (ASHMC rep, ex officio)

This year so far the Committee has met with Chuck Thompson, CUC CIO to discuss the transition of networking to TCC IT, and also with the three CIS senior directors to discuss CIS accomplishments and challenges to come.   

You can contact the HMC Computing Committee at any time by writing to computing-committee-l@g.hmc.edu or by filling out the form here.

Networking Services transfer to TCC IT

CUC’s TCC IT Infrastructure Services has  been building a strong team and is taking steps toward appropriate centralization of networking services.  On January 17, 2017 HMC officially handed responsibility for the CINE service to CUC.  The CINE service provides connectivity between the colleges and beyond the colleges to our Internet Service Providers.   The hand off in January was successful, as we had been preparing and gradually transferring responsibilities since last summer. There was no direct impact on people at HMC, since the CIS Help Desk is still the first port of call for network related concerns.

Along with Pomona College, Claremont McKenna and Keck Graduate Institute, we are participating in TCC IT’s “to the wall plate” network service.  This became effective July 1, 2017  and the responsibilities were completely transferred by August 31st, when Roger Wiechman retired. This was also a smooth hand off to TCC IT with minimal impact on the people at Harvey Mudd.

The idea behind appropriate centralization was to allow the Consortium to take advantage of economies of scale and at the same time to free the College IT departments to focus on services that are best delivered locally.  While I believe it will take some adjustment time to fully reap the benefits, we have already seen TCC IT deliver many advantages:

  • They negotiated an excellent set of discounts and leasing terms with Cisco, based on the collective purchasing power of the Consortium.
  • They negotiated for a “system” membership of Internet2, saving money overall and removing the need for each college to manage membership in Internet2.
  • They negotiated an excellent license cost for Duo, software that we are using to activate multi-factor authentication on our systems.
  • TCC IT has coordinated security initiatives that have focused on obtaining pricing favorable to Consortium members for IT security audits.
  • They have worked closely with Pomona College on an initiative that will help the Colleges meet new audit requirements in relation to Financial Aid record security.

While there will always be bumps in the road for transitions like this, I am very happy with how well things have gone and with the strong work that our new colleagues at TCC IT have been doing.   

Update from the CIO January 2017

I hope everyone enjoyed the winter break and returned with renewed vigor.  The start of classes already seems like so long ago!

There are many things to cover in this update as a lot is going on in the information technology world at HMC and at the Claremont Colleges.

Looking back….

We closed 2016 at CIS with a review of some of the year’s highlights.  The truly great staff at CIS brought up some new services,  with benefits for applicants to HMC, as well as for faculty, staff and students .   Brittany Oliver, one of our newest hires, wrote a lovely article  2016 Year in Review .

Looking forward, there is much to address, but I will frame it all up by looking at two things, IT@TCC and the HMC Computing Committee…

IT@TCC
You might recall that the Presidents’ Council set a number of initiatives in motion in the Fall of 2015, all leading in the direction of what I like to call “appropriate centralization” of IT. None of the Colleges are really in a position to go it alone in IT, which is an area in which there are many natural pressures toward consolidation and centralization.  The trick, of course, is to get the right balance between local and more centralized support; there are many minds from the colleges focused on this task at the moment.  CUC has made some excellent new hires and they are leading a fast paced change effort.  You can read about this in my article on the changing IT landscape at the Claremont Colleges.

Computing Committee
Under Prof David Money Harris’ leadership this year, the computing committee has been having vigorous and interesting discussions.

The committee, and the Department Chairs, have given us some very helpful feedback about the design and features of email, Google Groups and calendar systems.  We have created a document (requires HMC credentials) that summarizes what we have heard and the changes we can make with the intention of improvement.  Please feel free to comment in the document itself or give us feedback in any other way that suits you.

The committee has also been discussing what we can do about providing better Linux support, student printing,  and the new web accessibility policy.  It will soon take up a review of the impact of college growth indicators for Information Technology.

