Skip over navigation

2011-12 Reports

May 2012

(print version)

Princeton Document Management System: OnBase

In its fifth year as a centrally supported system, the University’s campus-wide OnBase Document Management System serves more than 25 academic and administrative departments. Use continues to grow as additional departments look to OnBase to provide automated, efficient, and paperless business processing.

OnBase was first introduced on campus when the Office of Finance and Treasury licensed the document-imaging component of the system to convert paper documents, such as vendor invoices and vouchers, to electronic images that can be stored in an easily-retrievable way. Subsequent to the success realized by Finance and Treasury, the Office of Development, the Library, and the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) undertook similar projects to digitize their document files in OnBase.

In 2008, as interest and demand for OnBase grew, the University made the strategic decision to invest in an enterprise-wide license of the software. Additional functionality was also purchased to expand the use of OnBase to meet advanced department needs. At the same time, support for the more complex, enterprise version of the system was shifted to OIT. Under the new, central support model, OIT offers various levels of development assistance and facilitates an OnBase User’s Group (OBUG) to enhance user support and provide a forum for users on campus to learn more about other OnBase implementations across campus. OBUG also provides a venue for collaborative decision-making around future functionality and support of the OnBase system.

To date, 17 academic and administrative departments use OnBase in their current business processes, allowing them to take advantage of the cost savings gained through automation and improved workflow. In addition, improved document indexing makes it easier and more efficient to retrieve documents, eliminating the need to sort, file, search and retrieve paper documents. Costs associated with printing, storing and destroying paper records are also saved. As an example, the Office of Development was able to reclaim 3,500 square feet of office space after completing a project to scan all donor files into OnBase. The office space now accommodates 30 staff members. In another example, a direct OnBase interface to the Financial Aid system saved data entry time and improved accuracy. In its first year in operation, OnBase processed approximately 16,500 scanned pages and 33,000 faxes during the busy admission season.

OIT is currently working with 9 new departments on projects expected to be completed by FY 2014. As an example, since Princeton’s applicant pool has nearly doubled in the last eight years, an active OnBase project with the Undergraduate Admission Office will help reduce the amount of effort and storage needed to maintain paper files and integrate electronic applicant files with Princeton’s PeopleSoft Student System. Using OnBase, the Admission Office will be able to view and process applicant files entirely online. In another example, the Office of Finance and Treasury anticipates an annual cost savings of $100-200,000 from efficiencies to be gained by integrating OnBase records with the University’s Information Warehouse in early summer FY13. This integration will consolidate many entry points and processes into a single, electronic point of delivery, allowing users to drill down to related images in OnBase directly from Information Warehouse reports. As a result, staff will no longer need to access two or three systems to view all components of a transaction.

March 2012

(print version)

Spotlight on the Broadcast Center

Princeton University’s Broadcast Center, located in the Lewis Library building, is a state-of-the-art high-definition video/audio recording and broadcasting facility. The studio provides a direct link to all the major TV and radio networks, allowing faculty and staff to broadcast talks and interviews across the campus, the country, and around the world.

The Broadcast Center is equipped to handle a broad range of audio and video production needs including: on-camera television and radio interviews, promotional videos, public service announcements, documentaries, and various faculty projects including video course introductions and videotaping of course lectures. The center is manned by a dedicated engineer who sets up the recordings and can handle the transmission of recorded, or live, sessions to a wide range of locations. The Broadcast Center also supports on-location video production for events on campus, public lectures, Opening Exercises, Commencement, and other major University events.


Radio interviews:

The Broadcast Center radio studio is available to transmit feeds for live or recorded interviews for radio stations via ISDN and/or telephone connections.   Princeton professors have been guests on many of the major networks including the BBC and NPR.

TV shows:

The Broadcast Center video studio is available to record interviews, public service announcements, green screen productions and live broadcasts.  Featuring three high-definition cameras and a professional lighting grid of energy-efficient LEDs, the Broadcast Center is capable of creating a professional-quality production with minimal set-up time. Presenters enjoy the benefits of reading scripts directly from teleprompters customized to suit their preferences, and interviews can be conducted free of distractions thanks to the studio's soundproof enclosure.  Multi-camera productions are edited live from the adjoining video control room, eliminating lengthy post-production editing time and ensuring a quick turnaround to a completed product ready for distribution.

Project producers and guests can watch a live recording from the video control room and communicate directly with the camera operators and studio engineer without interrupting the production. A private green room with a large monitor for live screening is available for guest preparation and makeup.

Specialized videos:

Broadcast Center staff also assist departments with special video projects. Examples of the many specialized videos produced over the past few years can be accessed online.

Video Course Introductions:

The Broadcast Center has created course Introduction videos for a number of University departments, including the Center for African American Studies, the Keller Center, and the History department. These short (3-4 minute) videos show a professor discussing his/her course and can include a variety of supporting materials, such as images and music. The course videos are often published on department websites where students can learn about the courses from the professors teaching the course.

