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2006-07 Administrative Reports

August 2006

(print version)

Eliminating bills to academic departments and most other units

Until now, Princeton has used a cost-recovery model to fund network access within the University community. Under that model, the University has billed individual units for each of their IT connections. As a result, academic and administrative units have had to devote considerable time and effort to monitoring these bills and identifying sources from which to pay them. Princeton began using the cost-recovery model at a time when network connections might reasonably have been viewed as a discretionary expense. Since then, such connections have become a ubiquitous and indispensable part of our teaching, research, and administrative infrastructure.

In order to strengthen and facilitate access to computing support for research and education, as of July 1, 2006, the University simplified the funding and accounting for basic network connectivity costs. For all academic departments and most administrative units, network connections are now provided through centralized funding. This eliminates monthly billing to departments for network connections and makes network access essentially free to academic departments and most other units.

Support for central software licensing costs

The University has provided additional resources to OIT in order to improve its ability to make widely-used academic software available to academic departments through campus-wide site licenses. In the past, individual units, alone or in cooperation with one another, sometimes bore responsibility for purchasing such licenses. In areas where the licenses were crucial and benefits were widely shared, this process was cumbersome and inefficient. While we do not expect that we will be able to meet every need, we hope that these new resources will facilitate access to widely-used software that is important to the University's educational and research mission.

Completing the campus wireless telecommunications infrastructure

During the summer of 2005, OIT installed wireless networking throughout the residential colleges and other dormitories. Since 90% of undergraduates have wireless laptops purchased through the University’s SCI program, the University maximized its investment in this technology by placing the wireless infrastructure first within spaces that housed the highest concentration of wireless-capable computers.

By last fall, the University’s wireless infrastructure covered approximately 40% of campus. Recognizing the importance of a ubiquitous wireless infrastructure, OIT and the Provost’s Office have initiated a plan that centralizes the funding of wireless and completes the rollout of wireless to the rest of campus. OIT has worked aggressively again this summer to install wireless in academic buildings, administrative buildings, and the libraries. Ubiquitous wireless coverage for the campus will be completed by the fall of 2007.

Disaster recovery site update

Two renovation options for the University's data center at New South will be presented to the Facilities Planning Group at the August 2006 meeting. The New South machine room houses critical networking and servers to restore limited computing services in the event of a major outage at the main data center at 87 Prospect Avenue.

Today, basic e-mail, main University web pages, Internet access, and networking to eleven critical buildings can be provided within a short period of time following the loss of the main data center. The proposed renovations will permit OIT to expand the number of critical services ready for rapid restoration, including University financial systems, human resources systems, Office of Development systems, student systems, Blackboard academic systems, departmental web pages, and special licensed academic software.


January 2007

(print version)

Legal Tunes Offered to University Students

The University has signed a contract with Ruckus Network, Inc. (a Virginia-based company, www.ruckus.com) to permit students with Windows-based computers to download music legally from its 1.5-million song library. Although only a portion of the University's copyright infringement “takedown” notices involve the illegal sharing of music (22 out of 138 notices this school year), the agreement does offer a legal option for obtaining music.

The contract with Ruckus has no charges associated with it, although the University will host a “caching server” on campus to make downloads to Princeton students more efficient. The company generates income through advertising on its website and offers other, for-fee services, such as film downloads. Ruckus will also be offering its music download service to Princeton faculty, staff, and alumni for a fee.

Expansion of Princeton’s IT Disaster Recovery Site

The University has an alternate data center at New South that can provide critical networking and IT services in the event of a major outage at the main data center at 87 Prospect Avenue. Currently, services that can be provided out of this alternate data center include Internet access, basic e-mail, access to main University web pages, and connectivity to eleven critical buildings. With the recently approved expansion of the New South data center, OIT will be able to expand the number of critical services ready for rapid restoration to include: University financial systems, human resources systems, Office of Development systems, student systems, Blackboard academic systems, departmental web pages, and centrally-licensed academic software. The projected completion date for the data center expansion is summer 2007.

The Productive Scholar Learning Series

The Productive Scholar learning series [http://www.princeton.edu/proscholar] is OIT's latest initiative in support of teaching, research, and scholarship. These weekly, one-hour, walk-in presentations are intended to demonstrate how desktop applications can improve the productivity of faculty and students without taking precious time away from their academic and scholarly work.

Topics range from making more productive use of common applications, such as Word and Excel, to demonstrating more specialized software programs like LaTeX and MATLAB. Each session’s handouts include links for supplemental resources and a list of recommended references. Additional hands-on training is available for every session. Faculty can request follow-up, in-office visits, and supplemental sessions can be arranged for entire departments. Special, hands-on clinics have also been organized for various applications, such as EndNote and RefWorks. The instructors for The Productive Scholar series have included trainers from OIT, Princeton University Library staff, and Princeton graduate students.

