Office of Learning and Information Technology

UWS CIO Council Retreat and Meeting

UWS CIO Council Retreat and Meeting

June 22, 2006

Madison, WI



CIOs and their Representatives


Mark Anderson
Dick Cleek
Nancy Crabb
Jack Duwe
Chip Eckardt
Ron Kraemer
John Krogman
Bruce Maas
Ed Meachen
Kathy Pletcher
Elena Pokot
Ken Splittgerber
David Stack
Annie Stunden
John Tillman
Doug Wahl
Lisa Wheeler

Ruth Anderson
Lorie Docken
Alan Foley
David Hart
Peter Mann
Mary-Alice Muraski
Leslie Perelman
Brian Remer
Lori Voss




Lisa Wheeler is representing UW-River Falls. Annie Stunden thanked the Council for the retirement party and gifts.

Learn@UW/D2L update

Report on trip to Kitchener (Kathy Pletcher, Ed Meachen, Alan Foley, Lori Voss)

The UWS team that visited D2L were given access to the entire company and met many of the new staff, in particular an experienced QA manager. They have approximately 140 total staff including 12 student interns, and are still growing. New clients include Oklahoma State University and K12 clients in Canada. More resources have been moved into sales and accounting, which bodes well for the long term success of the company. The strategic importance of D2L's relationship with the University of Wisconsin was affirmed.

Verbal agreements were reached with D2L on some outstanding contractual issues, including paying a flat rate for non-credit student use and maintaining the existing cost structure.

The company is recognizing that they will have to release some control back to their clients, e.g., applying patches and upgrades. There is still no definitive word on when APIs will be released. APIs are not in the newest version, 8.1. Learn@UW is looking to install version 8.1 in the spring to avoid absorbing doing it during a school year. Version 8.1 is also supposed to have a course export facility, which has been badly needed.

D2L is bringing performance testing in house rather than relying upon the Microsoft development center.

It has never been clear whether the UWS was a premium support customer, which has a bearing on work performed during off hours. It was agreed that the UWS will pay a bulk rate for its nine premium support contacts.

There have been ongoing issues about the lack of understanding of future plans for the product and its features. The company was encouraged to be more forthcoming, perhaps under non-disclosure agreements.

The two organizations exchanged organizational charts and communication paths between D2L, Learn@UW, the MILER Core Team, the Site Administrators, etc. were discussed.

D2L was told that this year the UWS will be doing a study to choose a learning object repository. Next year is the fourth year of the contract; contract extensions are possible through year ten.

Learn@UW update (Peter Mann, Alan Foley)

The planned rollout of a new production environment is planned for Tuesday, July 18, which will require a complete outage, likely between 5:00 am and 10:00 am. The two production servers will be installed in two separate buildings. DataCenter OS was not pre-installed on the servers as expected and the issue has been expedited with IBM. Hopefully, this will not cause a delay in the deployment.

The Tier 1 DMX data storage service will automatically recover from failures on the primary drives.

A contract has been established for IBM ServiceElite Advance Support Services, which are needed to run the 64bit Microsoft DataCenter OS. This will shorten IBM's response time.

The next D2L upgrade is scheduled for late August with maintenance release 10 for version 7.4.3. A final decision will be made in early August.

Last Sunday, the east end of the UW–Madison campus underwent a power outage due to a failure at a local substation. There was a D2L service outage of approximately 5.5 hours. The D2L platform is not on an emergency generator. However, it does have battery backup, which allowed for a graceful shutdown. Full generator backup for the DoIT Data Center would require more than a million dollars and a new building across the railroad tracks. The request has been made to the DOA All Agency funding pool, but no decision has been made. Jack Duwe would appreciate receiving letters of support from the other UWS institutions.

Since the email servers were down, other means were found to communicate about the outages. A telephone broadcast message service is being tested for these types of situations.

As of June 25th, DoIT's Help Desk hours will be curtailed in the early morning hours (1:00 am to 6:00 am daily). There have been very few Learn@UW calls during these hours. Network operations staff will still be on hand during these hours should a major outage occur. Faculty who call during these hours will be referred to Network Operations.

