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2004-05 Reports

October 2004

(print version)

Undergraduate Admissions Online

The entire Undergraduate admissions application is now available via the web for the first time. The customized Princeton Online Application collects appropriate information about prospects long before the application process begins. This new functionality compliments Princeton’s involvement in the Common App, a multi-University undergraduate admissions application site that is scheduled to go live in the fall of 2005.

Keeping the Network Safe

OIT has installed an intrusion prevention system, McAfee’s IntruShield 2600, between the University’s network and the Internet. The new system proves an additional layer of protection for the University’s IT infrastructure against attacks originating off-campus and will proactively detect compromised computing systems within the Princeton.edu domain. The prevention system analyzes incoming and outgoing network traffic to identify known attack patterns, messages that violate networking standards, and denial of service attacks.

IT Infrastructure Support for Researchers

In conjunction with the strategic planning effort announced by the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and in order to meet the changing Information Technology infrastructure needs of the University’s research and teaching community, OIT has initiated a strategic planning process for infrastructural support for University researchers. The plan will assist OIT to obtain and allocate the resources needed to match the IT infrastructure with the needs and priorities of the research community.

As a first step in planning, OIT will administer a survey of the faculty identified by their department chairs as intense users of the University’s IT infrastructure. The survey will solicit opinions on a broad range of topics including wired and wireless data networks, centralized server models, software, data storage, and classroom technologies. Faculty will be given the opportunity to provide additional information about any IT topics that they feel need to be addressed. A group of faculty and staff will collate and analyze the survey data.

Grant Application for High Performance Computing

OIT collaborated with faculty from Astrophysics, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Molecular Biology, Physics, and Psychology to submit in August a grant application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Computing Research Infrastructure (CRI) program. Pending a funding decision in early 2005, the grant seeks to purchase a 256 processor high performance computing cluster for use by the contributing researchers and by the general research community. The cluster will be housed in OIT’s central machine room at 87 Prospect Avenue and will be managed by the Research and Academic Application Support group in OIT’s department of Academic Services. A council of representatives from the contributing departments will provide oversight.

New Web Hosting Service

Responding to demand from departments for increased web functionality, OIT now offers a web hosting service. OIT is now working with IT support personnel in several departments to create and administer professionally developed web sites.

New features in the Blackboard Course Management System

The University’s Blackboard Course Management System continues to provide course web sites for all undergraduate courses. This fall, the system offers faculty a range of powerful new features. Most notable is a new content system that permits faculty to load documents to a central file storage location. For the first time, students can search the documents in any course web site or across all of their classes simultaneously.

Rationalize Backup and Restore Service

The University’s TSM Backup and Restore Service backs up nearly 100 Terabytes of data a year, ten times the amount of data stored in the print collection of the Library of Congress. A new policy to recover costs associated with the backup of non-personal intellectual property will place the TSM service, which nearly became a victim of its own success, on a steady technological and financially self-sustaining footing.

More Server Space

OIT consolidated Windows and Unix file servers into a single Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with more than 4 trillion bytes of storage, a ten-fold increase for the University. OIT has used the new efficiencies and economies of scale to increase personal storage quota from 20 MB to 250 MB. Members of the community can gain access to their data in this large personal storage space from any networked location.

New OIT Unix Service

To accommodate the growing needs of University members who run computationally intensive jobs using commercial software like Matlab, SAS, and Mathematica, or other, homegrown, applications, OIT established a new 64-bit Unix computing service on both the Sun Solaris and Linux platforms. Members of the community who rely upon Unix for general-purpose work such as e-mail and file editing will also benefit from having access to a separate group of machines dedicated to such tasks. Separation of the intensive and general uses is improving service for all.


March 2005

(print version)

Organizational Effectiveness

OIT recognizes that people are our most valued asset. To develop the skills and expertise of our staff and sustain positive attitudes and behaviors as we serve the IT needs of the university community, we have undertaken two key initiatives:

OIT Core Values

Working with the Ombuds Office, an OIT task force identified core values (see http://web.princeton.edu/sites/oit/CoreValues.pdf) to improve how we work with each other and how we serve our customers. The core values were presented at an all-OIT meeting in August 2004. Since that time, we have focused on making the core values a reality within our daily work. Adherence to the core values is now included as a rating factor within the annual performance appraisal process. Within the staff recognition program, demonstrating core values has been added as a criterion for the OIT Achievement Award (recognition from peers) and the OIT Service Award (recognition by managers). New polices and the publication of OIT best practices refer to the OIT core values. We have created core values posters for conference rooms and wallet-size calendars for every staff member. Finally, to ensure that all staff have easy access to OIT organizational information, we have recently redesigned the OIT intranet site.

