IFAS COMPUTER COORDINATORS
NOTES FROM July 13th 2007 REGULAR MEETING
A meeting of the ICC was held on Friday, July 13th, 2007. The meeting was chaired and called to order by Steve Lasley, at about 10:05 a.m. in the ICS conference room.
PRESENT: Twenty-two members participated.
Remote participants: Bill Black, Chris Fooshee, Mari Jayne Frederick, Kevin Hill, Wayne Hyde, Louise Ryan.
Julio Bastidas, Benjamin Beach, Dennis Brown, Allan Burrage, Andrew Carey, Lance Cozart, Dan Cromer, Marion Douglas, Dwight Jesseman, Gregg Knapp, Winnie Lante, Steve Lasley, Mark Ross, Daniel Solano, Wendy Williams and Matt Wilson.
STREAMING AUDIO: available here
Agendas were distributed, and the meeting began just a bit late. We had problems with the Polycom at first and then again during the meeting, but Marion Douglas came to the rescue. My apologies to our remote Polycom participants for those unanticipated difficulties.
Prior to the meeting Steve shared a funny video from the Onion News Network entitled "Breaking News: All Online Data Lost After Internet Crash" and while we were waiting for the streaming to get set up, we introduced folks around the room. It was great to see a number of new faces.
Steve noted a number of new members. Julio Bastidas has joined the crew at CREC. Both he and Allan Burrage made the trek to Gainesville today; Allan said that more frequent visits should be in the works. Julio's background includes hardware/software troubleshooting and integration for Microsoft based networks, something which he has been doing for about 9 years.
Raymond Cho wasn't at the meeting, but he has replaced Omar Abdelghany (who has graduated) at CALS. Raymond helps Wendy Williams run the McCarty Hall computer lab.
Daniel Solano is new with FSHN and we were very pleased that he could attend his first ICC meeting today. Daniel is replacing Tom Kirby.
Brian Gray has replaced Joe Bess in providing IT support for the IFAS Dean for Research. Mark Ross mentioned that Brian has been very busy from the very first time he stepped foot here, and Ben Beach related that Brian had worked for the IT Software group prior.
Steve also mentioned that Dianne Underwood and Eric Daniels (both USDA employees) are sharing computer/network contact duties for the Brooksville REC.
All these folks are now subscribed to the ICC-L. We'd like to welcome all of them and hope they choose to participate with us as time passes.
Recap since last meeting:
As per his usual procedure, Steve pointed folks to the notes of the last meeting, without going into any details.
WebCT usage in IFAS
Steve noted that he has arranged with Douglas Johnson, Manager of Learning Support Services at UF's Academic Technologies, for him to come to our August meeting to talk about WebCT. Steve mentioned that a brief polling of his users did not bring up much positive concerning WebCT; most have a poor impression of it. Winnie Lante said that she has one faculty member who began using it fairly recently and that they were thrilled with it. Steve noted that Mari Jayne Frederick had mentioned using it very successfully. Ben Beach had heard that it was being replaced with Elluminate, something that Pat Capps had mentioned at our last meeting. Steve, however, said his understanding was that Elluminate would be an adjunct to WebCT, providing additional virtual classroom capability. Clearly, we need to find out more about this potentially useful service, so please begin preparing any questions or concerns which you or your users may have.
Upcoming IFAS IT Policy Advisory Committee meeting
Steve mentioned there will be another ITPAC meeting August 16th and asked people to consider any policy-oriented matters which they may wish to have presented there on behalf of the ICC. Steve noted that he sits on this committee due to his role as chair of the ICC. Wendy Williams is another ICC member who is on that committee, representing the Office of the Dean for Academic Programs.
UF IT Advisory Committee for Network Infrastructure meeting
Steve said that ITAC-NI was effectively on hiatus for the summer, but wanted ICCers to know that we had representation on that committee as well. Chris Leopold, Dan Cromer and Steve Lasley are all IFAS representatives there.
IT Governance sub-committee status report
Steve explained that this standing item on our agenda is a catch-all for UF-level matters affecting IT. Dan Cromer arrived a bit later, but gave some feedback on what is holding up movement on IT governance. Basically, Kyle Cavenaugh (former UF's first VP for Human Resources who was recently named Senior Vice President for Administration) has as his first priority the hiring of a Chief Financial Officer for UF. Additionally, he needs to locate a replacement for his former role as VP of Human Resources. Once those hires are accomplished, he will turn to the CIO position for which Marc Hoit holds the Interim position. When that position is firmly in place, we expect to get back on track with regards to IT governance.
