Office of Learning and Information Technology
UW System CIO Council
October 13, 2005
- D2L/Grading integration status
- Learn@UW Utility update
- SFS upgrade update
- Adobe contract
- APBS Steering Committee
- Common Systems Review Group
- Network update
- Cisco briefing:
- Next meeting
CIOs and their Representatives
Mark Anderson via teleconference
The way D2L/grading integration works today, a script moves grades out of D2L to a landing zone as XML files. Another script puts them on a landing zone outside of the campus's PeopleSoft Student Information System (SIS). Then a third script puts the grades into the SIS where they belong. An email message is delivered to the faculty member telling them their grades are ready and that they can log into SIS self-service and accept or change the grades. This ensures that the instructor of record is the one who officially submits the grades. Subsequent changes to grades in D2L can overwrite the grades in the SIS, which is not desirable. When faculty are changing grades at the last minute, they have to remember to wait for the scripts to run and the email message to come back before doing their next update. This process is currently being rolled out to the remaining campuses including UW–Whitewater, UW–Oshkosh and UW–Milwaukee this fall.
The new PeopleSoft tool set might allow new opportunities. Perhaps a web service could be built on the first landing zone to provide grades to PeopleSoft SIS when the instructor requests them from PeopleSoft self service. Having a web service would also allow for notification that grades are ready via a portal. Perhaps a pause for a technology analysis of a new solution would be preferable to just continuing to roll out the current process. Brian Busby's team will need to analyze the feasibility of a new approach. UW-River Falls might be willing to pilot a new process in the spring. Meanwhile, other campuses that were planning to go live in the spring would have to wait.
The CIO Council would like to hear what issues are revealed in a technical feasibility study before going ahead with either the current or alternative rollout process in the spring.
At the request of the CIO Council, additional status communications are being sent to them from Learn@UW. The UWS D2L instance was upgraded to maintenance releases 3 and 7. There were subsequent performance issues. Similar issues have occurred at other large and small D2L customers. The UW–Milwaukee installation, which uses the same database and file servers as the UWS installation, is scheduled for the same upgrades next week. It is believed that the problems were caused by the way Microsoft SQL server starts up. D2L has a workaround to fix the initialization of the tables that will be applied after the UW–Milwaukee upgrade. D2L has also recommended going to Microsoft's Service Pack 1. An option to go to different databases for different UWS institutions will not be available in the short term.
Upgrades are done mid week because of the need for personnel resources at both Learn@UW and D2L. D2L resists doing these tasks after hours and there are only a couple people in the company that can do this work. Sunday night is often as busy for Learn@UW> as mid week. During the peaks, there can be timeout errors on the more intensive operations, such as the gradebook.
The performance issues appear to have resulted in more students than usual dropping cost recovery courses at UW-Platteville and other institutions. D2L is aware of the financial impact of these problems. Lori Voss would like to know the amount of tuition that the institutions estimate they have lost.
A new synchronous tool will be released this fall. Learn@UW is concerned that they not get locked into another proprietary tool that might bring about additional performance implications.
Breaking up the Learn@UW implementation into subsets of institutions would require significantly more work on the part of the Learn@UW utility on the back end which would change the cost model. There would also be a negative impact on statewide collaboration through the Learning Technology Development Centers and the site administrators.
The Council was concerned that D2L is being implemented with too much scrutiny of the costs in comparison to administrative systems, which is ironic given the nature of the core business of the UWS. They felt the number of course sections will likely double for next fall, which won't work on the current infrastructure. The performance evaluation that was requested at the last CIO Council meeting is underway.
It was suggested that the CIOs and the LTDCs do a risk assessment to determine the questions that need to be answered in order for the institutions to be comfortable for fall 2006.
In the state software contract bid, there was a non-Microsoft portion that included Adobe. Two resellers have been awarded contacts for Adobe academic products. The feasibility of renewing Adobe maintenance contracts through the WISC website is under review because their contract expires in October. A similar review of the other products that are named in the non-Microsoft contact will be undertaken.
The presentation given to the SFS executive sponsors earlier this morning was reprised for the CIO Council. The upgrade plan is in good shape except for Account Receivable Billing (AR/BI) functionality for UW Extension. The problem relates to changes in how PeopleSoft does inheritance of data between modules. Additional clicking appears to be necessary because forms can't be pre-filled with default data. Installation of the grants module may improve the situation.
The payroll interface was opened to all campuses today. Salary cash transfer and salary encumbrance testing is underway at UW–Madison and UW–Milwaukee. UW–River Falls is testing the procurement card interface. More participation is needed from the campuses to verify the data in WISDM. DOA interfaces will be extensively tested during the week of October 24th. The campuses need to produce data for the DOA interface tests.
Interviews with each site indicate readiness except for UW Extension as described above, and a lack of adequate testing at a few institutions. Three full payrolls have been tied out to the penny.
Issues with system performance have been researched over the last month and indexes have been added. The nightly batch run will be longer than in the past.
The process for moving to production has been shortened by a day. Further benchmarking will be done. The current estimate is 10 days, beginning on November 19, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. During the downtime, a copy of WISDM will be made available to the campuses for financial reporting purposes. Student payroll will need to continue accessing a copy of SFS because payroll uses the SFS edit module. DOA has been made aware of, and approved the shutdown. The data feeds that campuses send to SFS during the shutdown will be queued for later processing. A business continuity plan will be announced shortly.