Staff, we are currently looking for a successor to Tim Hussey for the staff position on the Computing Committee,  so  if you’re interested, please use our sign up form.

More to learn about

Here are some other things you might want to read about…

Students (well, anyone really), if you are inclined toward building applications, want to learn a new operating system or delve into databases you should read about the free services you can use from Amazon Educate and about our APIs for college data.

The College adopted a policy on safeguarding confidential and sensitive information in March of 2016.  You can read about this and other policies on the IT Policy website.  We will soon be sharing some practical recommendations about how to comply with the policy, but the core of it is as follows.  We live in a high autonomy and very open information technology environment.  That means we must place an emphasis on each and every user being responsible for how they protect and make use of confidential and sensitive data collected by the College.  That means you!

If you are interested in mailing lists and want to follow what is going on with the transition from majordomo to Google Groups, I recommend three articles:

And, with that, we wish you a successful Spring 2017 Semester.

The changing landscape of IT at the Claremont Colleges

You have probably noticed some signs of it: the landscape of Information Technology at the Claremont Colleges has begun to change significantly. In this article, I will remind you of some of the initiatives that have started or will start in the near future and try to give an idea of their potential impact.

The Council of the Claremont Colleges (“Presidents’ Council”) commissioned a report on Information Technology from consulting firm BerryDunn in 2013. The report made a number of recommendations about consolidation and cost reduction/avoidance.  This led to extensive discussion between the ITC (committee of CIOs of the Colleges) and Council, resulting in the creation of six initiatives, collected under an IT@TCC umbrella.  The initiatives were to do with Networking, Security, Disaster Recovery, Telephony, Identity and Access Management and Data Centers.

At a very high level, the initiatives all call for appropriate centralization and improved management under the aegis of CUC.  In 2016, many of the original six, as well as a few others, launched.   CUC has begun to build a strong IT unit that will manage shared services.  They have made a number of great hires for the roles of CIO, deputy CIO and network management.

A new cross functional committee, the IT Steering Committee, has been formed.  It is comprised of the Vice Presidents from each College with responsibility for IT, the Dean of the Library, and representatives from each of the committees that report to Council (Academic Deans, Treasurers, Student Deans, Communications).  This committee has responsibility for governance of IT and for making decisions about which services should be provided at a Claremont wide level, rather than at individual colleges.  You can read about the ITSC and view its membership on the new it.claremont.edu site.  That site also has information on a number of sub-committees (called “ITOCs”) that are digging into initiatives on networking, telephony, identity and access management among others.

Other initiatives that started before the ITSC was formed are connecting up with the new governance structure and process.   They include:

  • Claremont participation in the Workday Student Strategic Influencer program, led by Andrew Dorantes
  • Assessment of Student Information Systems (SIS), led by Jeff Groves
  • Deployment of Workday’s Human resources system, led by Stig Lanesskog of CUC

So what might this all mean for  HMC faculty, students or staff?

By the summer, Council should have a recommendation from the SIS assessment group regarding the student information system.  It will take at least a couple of years, once a decision on a vendor has been made, to deploy a new system, but we will be saying goodbye to the current versions of the Jenzabar portal and underlying software.  I know that this will be welcome news to many.

The deployment of Workday HCM (“Human Capital Management”) has begun. This is the second Workday system that is being deployed for the Claremont Colleges, following the Financial Management System – the two are tightly integrated.  The new system is scheduled to go live in January 2018 (to coincide with the tax year).  We will be saying goodbye to UltiPro, to PeopleAdmin (for job applicants) and to current performance evaluation system (word docs).   Cynthia Beckwith, Kimberly Taylor and I are your HMC representatives on the workgroups responsible for deploying Workday HCM.  So please get in touch if you think there’s some aspect of this that you would like to influence. We’d love to know what is currently working well, what works but could be improved and what is not working for you at all.