Network/BCN update (Brian Remer)

WiscNet recently added new OC-12 backbone circuits to form the new core of the network. The routers and networking equipment at most of the UWS institutions, including nine of the UW Colleges campuses, have been updated, and the project should be completed next month. New network monitoring tools are being implemented which will use dedicated servers at the network POPs. These will help measure performance under the new BadgerNet Converged Network (BCN), however the specific impacts of non-UWS sites, such as K12 LANs, on BCN performance will not be easy to determine.

Weekly meetings have been occurring with DOA, AT&T and some of the contractors. DOA is stepping out of the loop and letting UWS staff talk directly with the vendors and subcontractors. As a result of concerns expressed by UW–Whitewater, the vendors released various performance statistics, including:

  • 81.5% of the 1984 sites scheduled for BCN conversion have been installed
  • 93.5% of state agency sites scheduled for BCN conversion have been installed, 86% of these sites have successfully swung traffic to BCN
  • Every week since January 9th, 50 to 68 sites have been converted per week.

A typical cutover for a K12 takes about a day and the network functions pretty smoothly afterward.

UW–La Crosse has begun testing video over non-vendor-managed circuits. UW Colleges intends to do extensive testing of video performance in July and August over the non-vendor-managed circuits. Video performance will depend largely upon the other traffic on the circuits at the same time. A big concern is that the network may work well in July, but not as well in September. Three potential bottlenecks are already being addressed at Oshkosh, La Crosse and Whitewater.

A draft outline of the BCN conversion process for the UWS institutions was distributed. The institutions need to be prepared in advance of the conversions and should anticipate that the vendors may show up early, even a few weeks early. The new BCN links will plug into the UWS institutions' WiscNet routers in parallel with the existing WiscNet circuits. Only one connection out of each router will go to the campus network. WiscNet engineers at UW–Madison will be able to switch each institution's network connectivity back and forth between BCN and WiscNet. WiscNet will not cut an institution over to the BCN backbone until they have had a chance to test it as best they can and have coordinated with the institution.

There was interest among the CIO Council to run as large of a burst test as feasible during August. Such a test will not guarantee that the network will work in September, but if it fails in August that would be very valuable to know. Presumably, the test can be conducted completely by WiscNet with adequate warning to the institutions.

The existing WiscNet circuits will be disconnected in the fall if the BCN network is proving acceptable. There is significant cost to keeping the existing backbone network as a potential backup for the entire UWS for several months in the fall. The possibility of falling back to the old backbone for a few days to compare performance with the BCN backbone was also discussed.

Status report on PeopleSoft Student v. 8.9 upgrade (David Hart)

Two campuses are live with version 8.9 of the Oracle/PeopleSoft student system: UW–Madison and UW–River Falls. UW–Superior, UW–Green Bay, UW–Platteville and UW–Whitewater are planning to go live within the next 30 days. UW–Milwaukee is looking at November and UW–Parkside is looking toward January 2007.

UW–Oshkosh is considering going directly to version 9.0 instead of 8.9. Oracle/PeopleSoft has a history of giving substantially greater resources to the UW–Madison campus to go first, and then the other institutions benefit from that effort. The question is whether UW–Oshkosh and MILER have the resources to make a first move successful, especially given the pieces of Fusion and middleware that are being discussed for version 9.0. If adequate resources are available from the vendor, UW-Oshkosh would be willing to move in November/December 2007. There may be some advantages to going ahead with the simpler environment at UW–Oshkosh instead of first tackling the complexity of UW-Madison. However, issues of interfacing to other systems, such as D2L and IAA, would be more difficult if the first institution was not UW–Madison because multiple versions would have to be supported.

On Sunday, May 14th, there was a catastrophic loss of storage on the test server at FASTAR that impacted UW Colleges, UW-Parkside, the IAA project and some MILER work. Recovery took a few days, several lessons were learned and the process was documented. David Hart sent the post-mortem to the CIO Council.

UW Colleges delayed their go live that was scheduled for October 19th because of the FASTAR crash, the re-creation of three weeks of data that were not backed up and concerns on the part of the Financial Aid staff regarding adequate testing of the FA equations. The other modules are ready to go.