Comprehensive OIT Performance Enhancement Process

OIT’s comprehensive performance enhancement process starts with annual staff progress reports and 360 reviews. This is followed by the development of OIT organizational, department, work group, and individual staff member goals. Finally, individual staff development plans are identified based on goals and associated projects. The newest addition to the OIT performance enhancement process is the OIT Team Learning Forum. The goals for this forum are: to enhance professional and personal growth, focusing on leadership and management competencies; to strengthen relationships among participants and build a support system fostering collaboration; to engage participants in the importance of continuous learning and in creating a learning organization. Twenty OIT staff members were selected to participate in the first OIT Team Learning Forum. The first session, to be held this spring, will focus on leadership. President Tilghman will be our first outside speaker.

Academic Computing

Almagest

Almagest is a multi-media data repository and display tool developed at Princeton in OIT’s Educational Technologies Center. It is currently being used by faculty in a number of departments to make images available for use in courses. Through a special arrangement, faculty at the University of California, Sacramento are also using Almagest in their teaching. More recently, MIT, Harvard, Vassar, and the University of Arizona have expressed interest in using the tool. Because of the recent interest expressed by other higher education institutions, OIT released Almagest to the general public as an open source product on February 23, 2005. The initial release of Almagest includes all source code. Subsequent releases will include copyright-cleared images.

Precept Scheduling

A new tool has been added to the Blackboard Learning Management System that allows faculty and staff to assign students to precept sections. Developed by OIT’s Educational Technologies Center at the request of the Registrar’s Office, the precept-scheduling tool was used by a number of departments for precept assignments this spring. For next Fall, a new feature will be added to the tool to allow students to indicate their assignment preferences; the tool will then automatically sort students into precepts based on these preferences and their current schedule availability. This is expected to be a major improvement over the current manual assignment process. The tool can also be used to assign students to labs and other course sections.

Infrastructure Improvements

Wireless

The University will deploy a ubiquitous wireless infrastructure throughout the dormitories and residential colleges over the summer 2005. The highest concentration of wireless-capable computers is among the undergraduates. Next fall nearly 90% of undergraduates will have wireless laptops purchased through the University’s Student Computer Initiative. There has been a growing demand for expanded wireless coverage on campus, primarily driven by undergraduate students. By focusing the wireless installation within student living spaces, the University is maximizing its investment in this valuable technology. By the beginning of the Fall semester, over 60% of the buildings on campus will have a wireless infrastructure.

Network access for campus visitors

Campus visitors with laptop computers can now gain temporary access to the campus wireless network. Unregistered laptops can use the network for seven days each month. Research colleagues, trustees, and conference attendees will be the primary users of this service. Graduate students who live off campus will also be able to gain network access when they occasionally bring their computers to campus.

E-mail

A new e-mail firewall service has been installed and is successfully rejecting unwanted “spam,” which makes up 70% of the approximately 400,000 messages processed each day. In addition, the undergraduate e-mail quota has just been doubled from 20 MB to 40 MB. Graduate student e-mail quota will be increased over the summer, once additional disk space becomes available.

Emerging issues

A power outage on Super Bowl Sunday underscored the need for a backup generator for the central machine room located at 87 Prospect Avenue. In addition, the growing number of departmental high-performance computing clusters housed in the central machine room has taxed electrical systems beyond recommended levels. A report this spring from a consultant will address issues related to fire suppression, electrical power supply, and asbestos removal in the machine room.

Administrative Computing

Development of the PeopleSoft Student Administration System continues. The final stage of system testing will take place through May 2005. The new system is scheduled to go into production this August. Also in the student area, the new online Undergraduate Admissions System contributed to the successful record number of applications for admission to the Class of 2009.