The landscape really is changing, and there is much more to report, but I will stop for now.  Do get in touch if you have questions or comments.

 

 

Workday Student

As I mentioned before,  the Claremont Colleges have decided to participate in Workday’s Strategic Influencer program for the Workday Student product.   This initiative is now taking more shape.  The following people have been appointed to the Workday Strategic Influencer Project Team:

  • Margeret Adorno (Registrar, Pomona)
  • Mark Ashley (Registrar, HMC)
  • Andrew Dorantes (Treasurer, HMC)
  • Robert Goldstein (CIO, Pitzer)
  • Elizabeth Morgan (Registrar, Claremont McKenna)
  • Joseph Vaughan (CIO, HMC)
  • Chris Waugh, (Director, Smith Campus Center, Pomona)

The Project Team will visit Workday headquarters in Pleasanton, CA on February 24 for the first meeting of Strategic Influencers and Design Partners.  These meetings will be broadcast so that you can listen in from home.  Workday will be conducting interviews with functional groups as well.  If you have views on what a Student System should do, now is the time to speak up!

Claremont Colleges will use Workday Financial Management

I hope you all saw the announcement about Workday Financial Management.  This wd-logois big news for lots of reasons.

Last year, the intercollegiate Budget and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC) began looking for a replacement for the aging Datatel financial system that is run by the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).  The BFAC narrowed its requirements down to four or five “show stoppers”, two of which will be of great interest to our faculty.  The first was the ability easily to report across fiscal years, which is often very important to grant holders. And the second was support for all modern browsers. (You can read more about Workday’s  philosophy on user interface design).

The BFAC and the consultant they worked with (a former treasurer at Scripps College) reviewed all the market leaders and finally settled on Workday, a relative newcomer with a strong pedigree (it was founded by the founder of Peoplesoft, Dave Duffield and the former chief strategist of Peoplesoft, Aneel Bhusri).  The Presidents Council signed off on the BFAC choice in August and the target for implementation of the new system is July 1, 2015 (yes, 2015!).

One interesting aspect of this for me, as CIO of one of the participating Colleges, is that Workday is only offered as software as a service (SaaS): there is no on-premise version. We will not be making any local customizations.  This is one more example of systems moving to the cloud, with all the implications that carries for IT units and for the Colleges.

Also extremely interesting from a Claremont perspective is that all of the Treasurers have agreed to “hold hands” and use one system, including changing and aligning business practices across the Colleges.  This includes Pomona College returning to being on the same financial system as the other colleges.

A further related aspect of this is that Workday have begun developing Workday Student, a new student information system.  They invited the Claremont Colleges to participate in the development of this system as “strategic influencers”.  The intercollegiate Academic Deans Committee (ADC), Business and Financial Affairs Committee (BFAC) and Information Technology Committee (ITC) made a joint recommendation to the Council that we should take Workday up on their offer.  But at the same time the committees recommended a market review of Student Information Systems, with a view to replacing Jenzabar CX (including, potentially, with Jenzabar JX). The Presidents agreed.  Andrew Dorantes, Mark Ashley and I will all participate heavily in the Strategic Influencer work.  Workday will also conduct interviews with different groups of users, starting this week with the Registrars.

So in the near future (July 2015 or soon after) we will gradually bid a fond farewell to OnBase RFCs and the CUC Connect financial reports. And in the medium future (late 2015) the Claremont Colleges will investigate alternatives to Jenzabar CX.
lebowski
There is a lot more to say about this, and as the Dude said “It’s a complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins. Lotta outs. And a lotta strands to keep in my head, man”. So I will post individual news items on it as we move forward.

 

 

Summer 2014 update from the CIO

beanoWhen I was a kid growing up in Ireland, I loved reading the Beano and the Dandy.  Every summer, they would announce a “bumper edition”, which was packed with extra stuff for those long summer days out of school.  This is the bumper edition of updates from the CIO!