UW–River Falls benefitted from UW–Madison's rewriting of Financial Aid equations. There were a number of issues with the Change Assistant, which Oracle has reportedly since fixed. At one point, the cutover process was 2.5 days behind, but yeoman work by their DBA and Information System group resulted in the process getting 1.5 days ahead. Updates now require clearing the cache to be successful. The functional staff are quite pleased with the changes in the menu structure and the enhanced ability to find what they need. They are thinking of moving to version 9.0 during Spring Break of 2009.

UW-Superior has lost their Bursar and their Controller is retiring. Their challenges will be on the functional side, not the technical side.

Annie Stunden urged that institutions adopt the mindset that upgrading is a continuous process, not a short-term event that only requires the loan of functional staff. Financial Aid will probably be continually driving for upgrades.

Hyperion maintenance contract update (David Hart)

A decision has been made to stay the course with Hyperion and not make any drastic moves or software acquisitions. The maintenance payment will not change. Shared reporting across the institutions, and use of the shared library, will continue. Meanwhile, the movements of Oracle and other vendors in terms of middleware, business intelligence and dashboards will be watched closely.

Bruce Maas and others stressed the importance of Total Cost of Ownership given the existing investments of staff effort that have been made at the institutions.

Procurement update (Lori Voss)

The state's negotations with Oracle regarding modules for their IBIS initiative have been watched closely.

The Microsoft process is going forward smoothly. The existing Select terms were extended to retain certain audit provisions. CDWG suggested that each campus be enrolled separately under the Select Master Agreement, which will require some paperwork but will simplify procedures. CDWG will have better tracking down the road and there will be fewer questions about the validity of license upgrades. It would also be easier to go with a different vendor in the future. Pricing will be unaffected.

Bruce Maas inquired about acquiring legal Windows licenses for Macintoshes. Chip Eckardt will send a reference detailing one possible procedure to the Council.

The mandatory printer contract was cancelled. WSCA is the current mechanism for procuring printers. The press may continue to look into the other Silver Oak contracts. The resulting loss of confidence in all forms of public procurement may be detrimental in the long run to the UWS as well as to the state.

Discussion of Common Systems Review Group, IBIS, UW Service Center Executive Committee (Ed Meachen, Jack Duwe, Ron Kraemer, John Krogman, Dick Cleek)

The CSRG met yesterday and a project director position was approved. UWSA will pay half of the cost of the position as well as S&E. Ed will work with HR on the position description; the position will also need to be approved by the internal UW System Efficiencies committee. 

This year's CSRG projects are projected to come in 7% under budget. The unused funds may be applied to next year to increase the contingency fund though there are uncertaincies regarding the costs of licensing of IBIS modules, upgrades to existing Common Systems, implementation of SFS at the three remaining institutions and so forth.  Annie Stunden suggested a five or seven year timeline of implementations be developed that includes planning on the part of functional entities.

New governance committees are in place for HR, payroll, and benefits.  The UW Service Center Executive Committee is comprised of Don Mash, Debbie Durcan, Alan Crist, Darrell Bazzell, Jack Duwe and one of the chancellors (or his/her designee). Their third meeting will be later today; discussions have focused on IBIS issues. The UW Service Center Advisory Committee is made up of all of the personnel directors from all of the institutions as well as Bruce Maas, Ed Meachen and Jack Duwe. Their first meeting was last week. Bruce Maas will be focused on business processes redesign which is where the economies are likely to be found. There has been no new information regarding the state's IBIS planning process in the last two weeks. The subject matter expert groups are getting underway. The tentative startup date for at least some of the modules is July 2007.

uPortal implemented at UW–Madison

DoIT has successfully deployed the open source uPortal at UW–Madison.

Xythos licensing

The president of Xythos is offering the UWS a special deal before June 30th to license the remainder of the institutions, which is not feasible. A majority of the UWS institutions would be interested in going forward in the near future if the price was some 50% less than what UW–Madison and UW–Madison have paid.

Next meeting

The next CIO Council meeting will be on July 20, 2006.