The Productive Scholar series is part of a larger OIT program supporting teaching, research, and scholarship. Other initiatives include: the established Lunch ‘n Learn seminars focusing on faculty use of technology in teaching and research (now also available as a podcast); the Student Technologist And Trainer program [STAT], offering in-office technology assistance with Blackboard and other desktop applications; and a new blog, IT’s Academic [http://blogs.princeton.edu/itsacademic/], spotlighting individual faculty who are making innovative use of technology in their teaching or research.


March 2007

(print version)

The University’s Fourth High-Performance Computing Cluster

The University has acquired a fourth high-performance computing resource for its TIGRESS (Terascale Infrastructure for Groundbreaking Research in Engineering and Science) High-Performance Computing Center. This new machine joins the University’s three other supercomputers, Orangena, Della, and Hecate, to provide Princeton with computational research capabilities that continue to be at the forefront of higher education institutions worldwide.

The new Dell Beowulf cluster, named “Woodhen,” contains 192 nodes, each with two processors and 8 GB of RAM. The hardware arrived in February and is already being used by several researchers who were major contributors to its cost. A faculty-reviewed application process will soon make the machine available to the University community.

OIT has also created a 35 TB data storage facility for use on all of the TIGRESS HPC Center resources. The TIGRESS user community gained access to this storage in early March. Purchased from IBM, the storage system provides high-performance shared access across multiple systems.

Extensive Archive of Public Lectures Available Online

The University has converted nearly 800 digital files of public events and lectures into “podcasts” and placed them on a new website for downloading by audiences on and off of campus (http://www.princeton.edu/WebMedia/podcasts/). Easily used by anyone with an MP3 player, the podcasts feature distinguished speakers dating back to 1999. Lecturers in the digital archive include movie director Martin Scorsese, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, children's book illustrator Maurice Sendak and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, along with Princeton professors such as computer security expert Edward Felten, poet Paul Muldoon, and mathematician Ingrid Daubechies. OIT plans to add approximately 100 new campus lectures and events each year.

Web Room Draw

With OIT’s assistance, the Housing Office this year placed the room draw process online.
The new web-based system consists of six components:

Undergraduate and graduate electronic contracts
Undergraduate room-draw application
Graduate room-draw application
Undergraduate room selection
Graduate room selection
Waitlist application

The new system replaces a manual process in which students reported to a specified location at a scheduled time to select their rooms. The Daily Princetonian has reported that the new system “is being met with praise” and that it is “more convenient” with “really cool features.”

Office of Disability Services

The University recently established an Office of Disability Services (see: http://www.princeton.edu/odus/services/disability/). The new office assists students with special academic, medical, and housing needs and tracks all accommodations and crisis resources provided by the University.

Working with the new Office of Disability Services, OIT has developed special functionality within the University’s PeopleSoft system to facilitate the process of providing accommodations for students with disabilities, allowing them to have an accessible academic experience. This new IT system offers online web functionality and facilitates tracking of resources by providing access to relevant data within the University’s Data Warehouse.


May 2007

(print version)

New Emergency Notification System

The Emergency Preparedness Task Force recently implemented Connect-ED, a new notification system that can quickly and efficiently disseminate critical information to members of the University community during campus emergencies. The University can use Connect-Ed to notify the entire campus of emergency situations or to send targeted messages to certain individuals in a specific building or department when alerts do not concern the entire campus. Use of Connect-Ed will augment the communication tools the University already has in place, including the weather emergency hotline, Web announcements, e-mail, the new Tiger TV emergency alert system, and local radio stations.

Events at Virginia Tech and the recent local flooding have underscored the importance of being able to reach members of the community quickly. In the event of an emergency, faculty, staff, and students can receive simultaneous messages to landline phones, cellular phones, e-mail addresses, and text messaging. To ensure the broadest possible coverage, members of the University community have been encouraged to update their personal contact information online.

The University conducted a campus-wide test of its new emergency notification system on Friday, May 11. During the Connect-Ed test, the University successfully made 12,450 calls to cell phones and landline phones, and sent 14,000 e-mails and 896 text messages.

New Security Check-up Service

OIT is introducing a security check-up service that will assist University departments in safeguarding confidential data. As part of this service, OIT will review departmental systems for vulnerabilities, assess information access controls, and evaluate the methods used for data exchange and backup. At the end of the check-up, OIT will provide the department with a written report and recommendations for improving security.

Online Admission Decisions a Hit with Students

This year for the first time, undergraduate applicants were able to learn whether or not they were accepted to the University via a secured online website. Offered as a supplement to the regular mailing, this new service was very popular. 13,000 of the 15,000 applicants who signed up to use the service viewed their decision online within the first day. This service complements the “online checklist,” a new application added in the fall of 2006 that enables undergraduate applicants to monitor the status of their application online.

IT Facilities Updates

Work is underway on the expansion of the New South alternate data center. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2007 and will allow OIT to increase the number of critical services ready for rapid restoration in the event of a loss of the main data center at 87 Prospect Avenue. Plans are also underway to replace the aging 87 Prospect data center with a new facility. The estimated completion date for this project is 2010.