The UF Exchange Project
Steve mentioned that work on a UF level Exchange deployment is progressing, and Dwight Jesseman offered a few details on what is transpiring there. Dwight referred us to the May IT Connections newsletter where Dr. Marc Hoit outlined that project. Dwight briefly described the overall organization of the UF Exchange Project:
- Executive Sponsor:
Marc Hoit - Provide charge and leadership
- Advisory Committee:
8 – 10 campus representatives (TBA) – Recommends Service Levels and Help define the service
- Management Team:
Conlon, Fitzpatrick, Hoit and Zazueta – Resources, Scope, Decisions, Team Support
- Project Manager:
George Bryan – Plan and task the daily effort
- Project Team:
Members from AT (McDonell, Hendricks), AA (Staats), CNS (Moffatt, Ben-Shoshan) and UFAD (Bryan, Jesseman, Kanofsky, Schmidt) – Design and Build UF Exchange
Steve asked whether there were any details concerning the timeframe of implementation. Dwight mentioned that, in case people were not aware, there is a UFAD test environment which includes a slimmed-down version of our production system. This gives them the opportunity to build a test Exchange system in an environment similar to what we will eventually have in production. The alpha environment has been completed for several months and they are working on the beta environment currently. Dwight speculated that the front-end services will come on-line first; these include the Client Access server, the ISA server and the Hot Transport server. Once that is solidified, they will work on the mailboxes and back-end storage system.
Steve said that IFAS would obviously be a big chunk of the Exchange implementation. Dwight said other groups would include Academic Affairs and all the many and various offices beneath that group, as well as the ROTC group, Performing Arts and the College of Fine Arts.
Dennis Brown asked if public folders would remain supported in Exchange 2007 and Dwight replied that they would. Steve asked how the transition to Exchange 2007 would appear from the end-user perspective. Dwight mentioned that each mailbox would have to be taken off-line during its move to the new environment, but that this would be done during announced maintenance periods. One configuration change that may affect some is the move from an SMTP address of "email.ifas.ufl.edu" to some UF-level equivalent. This will primarily affect IMAP and POP configurations, so it should be relatively minor in nature. Also, the "email.ifas.ufl.edu" may be retained as a valid setting for a period in order to smooth that transition.
Areas of Concentration for 2007/2008 for Mike Conlon’s group
Chris Leopold was not able to make today's meeting, but he had previously related to Steve some details from the June ITAC-DI meeting. Steve had neglected to relay this information during the ICC meeting, but wanted to document it here:
- Migration Assistance and Planning
- Planning and preparing for Exchange 2007
- Planning and preparing for Longhorn Server release
- BizTalk Applications for Student Financials, Campus Community and Directory
- Upgrade MIIS 2003 to ILM 2007
- IFAS Upgrade of remote domain controllers
- Clustering the master exchange server
- Documentation improvements
- SMS reporting server
- POSIX support
The Wallplate Project
Steve noted that the Wallplate website continues to be updated with details on this project. Details do seem to have changed from what Steve originally understood. Steve is still interested in learning why local IT support personnel would be denied the ability to deploy unmanaged workgroup switches as they see fit. While UF's Acceptable Use Policy forbids end users from doing that, there is no current security reason for such a policy against local IT support personnel. Allowing such flexibility would seem a reasonable and economical choice, especially considering how tight budgets are currently. Steve has learned that it would be fairly trivial for CNS to enforce such a policy via setting port security to allow only one MAC address per managed port. That would render workgroup switches useless. As far as Steve knows this is currently not being done for wallplate clients.
Recommendation: autogroups for *selected* roles
This item was not discussed but is being kept on the agenda for future consideration. Basic role autogroups are now in place within UFAD.
Split DNS solution for UFAD problems
Steve reminded folks that he is investigating alternate solutions for the split DNS issues. He has not had time recently however to pursue that, but the initial tests did look promising.
If anyone else would like to help test this, please get with Steve. Since a split-DNS solution is not expected to happen any time soon, this might really help out with our user experience in the meantime.
UF Calendar Project
Prior UF Calendar Project discussion. Wendy Williams gave a brief update of how things were going with this project. She said that overall strategy has changed somewhat due to a less-than-expected participation. The plan now is to concentrate on a particular platform which appears to hold the most promise.
Listserv confirm settings
This is a low priority work in progress. It has been agreed to by administration, but will take some time to fully implement.
