February 2012 update from the CIO

This is the February 2012 update from the CIO, with news about a number of projects.

CUC switched over to Ultipro for payroll and benefits in late December, in time for the new tax year. Ultipro is Software as a Service (SaaS), delivered over the internet.  Since it is used for processing payroll and benefits it will no doubt become familiar to all HMC employees.  It includes a number of self-service options that allow you to change things like the address and phone number that HR has on record for you.  We are delighted to say that Ultipro is the first application to be included in our Identity and Access Management (IAM) initiative.  The immediate effect is that you will not get a new username and password for Ultipro but instead you will use your HMC Credentials to access the site.  Later phases of the IAM initiative will include self service password management for your HMC Credentials and inclusion of other applications, so that once you’ve logged on to one application, you won’t be challenged for a username and password when you open the next application.   Eventually, Ultipro will serve as the “authoritative source” for employee information, and we will use the information it contains to trigger automated creation and deletion of accounts on many systems.

F&M’s Isabel Jordan played the role of guest author and wrote for us about the upgrade of EMS to EMS Campus.  EMS Campus is shared between all of the Colleges, and operated by Pomona College.  The registrars were particularly interested in this upgrade as it will provide an online process to build the class schedule each semester.

CIS service vision
I wrote earlier about our BAO and CIS service initiative, which ended in early January.  We owe the members of the Business Office Leadership Team (BOLT) a debt of gratitude for their help with this initiative.  We are currently digesting what we learned from the experiment but know already that we would like to extend several elements into the future and across the college.  The first is a new commitment on our part to make more use of the Footprints ticket system.  Read more about this in the article CIS to make more use of Footprints ticket system.

Kerry Karukstis recently announced the launch of ProfSOS (“student offered support”) which offers faculty assistance from students on specific tasks.  CIS built the ProfSOS application by linking together a number of cloud and local services.  Calvin Tong has written a nice article explaining this in more detail.  We were able to get ProfSOS up and running in a matter of hours, whereas we would have had to tell Prof Karukstis to wait for quite some time if we were going to use our internal staff and server resources to accomplish the same task.  This is one of the key benefits of the cloud computing offerings that we are taking advantage of.

UCS and virtualization
Speaking of internal staff and resources, our systems and network group has been busy since the arrival of our Unified Computing System (UCS). A UCS is basically an integrated set of servers contained in one cabinet. We are using ours to host a VMware virtualization environment. The systems and network staff set the environment up during the break and are busy converting physical servers into virtual servers. There are now eighteen production systems housed on the UCS.

Educational Technology News
Elizabeth Hodas wrote about the Spring Bite of Learning series, which has gotten off to a terrific start; lots of people attend and the discussions are lively.  Among the topics coming up this semester are presentations on collaboration with Google Apps, on classroom walls that talk and on bringing research alive with social media.

Elizabeth also wrote about a Kaltura video pilot that we are running this semester.

Network and infrastructure work
At the January Board of Trustees meeting, we provided an update on our network and infrastructure work. (In the Fall, I uploaded the September PPCPC presentation). We have completed inventory of our network equipment, which is housed in 23 locations across campus.  We will now engage a vendor to validate our inventory and help with design of a new network.  We are obtaining pricing for replacement of switches and routers (71 of them across campus) and anticipate working with BAO to develop an financial plan that will allow continuous investment in the network infrastructure.  We have identified a couple of possible locations to which we can move equipment out of our data center (in particular, we’d like to move the UCS I mentioned above) and are evaluating connectivity and costs associated with those locations. Under the auspices of CINE we are also evaluating options to increase the diversity of our internet connections with Los Nettos, our Internet Services Provider (ISP).

Email and Calendar
The email and calendar team are making steady progress on email migration from Zimbra to Google Apps.  They are currently scheduling migrations one department at a time, although they are also doing individual migrations on request.  We are finding that demand is slightly outpacing our ability to get the accounts created and the email and calendar information transferred.  Given the prevalence of Outlook as an email and calendar client in many of the administrative departments, we have decided to offer them two accounts, one in Office 365 for email and calendaring and one in Google Apps for collaborative document editing. Internally in CIS we have moved much of our document creation and editing to Google Apps and we don’t miss the days of passing different versions of Word and Excel documents around!   Read more in Cindy Abercrombie’s article Email and Calendar Project Update.

That’s quite a list of work for the first two months of the year.  Enjoy your Spring semester!

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