Classroom Recordings:

Over the past four years, the Broadcast Center has recorded a number of course lectures (2-3 per semester), generally at the request of the faculty. Outstanding among these are the recordings of the Integrated Science Curriculum course, which were undertaken at the request of the department to serve as a supplement for material presented in class, given that no textbooks exist to support this innovative approach to science education. Examples of these recordings may be accessed online.

This year, the Broadcast Center is also recording two classes, ELE75 (Computer Architecture) and PSY251 (Statistics) specifically to help Princeton evaluate potential participation in the Stanford online-lecture delivery system, “Coursera.”

Broadcast Center Promotional video:

To learn more about the Broadcast Center, see "Inside the Broadcast Center."

January 2012

(print version)

Princeton’s New High-Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC) Opens

In December 2011, Princeton’s new High-Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC), located on the Forrestal Campus, received its Certificate of Occupancy (CO) from the township of West Windsor. The new 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility has an initial capacity that is nearly three times greater than that of Princeton’s current data center located at 87 Prospect Avenue. The HPCRC will house high-performance research computers, computers running central University administrative systems, and academic and administrative departmental computers. As such, the center will support the future growth of both research and administrative computing at Princeton.

The relocation of computers to the data center began the first week of January 2012 and will continue for several weeks, concluding at the end of February 2012. Approximately 1,800 computers will be newly installed or moved from several campus locations, including the data center at 87 Prospect, the Lewis Library High-Performance Computing Center, and several academic and administrative departmental computer rooms across campus.

Of the 1,800 computers:
  • 850 are high-performance research cluster computers supporting faculty research
  • 650 are departmental servers and cluster computers
  • More than 20% (410 machines) of the total machines are new to Princeton’s centralized data centers, coming from departments that chose to take advantage of the benefits of housing their computers at the new data center
  • 300 are OIT computers, of which 11 are centralized servers that run 448 virtualized servers

The data center was designed to provide a highly reliable computing environment with multiple tiers of backup power.  “Uninterruptable Power Supply” (UPS) units provide protection against brief power interruptions and transient voltage spikes.  The center’s redundant natural gas and diesel-powered generators safeguard against extended power outages for all administrative and research computing systems. Previously, there was no backup power for extended outages at the 87 Prospect data center.

High availability of administrative computing is further ensured through redundant power paths (each with its own transformer and UPS) from the utility source to each administrative computer.  The redundancy in the power path not only protects against unplanned outages, but also allows for continuous power while scheduled maintenance is being performed on components of the power system. 

The HPCRC also offers economic and sustainability savings.  The design of the building minimizes the energy used for cooling and power distribution. In this way, a higher proportion of the total energy used by the building is delivered directly to the computers.  With these efficiencies, one third less energy will be needed to run the computers coming from the 87 Prospect data center. An even greater energy savings is expected for computers being moved from departmental computer rooms, which have a lower efficiency than the 87 Prospect data center.

To achieve additional energy cost savings, a natural gas generator and associated automatic controls provide the ability to switch to power generated on site when the purchase price for utility power is high.  To further support sustainability efforts, the HPCRC’s flexible cooling infrastructure automatically makes adjustments to use outside air when possible, for both water, and air, cooling.

Given the HPCRC’s many sustainability features, Princeton has applied for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) Certification from the U.S. division of the World Green Building Council. The HPCRC currently has the possibility of achieving LEED Gold Certification. If it does so, it will be one of only nine data centers worldwide to have been awarded this honor.

November 2011

(print version)

Princeton University's Course Reading List project

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires universities to provide students with comprehensive course book information to help them manage their textbook and reading-material costs. In order to comply with this legislation, OIT collaborated with Princeton’s bookstore partner, Labyrinth Books, to provide students online access to course-material information through a newly created online booklist and ordering tool.

The project was sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, University Services, and the Office of the Registrar. With the help of these sponsors, it was decided that students would most readily access a new tool if it were available through Blackboard, Princeton’s existing course management system for students and faculty, as well as through the legislatively-mandated access from the Registrar’s Course Offering website.

OIT worked with Labyrinth and a team of representatives from each of the sponsoring groups to design and build the new tool. OIT staff also assisted Labyrinth in evaluating their technical infrastructure to ensure that it would be capable of handling the increased transaction workload that would likely result from this new online service.

In order to provide more timely and accurate information to students, changes were also made to the faculty course-reading-list submission process. With the new submission process, the University experienced a substantial increase in faculty participation, receiving reading lists for 87% of the fall term courses, compared to approximately 55% from the prior year. This information was shared with Labyrinth to enable them to consult with faculty on book choices and availability, then stock the appropriate titles. As a result, this fall, for the first time, students were able to view all course information (syllabi, as well as required, and recommended, reading lists) in a single location, two weeks prior to the start of the term, then order their books and pick them up at Labyrinth.

