September 2011 update from the CIO

September was such a busy month that we saw very few news articles being written!

Nevertheless, there’s much to report. And we’ll get back on the wagon with respect to writing timely news articles this month.

Email and Calendar
The email and calendar team, after slowing down for the start of semester frenzy, have picked up the pace again.  They are busy planning the next phase of “migration”, which will focus on mailbox-01, where most faculty and staff email accounts reside.  One of our emails about this planning caused some consternation, as it led people to believe we were going to move everyone’s accounts in October.  This is emphatically not the case:  there are some people who are eager to move to Google Apps for Education, and we are moving them first.  After that, the team will schedule time with each person to arrange the migration.  Also, I have asked the Email and Calendar team to look into self service possibilities, which would allow you to schedule your move at a time that suits you (Haverford College did something like that successfully).  Our email did have the beneficial effect of encouraging lots of feedback, for which we are grateful.  Keep it up!

Some of the feedback about email and calendar questioned the decision itself, and I have been talking to people who expressed concerns.  I am writing a separate news article on this topic.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Identity and Access management (IAM) is the difficult task of creating, managing and deleting accounts across numerous systems.  IAM software allows management of the process, which is currently handled manually (eg. HR sends an email to a group of people when we hire new employees, and that triggers a wave of account creation activity). Typically, IAM software also allows for self-service password management — you can reset your passwords from a single web site, after you’ve answered some security questions. We are in the final stages of negotiation with CUC and an IAM vendor.  As well as self service password management, an IAM product will allow us to join InCommon, an Internet2 initiative which provides federated authentication.  Once we are InCommon members then you will be able to use your HMC username and passwords to access many sites, including the NSF’s (read more about this at

BOLT-MT retreat
BOLT (the Business Office Leadership Team) and MT (the CIS Management Team) held a joint day long retreat in September.  This was the first time we had ever done a joint retreat, and we discovered much that we had in common, as both organizations are service providers to all of campus. We made several agreements, among them that we are partners and will work to improve our performance on joint projects such as the Digital Signage initiative that you see happening in Hoch-Shanahan.  One outcome: MT clarified how to access CIS services, and made some internal agreements to ensure that we are being consistent.  There are two primary routes to service from CIS: you can contact the Help Desk or you can contact your DTA. Those folk will ensure that your service request is dealt with. We know there are secondary routes too, such as directly calling someone you know. We are working internally to ensure that all requests, no matter which route they travel along, will end up in our ticket system. This will afford us a better understanding of the work and help us to make sure that fewer requests are dropped because only one person knew about them. So if you don’t see a ticket being created when you request service, make sure to ask for one!

Infrastructure Presentation to Board
At the last meeting of the PPCPC (Physical Plant and Campus Planning Committee), a Board of Trustees committee, I gave a presentation on network infrastructure. Our two new directors, Mitch and Cindy, have begun the task of developing a 3-5 year plan for the network infrastructure at the College. The presentation focused on our initial work of creating an inventory of equipment, locations and connectivity between the locations and on out to the internet. We are assessing the locations and equipment and gathering the information we will need to create a long term plan. For example, we have 71 switches and routers, some of which are no longer supported by Cisco and some that are nearing end of life. So we need a plan for replacing them.  You will see more on this in future news articles.

High Performance Workstations
We have long wanted to install some high end workstations in the Learning Studio. We are now about to do that, and need feedback, especially from students, about our plans. Calvin Tong has written a nice article on this at

There’s lots more to write about, but it is already mid-October, so I will have to contain myself until the next CIO update.  I hope everyone enjoyed Fall break.




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