Infrastructure
The summer was a very busy one in the realm of IT infrastructure. We oversaw a major rewiring of the Parsons structure; which set the building up to host a modern wired and wireless network that should serve us well for the foreseeable future.  The major points of emphasis in the architecture of the new network are:

  • Assume an increase in the use of wireless devices (to support this we increased the number of wireless access points from nine to sixty seven).
  • Build a high capacity wired network that requires fewer physical cables (cat 6A throughout the building, fewer physical ports, but higher capacity)
  • Improve switching closets and reduce their number (from six to two).

I am very grateful to our partners in Facilities and Maintenance who worked with us to make the wiring project a success, and were supportive of our idea of carrying out our project in parallel with the vacated space project.  The new Clinic space in the basement is just beautiful!

We planned the new dorm wired and wireless network and, taking advantage of the construction work, have laid the groundwork for a “north campus loop” that will enhance the resilience of The Claremont Colleges network by providing alternate (redundant and diverse) networking routes to the second CINE core switch.

We bought new switches for east and south dorms, as well as the Linde Activity Center. We placed a new UPS in Kingston and new wireless access points in the LAC.

A new fiber run from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles is about to be completed, connecting with the Claremont network at the CUC building on First Street. This will increase the resilience of our connections to the internet.  As you can imagine, this is ever more important with the increased use of software services that are hosted elsewhere.

IAM@HMC (Identity and Access management)
We worked closely and intensely with our project partners from Fischer Identity during the summer, meeting every day for many weeks.  This let us push through to get several big wins:

  • We eliminated the distinction between LDAP passwords and Active Directory passwords — it’s all HMC Credentials from now on.
  • Automatic Account Creation (“provisioning”) went live. This meant that we could bring all the new students on board in record time, without manual account creation.
  • We brought the portal (portal.hmc.edu) into the Single Sign On environment. It uses HMC credentials now and you won’t be challenged to log in if you have already logged in and established a session in another application that is part of Single Sign On.
  • We added payors to the HMC portal so that they can view and pay bills on line.
  • We worked with other consortium members to bring up CAS, which will provide single sign on for other systems and, in our case, increases the usefulness of your HMC Credentials. In a new phase of the IAM@HMC project we hope to integrate CAS with Fischer Identity and get even more single sign on in place.

IT Assessment by BerryDunn
During the summer, representatives from consulting firm BerryDunn were in Claremont working on a Claremont-wide IT Assessment at the request of the Presidents Council. Some of you took the opportunity to meet or talk with them and give your views on the quality of IT overall at the Colleges.  I understand that the BerryDunn folk will be coming back again in the Fall, so there will be additional opportunities to meet with them.  I will try to send a bit more advanced notice, so please keep an eye out.  If you are particularly keen on talking with them, please just get in touch with me and we can set up a telephone call. They are very eager to provide the Colleges with a high quality actionable report and would greatly appreciate your input.

IT Policy
During the summer, I completed updates to the HMC Password Policy and finalized the policy on incidental personal use of IT, both of which are now linked on our IT policies page on the HMC website.  Both are the result of extensive discussion with various instances of the Computing Committee, the Presidents Cabinet and other stakeholders.  I believe that policies should be realistic and should interfere as little as possible with your day to day experience, while at the same time achieving institutional goals.  I have found that a good way to achieve that is to have extensive discussion with stakeholders, including college counsel and to be willing to wait until the policy is well cooked before releasing it.

Next up is a policy on safeguarding confidential and sensitive information.

Speaking of passwords, on October 27th we plan to turn on the password expiration function in the Fischer system.  If your password is over 365 days old, you will need to reset it. The prompt at login will just say “invalid credentials”, as we don’t want to give hackers any clues.  But you will receive a notice via email when your password is seven days away from expiring. When we first released the HMC Password Policy, the advice of the Computing Committee at the time was that August would be a good time to remind people to reset passwords, since everyone is coming back and doing housekeeping tasks for the new year.  The timing of your annual reset is up to you though, since you can change your password at any time by visiting the Password and Account Management Kiosk.  If your password is getting old, now might be a good time to change it.