SharePoint Test Site
Prior SharePoint discussion. Ben Beach mentioned that the http://public.ifas.ufl.edu site is still up in running and he encouraged people to check that out. Ben also said that there are continuing concerns about the applicability of SharePoint to our CMS needs. Marion Douglas had contacted a number of other universities to determine what is being used out there. There are quite a few different systems being utilized but there seemed to be some consensus on Cascade Server CMS by Hannon Hill as being a top product. Consequently, a demonstration of that system is being arranged.
Dan Cromer has given the go-ahead to create a production WSS server. The front-end will be virtualized and the back-end will be on one of our older servers that was just freed-up for use. Once that is done, Ben intends to incorporate Groove server with that as well. Steve mentioned that he had been asking Ben to do a little demo for us on Office Groove 2007 and its integration with MOSS. Perhaps Ben can do that once the new system is in place. Steve mentioned again that he had just recently begun to understand how Groove can provide offline caching for SharePoint collaboration sites. This essentially would permit utilizing SharePoint offline, updating changes once connected. The way Groove replicates changes is quite granular and efficient.
Virtualization of Core Services
Wayne Hyde wasn't on-hand to provide an update on how the server and storage configuration situation is going.
IFAS WebDAV implementation
As usual, Steve passed over discussion on this project because he is aware that no movement has occurred in getting this documented.
Vista TAP and Vista Deployment via SMS and WDS
Steve asked Andrew Carey if he intended to deploy the UF Vista images via our WDS server. Andrew had looked into that, but the images are currently available only as .iso and a .wim is needed. When Andrew pursued that with Erik Schmidt, he was surprised to learn that these images are still considered very much beta and not for general deployment at this time.
Dennis Brown wanted to know if anyone had had much experience with 64-bit Vista; he wanted to know if he should be considering that for his users. While some mentioned having some experience with that platform, everyone agreed that this really wasn't ready for prime-time yet.
New IFAS IP Plan
Chris Leopold wasn't available to comment, but this project was expected to have been completed by now.
Exit processes, NMB and permission removal
Prior exit procedure discussion. Progress on this is still pending, especially on the Biztalk integration aspects. There is a new HR Exit Checklist which has an item for terminating access to computer security systems. To supplement that, Dan has created a supplemental IT exit checklist document that will be distributed along with the checklist (available at http://my.ifas.ufl.edu/support/ICC/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx in the test SharePoint). Separate pages at the end of the checklist could describe the step-by-step process for each of the actions. Whether this will be enough to help ensure that computer resources begin get to get cleaned up when folks leave is yet to be seen.
Steve would like to point out that what makes the workflow difficult for our exit processes is the fact that collaboration so often continues after folks go off payroll. The level of support expected by/for those departing runs the gamut and IT often gets caught in the middle.
Consequently, we should remember that the "as appropriate" decisions which suffix several of the items listed in the IT exit checklist supplement really must clearly reside with the supervisors--as based on administrative recommendations, guidelines and policies. Where IT can help with that, is to detail the procedures and their related consequences with regards to various kinds of access--which is exactly what this supplement proposes to do. That can help guide and influence whatever administrative decisions might be made.
Understanding how well this has worked within our highly distributed system in the past, however, I would also recommend building some precautions into our procedures. When implementing procedures affecting electronic information access, we should always consider ways to make access reversals as easy as possible for ourselves and our users. In that way, we can maintain the proper distance from the decision making while supporting the needs of our user community in the most flexible fashion possible.
Dan Cromer did mention that a new IFAS Directory website is very close to production. It will provide mapping features that Dan said are a great improvement over what we had previously. The test site was having slowness issues when we tried to access it at the meeting, and Mark mentioned there was something funky going on with the menu on the main page as well.
Steve mentioned what a horrible week it had been regarding the need for patching. First there were the MS July Updates, which contained updates for DCs as well as updates to .Net. The later may have as many as three separate versions to patch on any particular machine and these patches are big. There have been reports of issues though the ICC membership had not reported any here. Then there were many third-party vulnerabilities to patch. There were Apple QuickTime Multiple Vulnerabilities, Adobe Flash Player Multiple Vulnerabilities for one. Also, Wayne Hyde had to push out ePO agent updates for McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator/ProtectionPilot CMA Vulnerabilities, as well as patch our backup systems against a Symantec Backup Exec RPC Interface Heap Overflow Vulnerability. There was also an Intel microcode vulnerability patch to prevent a blue screen issue that was pushed Tuesday.
Wayne Hyde relayed via IM that they had changed their server patch reboots from Sunday to Friday AM. This makes for better assurance that someone is available to handle any issues which may arise.
