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.

 

 

 

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

Time to change your password!

As we move into Fall semester, some of the authentication systems managed by CIS will be configured to require password resets every 365 days.

This is a step in improving the overall security of HMC systems and bringing us into compliance with our password policy.

To reset your passwords please visit the HMC password and account management portal at:

https://iaas2idm.fischeridentity.com/identity/self-service/HMC/kiosk.jsf
(Nov 2012 edit: we have replaced this link with

https://iam.hmc.edu/identity/self-service/HMC/login.jsf

)
Using this portal, you will set up security questions and set the password for all of the following systems in one go:

Claremont WPA wireless (eg laptops, phones and other devices that connect to Claremont WPA wireless)
Alice and Charlie file servers
Cognos 10 reports
Google Apps for Education
Ultipro

If you have not reset your passwords in over 365 days, you should do so. We will be working with each department to ensure a smooth transition to this new system.  You can change your password any time you like using the password and account management portal.  Once we have worked directly with each department, we will turn on the feature that requires a password change every 365 days.

Thank you for your understanding and your efforts to increase the security of our systems.

Please don’t hesitate to send questions or concerns to us at helpdesk@hmc.edu

CIS to make more use of Footprints ticket system

Partly as a result of our recent BAO and CIS service initiative CIS has committed to making more effective use of the issue tracking system Numara Footprints.  This system is housed at Pomona College and is used by most of the Claremont Colleges, though each has a separate section in the database.

CIS has developed a process for working with the ticket system which identifies roles, responsibilities and the stages in the ticket life cycle. There’s a quick overview in the following slideshow.

Essentially, there are three roles and three life cycle stages. The roles are “user” (you, the customer!),  “assignee” (members of CIS staff that do the work), and “owner” (member of CIS staff responsible for guiding the ticket through to completion).  The “owner” plays a customer advocate role to ensure that we provide the service we aspire to provide.

Why would you care about any of this? If we put issues in a ticket system they are less likely to be forgotten, and are seen by more than one pair of eyes. We will be able to track the work we do at CIS better, and build a knowledge base of solutions to common problems.  You don’t have to know the details of who does what in order to see your requests answered.  And we’ll be able to ask you for specific feedback about individual service requests.

I am very impressed with CIS staff member’s quick adoption of our process.  We’ve had a couple of “ticket squashing” pizza parties that resulted in closing large numbers of issues and, when we identified nearly 200 older tickets that did not have an owner assigned, the group pulled together to eliminate this problem in less than one day.

Two new Directors join CIS

I am delighted to announce that on May 2nd, two new Directors came to work at CIS for the first time.

Cindy Abercrombie joins us as our new Director of Information Technology Projects and Planning.  Cindy was most recently Manager of Network Operations at CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California), which operates high speed networks for California’s education and research communities.  She has also worked at AboveNet and Fair, Isaac and Company (which creates FICO scores).  She holds degrees in Electronics and Management.  This is Cindy’s first higher ed position and she will be taking the lead on a number of our IT projects, as well as overseeing administrative operations in CIS.  Cindy is a native Californian and in her spare time she enjoys watching her children play basketball and relaxing in the backyard with her dog.

 

Our new Director of Systems and Network is Mitch Shacklett.  He comes to us from Fort Lewis College, Colorado where he was most recently Manager of Systems Administration.  Like HMC, Fort Lewis College has a mixed IT environment, so Mitch is knowledgeable about  Windows and Linux server administration.  He holds degrees in Finance and in Education from the University of San Diego. Mitch has a connection with Claremont, as he was born here (although his parents moved when he was very young).  When not deeply immersed in Information Technology, Mitch likes to enjoy the outdoors: snow skiing, mountain biking, surfing and dirt bike riding.

You may recall that our reorganization last summer allowed us to create these new positions.  The search for a Systems and Network Director was a long one, but we did find two new Directors for the price of one search.  Please join me in welcoming them to Harvey Mudd College!

CIS presents at faculty meeting

On April 21, 2011 the CIS management team presented a report on the state of Information Technology to the faculty. Joseph began the presentation with a review of our four strategic directions and our customer service initiative. The four strategic directions are IT Decision Making (Governance), IT Infrastructure, Central IT (CIS), and Innovation. Before presenting examples of projects in each of these four strategic initiatives, Susan Selhorst described the iterative process we went through with the management team and the CIS staff to create our service vision statement.

  • CIS is dedicated to providing excellent client-centered services to the HMC community.
  • We promote the mission of HMC with reliable, innovative, and convenient technology.
  • We provide customer support that is friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive while working collaboratively with clients to develop effective and relevant solutions.
A Bite of Learning

A Bite of Learning

Joseph talked about the gap between what we espouse and what is actual, and how we approach that gap. As an example of initiatives in the area of Central IT, Calvin Tong spoke about the DTA program and introduced the two new staff on the User Support team. In the DTA (Department Technical Analyst) program individual staff in the User Support group are assigned to specific departments. This allows the DTAs to become very familiar with the needs of each department.  Elizabeth Hodas talked about the A Bite of Learning series as an example of innovation. The series focuses on introducing new and emerging technology to the HMC community in an informal lunch setting. Joseph continued with a discussion of how IT decisions are being made and some examples of the different sourcing models we are using. He concluded with a description of the planned email and calendar migration. Questions after the presentation focused mostly on the email and calendar migration.

Microsoft Online Training

HMC has a software subscription license which provides faculty and staff with access to many Microsoft Products.  As part of that agreement, we have access to online training resources at http://business.microsoftelearning.com/ The courses include and advanced material, are self paced and include assessments.  You can save your place in a course and come back to it at any time.

To get access, you will need to register with your HMC email address and an account access code which you can obtain from the Help Desk