Websites
When we moved to the new HMC website last January, we vowed that we would work hard to ensure that only accurate and relevant information would appear on our pages. We continue to work on that goal and have been enhancing our Service Catalog page and keeping on top of updates to the IT Projects page.  Our goal is to make it valuable and effective to turn to the CIS web page whenever you are looking for a solution or are curious to know what we’re up to.

We have also set up pages.hmc.edu for people who wish to host static html pages outside of any of our content or learning management systems.  I wrote about this in the April update, but it is worth mentioning again as we work towards decommissioning older systems such as thuban (www2), odin (www3) and www5.  www4 has already been decommissioned and replaced by pages.hmc.edu

Educational Technology
Thanks to our restructuring that placed AV operations under the wing of User Support,  Educational Technology Services had become even more focused and productive under Elizabeth Hodas’  leadership. Elizabeth is paying special attention to the question of how to relate technology tools to the goals of faculty and students.  I hope you will notice this emphasis in the roster of workshops available during our Week of Workshops, which started on Monday.

Over the summer, there was a surprising amount of interest in trying out Google Glass. Jeho Park described our experiments in his article OK Glass,shoot a laser beam!.  I found the star mapping app really compelling, even though the night on which I had Glass was a cloudy one!  It was the first time I really felt for myself the potential of augmented reality applications and I will never forget my daughter’s exclamation “oh wow” when she donned the Glass and went outside to conquer her fear of the dark.

Also over the summer, Deb Mashek set up a Google Apps Learning Community that several of us participated in.  It was a quiet success and I heard from a number of the participants about how they liked the hands on and interactive approach of these sessions, so we’re thinking of other possibilities.   We are also exploring the possibility of subscribing to lynda.com campus edition through a Claremont wide agreement. This would give faculty, students and staff a large number of online professional development and learning opportunities.

People
Unfortunately, Corey LeBlanc left us for Pomona College, where he is now the Computer Science Dept System Administrator. We wish him the best of luck, and were very sorry to see him leave us.

Taylor Calderone will be helping to fill in as we search for a new DTA. Taylor has been with us for a while in a temporary capacity, particularly with AV support for events, so he knows the ropes.

In other hiring news, we are having more success in the search for a Sr. Network Engineer and have interviewed a couple of really promising candidates in recent weeks.  Stay tuned for news on that front.

As I completed writing this update, I had a feeling of exhilaration.  It is just so pleasing to see so much progress in so many areas!  And, once again, my hat is off to the hardworking staff at CIS who just keep on working at a very high level.

Welcome back every one (and welcome, first years).  At CIS, we missed you and are looking forward to supporting you for yet another great year at Mudd.

 

 

 

Data Privacy Month (with a painful story about the students-l list)

Today is Data Privacy Day. See http://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/

To celebrate, here is a true story culled from the vaults of HMC server administrator lore. Read it, weep… and then change your passwords.

Once upon a time there was a moderator of the students-l list. She was diligent and hard-working, devoted to the task of saving other students time by only approving messages that she judged to be of interest to students, and collecting together announcements about events at the other Colleges so they could all be included in one message. She worked on this most days, using the students-l list software.

The students-l list system is very old and resides on a Linux machine called Odin. The list system is so old that it may have been created when “GUI” was only a railway code for a station on the Glossop Line and graphical user interfaces were figments of fevered imaginations at Xerox PARC.

Now one day our diligent moderator (let’s call her Agnes) logged in to the system and noticed it was really slow, slower than usual.  At first, Agnes thought that maybe the list system was on the blink or even that Odin was finally giving up the ghost.  She couldn’t moderate messages or send anything out to students-l. Agnes quickly reported it to the CIS Help Desk.