To help students further manage their textbook costs, the University also piloted a discount program for course books purchased through Labyrinth. The combination of these two initiatives has resulted in a well received, and widely adopted, new service for students. Students have even written and called the Office of the Dean of the College to praise this new service. And Labyrinth sales have increased significantly compared with last year’s fall term.

Another unexpected benefit of increased local purchasing has been that of providing support to the University’s sustainability initiative. Last spring, at the beginning of the term, Princeton had to dispose of packaging from approximately 10,000 boxes shipped to campus. For the same period this fall, only about 1,500 packages were received, substantially reducing Princeton’s material waste.

September 2011

(print version)

Information Technology Cost Savings Initiatives

OIT has been working with offices across campus on a number of IT-related, cost-saving initiatives to help departments reach savings targets and to look for new ways to achieve operational efficiencies across the University. The following is an update on some of the larger initiatives and the savings they have helped to achieve to date:

IT Infrastructure Consolidation

In FY08, OIT began implementing its first “virtualized” servers, to simplify the management of servers in the central data center. “Virtual” servers share the same physical computer, but operate as if they were independent physical devices.  This allows for more efficient hardware and software management and reduced costs. In FY09, OIT began a broader initiative to consolidate IT servers across campus, in an effort to realize savings during difficult economic times. These efforts have resulted in reduced costs and improved operating efficiencies, by leveraging existing centralized hardware and standardizing support.  OIT now manages 383 virtual servers, which represents 65% of the servers that can be virtualized using currently available technology solutions.  20% of these virtual servers operate IT services for departments.   As virtualization technology matures, OIT hopes to virtualize nearly all physical servers.

Server Virtualization Chart
Figure 1: University servers virtualized from FY08 to present

Figure 1 illustrates the steady increase in the number of servers OIT has virtualized since FY08. Through this effort, 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of power are saved annually, which equates to a cost savings of over $165,000 per year in power alone.

OIT also plans to migrate servers and storage from less energy-efficient data center locations on campus to the new High Performance Computing Research Center (HPCRC), opening on the Forrestal Campus in the fall of 2011. This will further increase the savings associated with central server management.

Desktop Computer Initiatives

More than 3,000 University desktop computers are managed through the administrative desktop (DeSC) and faculty computer (FCP) programs.  The hardware and software standardization provided by these programs has positioned the University to negotiate lower pricing and reduced maintenance fees. Additionally, computing support staff are better able to provide the highest level, and most efficient, support.  As a result of negotiations with vendors in FY10 and again in FY11, the price of computers purchased through these programs has been reduced by approximately $150 dollars (20%). This reduction results in a savings of approximately $75,000 in annual procurement costs.

In another effort, this past year OIT added 500 computers to the University “PC power-management” program, bringing the total number of computers in the power-management program to more than 2,400. Through this program, which powers off computers when not in use, computer power consumption is reduced by approximately 50%.  In the coming year, OIT hopes to help the University achieve additional cost savings and sustainability goals by increasing the number of computers in the power-management program to 3,000.

OIT Computing Clusters

Working with students and academic administrators, OIT was able to meet its goal, set in FY09, of reducing the number of computers in public-access computer clusters by 33% within a two-year time frame. FY10 saw a 21% reduction in the number of computers in the clusters and FY11 saw an additional 15% reduction. Already in FY12, another 27 machines have been retired from the clusters, bringing the total number of public workstations remaining in clusters to 162. This is an overall reduction of 42%, exceeding the initial goal by 9% and resulting in a savings of approximately $48,000 annually.

Print-Less Initiative

In FY09, OIT initiated a “print-less” campaign to encourage students, faculty, and staff to print less.  Using the Pharos Uniprint print-management system, a print quota program was implemented in FY10 for all OIT, Library, and Woodrow Wilson School cluster printers.  In consultation with undergraduate and graduate student representatives, OIT established a 2,100-sheet print quota for undergraduate students and a 3,000-sheet print quota for graduates. As a result, in the first year of the initiative, printing in the clusters decreased by 17%.

In FY11, “print-less” efforts were extended to include quotas for student organizations.  As a result, printing in clusters decreased by an additional 600,000 sheets, bringing the total sheet savings to 2,050,000 sheets.  This savings is 26% greater than FY09 numbers and 8.9% greater than last year’s numbers.  Overall, 95% of students printed less than their assigned quota.  Of the 5% who printed more, less than 1% were “outliers,” printing more than three standard deviations above the mean.

In addition to working with students to reduce printing, OIT continues to support the Uniprint print-management system for ten University departments and hopes to expand this number in the coming year. Those departments who manage their departmental printing with the Uniprint system are able to achieve print-related cost savings and sustainability goals of their own.

A newly formed “print-less” team is working to identify ways to further the “print-less” initiative and realize additional printing reductions across campus.  The team is comprised of representatives from OIT, the Library, the Office of Communications, Print and Mail Services, the OnBase repository team, the University’s records manager, and students.