A mailing list has been created so that campuses can more easily talk with each other about issues rather than always waiting for a response from the team.
The UWS controllers will meet on November 2nd and each site leader will present their test plan and signoffs.
The Steering Committee meeting had two major discussions at their last meeting. An assessment was presented that demonstrated that the ORACLE/PeopleSoft Human Resources and Payroll (HRP) suite has the necessary functionality for the UW System. ORACLE/PS has more 600 higher education customers. The HRP suite has additional functionality that could benefit the UW System. Examples include: elimination of the need for a payroll interface; integration, rather than interfacing, with the Shared Financial System, getting the legacy budget system off of the UW–Madison mainframe, and a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy. License and vanilla implementation costs and timelines for ORACLE/PeopleSoft were also presented.
The APBS Core Team's study of the status of the Lawson interfaces was distributed to the Steering Committee.
The second half of the meeting consisted of a discussion with Lawson representatives. At the next Steering Committee meeting on October 25th, the Lawson representatives will present the costs for their assistance in helping to plan over the next three months for a continuation of the installation, which is being called Phase I.
The Lawson representatives also proposed the initial draft of a governance structure that included:
- an executive steering committee
- an operational steering committee
- a project management office
The Council drafted a letter to Don Mash recommending adoption of the ORACLE/PeopleSoft Human Resources and Payroll suite. If the resources are not available to implement the ORACLE/PeopleSoft suite at this time, the Council recommends staying with the current payroll production system.
Debbie Durcan has developed a 10 year payback plan for the Common Systems debt that would commence in 2007-09. The plan does not include APBS, which would presumably be financed via a loan, nor does it include any new Common System projects. If the Review Group doesn't have fiscal responsibilities, its role may need to be fundamentally changed.
A number of K12 and technical colleges are running on the BadgerNet Converged Network pilot. Their data connectivity is working well, but there are second hand reports of problems with the managed video services and the video scheduling system. There appear to be communication and coordination problems within and between the vendors, e.g., ISP transport for one school is different than ISP transport for another school. The pilot formally ends on October 26 when full implementation is slated to begin.
There have been good communications between the technical staffs at DOA, WiscNet and Norlight. WiscNet's help on the front end has been appreciated by the vendors and expressed to the Advisory Group.
Feedback from users appears to be more effective than advice from technical staff. The BCN Advisory Group has named a 10 person Technical Working Group composed of DOA members and end users; the Group will have preventative and triage functions. Brian Remer will be the UW System representative.
Within WiscNet, routers will be installed within the next few weeks for the BCN core node cities. Out of date router hardware in some of the WiscNet POPs has hindered the performance of video. New equipment is being ordered for almost every UWS campus. Circuit capacities appear to be adequate for the next three to six months. New standalone circuits will likely be purchased through the BCN contract. Connectivity to Chicago and the Internet is being reinforced over the remainder of the calendar year. Additional network monitoring tools and servers are being installed on the network. Long range planning for the transition to BCN next summer is getting underway.
The WiscNet Board had a retreat to look at its business model vis-à-vis its strategic plan. The existing business model was reaffirmed thanks to the work done a couple years ago by Ron Kraemer. Participation by non-WiscNet members in working groups will be allowed, but only member institutions will be able to receive services.
Higher ed institutions are being challenged of terms of funding while simultaneously attempting to establish competitive differentiation in recruiting students, staff and extramural funds. Cisco wants to assist in changing how people learn by using IP and wireless to provide anytime and anywhere communication. They offer IP video to personalize instruction as well as solutions for storage. Cisco's goal is to have security integrated in their products rather than added on.
Cisco doesn't have any mesh networking projects on the market yet. Meshes are self-forming, self-healing networks that have out-of-band backhaul to the wired backbone at 5Mhz instead of the 2.4MHz that the enduser devices use. A deployment typically has a central wireless control system that is wired to "wireless" LAN controllers that are wired to roof-top access points and connected via wireless to pole-top access points for 802.11g clients. The mesh access points automatically establish connection to the controller. The Cisco representatives have talked to a number of cities and counties that are interested in setting up wireless meshes as backups to traditional public service networks. The adaptive wireless path protocol assists in maintaining ubiquitous coverage.
Cisco believes security should be based upon multiple technologies (defense in depth), embedded, pervasive and self-defending. The Cisco security product portfolio includes secure connectivity, extended perimeter security, intrusion protection, identity services and security management. The security components in various products can collaborate with each other to create a self defending network.
The phases of a typical attack are:
Anti-virus defenses concentrate on the first few phases. Deeper security prevents processes and devices, such as student kiosks, from doing what they were not designed to do. CSA technology allows for the writing of scripts that enable implementation of security policies, e.g., not writing certain files to removable media.
Dealing with all of the security console messages provided by various network monitoring devices is difficult to assimilate and it is typically ignored until after an incident is public. Cisco's Monitoring, Analysis and Response System (MARS) appliance aggregates security information from different devices and correlates it to indicate when an incident has occurred.
Vendor agnostic security blueprints are available for download from www.cisco.com/go/safe. The site www.cisco.com/go/nfp describes the network foundation protection available in existing Cisco devices.
The next CIO Council meeting will be Friday, November 18 at noon following the ITMC meeting at UW–Stout.
SUN is interested in doing a presentation on network security at a future meeting.