The server admins were soon busy examining Odin as it lay there on its sheets of Irish linen. Little did they know that they were entering their very own long dark teatime of the soul, not working on high priority HMC projects, but just trying to figure out what was going on.

Bit by bit (was that pun intended?), they discovered that Odin was sending out tons of spam and then getting back tons of bounce messages.  So many that poor Odin was choking, unable to give any attention to Agnes’ plaintive login requests. Even worse, Odin was failing to recognize Agnes’ user name and trying to send error messages about that.

“But why?” said the server admins, pulling at their hair (long dark teatimes can have that effect).  “Why Odin?  Why now?  Why spam?  …Why us?”.

Now you just have to sit there and imagine time passing. Slowly.  No students-l messages are getting through.  Spam is spewing.  The server admins are ignoring other things. “Educational Technology?…no time for that”.   Are you imagining that?

OK. In the end, they figured it out.  Another user account on Odin  had been hacked and the hackers were using it to send their spam. And how did they hack it?  You guessed it. A weak password on the user account….  Sigh. Once they figured that out, the server admins had to spend several hours cleaning up the mess and then let Agnes know she was back up and moderating.  Lots of time lost and all because of a weak password.

Data Privacy Day. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure data privacy. And it can start with a better password. For tips on creating a better one, maybe even creating one that meets HMC requirements, take a quick look at the HMC Password Policy.

Held annually on January 28, Data Privacy Day encourages everyone to make protecting privacy and data a greater priority. DPD is an international effort to empower and educate people to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint. It kicks off Data Privacy Month (http://www.educause.edu/focus-areas-and-initiatives/policy-and-security/educause-policy/community-engagement/data-privacy-month).

Thanks for reading. Now go forth and change your passwords.

Update on Portal Advisory Group

Screenshot from 2013-03-14 17:30:10I’ve written about the Portal Advisory Group before.  Affectionately known as PAG, it’s a group that will assist us with setting priorities for the Portal, starting from the premise that the portal is a tool which we know HMC has not used to its full capacity. The group will guide CIS and the College in improving and expanding use of the portal.

The following people have all agreed to participate and I am grateful to them.

Mark Ashley (Registrar, Chair)
Lauren Kim (Assoc Registrar)
Susan Selhorst (CIS)
Cindy Abercrombie (CIS)
Paul Steinberg (HSA)
Vatche Sahakian (Physics)
Tim Hussey (OCA Communications)
Jennifer Greene (OCA Communications)
Guy Gerbick (DOS)
Scott Martin (BAO)

We are also seeking one or two students to help with this initiative.

The first meeting is being scheduled for just after Spring break.

I look forward to good outcomes!

Faculty Computing Survey Results

survey-300x224In late Fall 2012 the computing committee ran a survey of faculty, asking three questions about information technology at HMC.

About 50 faculty responded to the questions, and almost everyone wrote a few lines of comments in response to each question – in addition to giving scores.

Question 1: How satisfied are you with the current teaching services provided by the CIS (e.g. Sakai, portal, classroom support, labs, etc…)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.57/4.00, 54 respondents)

Question 2: How satisfied are you with the other services offered by the CIS (email, research related services, laptop/desktop support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: B- (2.69/4.00, 55 respondents)

Question 3: How satisfied are you with the current computing services offered by your own department (e.g. email, website, lab, course support, etc)?

– Average letter grade: C+ (2.35/4.00, 49 respondents)

The spread of each score was roughly 0.50/4.00, with a bigger spread for the third question.

The committee summarized by saying that things have improved and are going in the right direction, but that there is still work to be done.

The computing committee members this year are:

Vatche Sahakian (Chair)
Alfonso Castro
Weiqing Gu
Jacob Bandes-Storch ’14
Joseph Vaughan

The committee made four recommendations of its own and added more recommendations coming from the Faculty Executive Committee. You can read the full report, with my responses to each recommendation at the following URL (HMC Credentials required to access the document):
http://goo.gl/oqxiF