Mark Ross took this opportunity to relay something that wasn't necessarily a patching issue, but something which would affect us all. Mark Ross mentioned that LiveStats appears to have truly died and he has been unable to get vendor support which he needs to get it going again. Consequently, he is looking at Urchin as a possible replacement. Urchin has recently been acquired by Google. For those new to our system or otherwise not aware, Steve pointed out that our faculty are required to do Unifas yearly reports and the statistics relating to their websites are critical for that in terms of getting credit for work done via the web.
Marion Douglas mentioned to Mark that individuals would really like to be able to tell how many times a particular file has been downloaded--something they could not get from LiveStats. Marion was wondering if Urchin might have that capability. Mark wasn't sure, but did note that Urchin is rather similar to LiveStats overall--one of the advantages from Mark's standpoint. Also, the price is reasonable: $895 for a base module of 100 sites and about $1k for each additional group of 100 sites.
Office 2007 issues update
Steve asked who was using Office 2007. Allan Burrage mentioned that CREC has it on perhaps 30% of their systems. Kevin Hill mentioned a show-stopper he had come across regarding graphing slowness in large Excel datasets and Winnie Lante mentioned similar slowness in Access datasets linked to Excel. Wendy Williams mentioned noticing the Outlook 2003 slowness issue which Steve had documented previously. Louise Ryan mentioned having issues with Windows Desktop Search; it's indexing apparently slows things way down for many folks. Apparently, changing the indexing options doesn't help much with that.
Public folder file deletion policies and procedures status
Movement on this is apparently still pending.
Job Matrix Update status
The new job matrix link has been fixed and is now available at "http://itsa.ifas.ufl.edu/Duties/new_job_duties.htm".
Steve mentioned that having the job matrix link point to the correct page (as it does now) helps; the matrix needs to be kept accurate and up-to-date, however. Part of the problem with assigning tickets for people within the Remedy administrative interface is not knowing who should be doing what (and that includes the Help Desk), and the other part is how best to get in touch with those who can help most quickly and efficiently (for which the limitation of Remedy in assigning to a single individual is a great hindrance). Steve feels that low staffing levels seem to have brought the degree of cooperation between the Help Desk and the ITSA group to an all-time low.
New FAWN Manager
Larry Treadaway has left and William (Rick) Lusher starts today as his replacement. Unfortunately, Rick is having PeopleSoft issues getting started here--apparently there is no record of his employment yet and that is causing a number of problems for him. Welcome to UF Rick.
New MCU for UF Video Services
Dan also mentioned that the Radvision is being replaced by equipment from Codian. The new equipment will have speed and protocol matching so that conference quality isn't dictated by the least common denominator of the participants. There will be new web-based options for joining and creating conferences. The original Radvision will be dedicated to voice only conferencing. The new system does .H239 People+Content and has streaming capabilities in-built.
Patrick Pettus reports that the new equipment has been up and running for about two weeks. They have been testing it and using it for meetings. Patrick intended to suggest that we move the ICC meeting to it, but was concerned about changing the connection information on such short notice.
Upcoming CREC connection to the Florida LambdaRail
Allan Burrage mentioned that Lake Alfred (along with all RECs) has traditionally had quite a different network experience than those of us on the Gainesville campus due to their T1 connection. This size limitation of their external network pipe disallowed participating in a number of services which those on campus may tend to take for granted. Soon, however, (in about 3-4 months) that is expected to change considerably with a new 100MB fiber connection to the Florida LambdaRail which will allow them to make use of more UF and IFAS services. They have very large Exchange mailbox stores which may not be practical to merge with UF and they have not yet committed to joining UFAD. They are, however, very interested in looking into the available options.
Kevin Hill, at SWFREC, asked if a similar connection might eventually be made available for all Distance Education sites. Dan said that he hoped so but budget is a major consideration and this is not a good budget year upcoming. Dan did mention that Apopka and Plant City (as well as Lake Alfred) were planning on such connections shortly.
Policy on Macintosh Support
Bill Black was asking if Macintoshes could be on our network. This matter is covered in an IMM, whereby operating systems other then Microsoft are strongly discouraged. That said they certainly can be joined to UFAD or, if unmanaged, connected via walk-up authentication. Bill also wanted to know about manual installation of the ePO agent. Steve pointed him to the documentation on that (ufad\if-admn credentials required).
ITSA budget request
Chris Leopold was unable to make the meeting, but he did e-mail a link to his budget request for our information. The numbers in the first column indicate the priority level of the items. Dan Cromer said that money is tight, as we all know, and that Chris may be asking departments for donations for such things as backup tapes and the like.
The meeting was adjourned early, at about 11:50 am.