Michigan IT Newsletter: July/August 2015
This newsletter is sent to the Michigan IT community to provide updates, answer questions, and spark conversation about campus-wide efforts to improve IT services and invest in technologies that support U-M's current and future needs. Have questions or feedback about the newsletter? Please let us know! Or use our submission form to send us content and story ideas.
In this Issue
- API Directory Streamlines App Creation
- MESA: Aligning IT Services to Strategy
- Flux: High-Performance Computing with a Personal Touch
- Testing Tool for High Capacity Networks
- The Future of CTools Project Sites
- A Profile of Information Technology at University Health Services
- Kudos & Campus News
- Training & Events
- Safe Computing
- Project Updates
- Shared Service Updates
- IT Governance
- IT Publications
API Directory Streamlines App Creation
by Ken Caldwell, ITS Communications
What if all of the university's developer resources were accessible in one, convenient storefront? MCIT, MSIS, and ITS are on their way to accomplishing that goal, starting with an API Directory that will be open to the Michigan IT community.
APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are the building blocks of software that enable secure access to data assets and processes. The ITS API Directory is a repository of APIs where researchers, students, and developers across campus can go to populate their software with relevant, real-time data. Using it, they can avoid the effort needed to locate data, format it to be useful, or create local infrastructure to store information securely.
Connecting Campus with APIs
Campus groups are using ITS' API Directory to accomplish projects with much less effort. "We found it extremely useful to have APIs available to perform live lookups against central data sources," said Dan St. Pierre, IT program manager at LSA Information Technology. "The ShortCode and MCommunity APIs saved time and lowered the complexity of our project, allowing us to meet the requirement without an outside process."
Students are also accessing APIs in the classroom and in competition. "Last semester, 74 teams and almost 300 students created websites as a final project for EECS 183 using the Class Schedule API," said Adam Schnitzer, instructional assistant for U-M Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). "These projects would not have been possible without the API Directory. Students enjoyed the opportunity to design useful tools for their peers, and several continued to improve their websites even after the course ended."
Prateek Sachdeva, a graduate student seeking a master's degree in Computer Science (expected: 2016), also used U-M's Class Schedule API to develop an app called ScheduleMe for the 2015 Mobile Apps Challenge. "We're using the API requests to display real-time data about classes and their enrollment availability," said Prateek. "Access to the API helps us improve our product and provide more up-to-date data to users."
A Vision for the Future
MCIT, MSIS, and ITS agreed to use a software architecture model, known as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), for the software that acts as a bridge between databases and applications. The advantage for unit IT is the ease of integration and interoperability. "A middleware architecture like an ESB and API Directory lets us swap vendors with relatively limited work to re-integrate all of those products," said Cassandra Callaghan, assistant director of enabling technologies at ITS.
Ultimately, the U-M community will benefit from clarity about how data can be used. People can more easily consume data for a variety of uses, including research, reporting, analytics, visualization, mobile applications, and transactional systems. As Adam Schnitzer put it, "we are very grateful the university has made such valuable information available, and we hope to see continued investments in APIs and data availability in the future."
Do you have APIs you would like to publish in the API Directory? Add value to research and development across campus by allowing the Michigan IT community to use your existing APIs. Contact the ITS Service Center for more information about contributing.
MESA: Aligning IT Services to Strategy
by Chris Eagle, IT Enterprise Architect, Office of the CIO
You might have heard the word "mesa" from people in ITS recently. MESAs (Michigan Enterprise Strategic Assessments) are a form of strategic planning being rolled out across ITS with the help of the Enterprise Architecture team. MESAs are documents that visually express the current and desired future state of a product or service area, and describe the steps needed to attain the desired state.
The value of a MESA is two-fold. First, MESAs provide a current assessment of a product or service, what's recommended and not recommended, and a view for where it's going. This provides input to, and helps ensure IT initiatives align with, our IT strategic plan. Second, the conversations and thought processes that happen during the creation of a MESA are strategic discussions that we don't often make time for during our hectic day-to-day duties.
"We are finding that the discussions we have when creating the MESA can be every bit as valuable as the resulting MESA artifacts," says Cathy Curley, executive director of strategy and planning for the Office of the CIO and ITS. "With little effort, we have a simple, easy-to-use tool that helps us validate product and service alignment to the IT Strategic Plan. Even as we implement them for ITS services, we will explore opportunities to use MESAs for assessing and planning campus or unit initiatives."
For more information on MESAs, or to request a MESA for your product or service, contact the Enterprise Architecture team .
Flux: High-Performance Computing with a Personal Touch
by Susan Topol, Marketing and Communications Manager, Medical School Information Services
Most people have heard the phrase "think globally, act locally." When it comes to high-performance research computing at U-M, the saying could be "build globally, support locally."
The Flux High-Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster is a university-wide, shared computing cluster, designed to support both compute- and data-intensive research. Flux is a service that is delivered and supported by multiple organizations led by Advanced Research Computing — Technology Services (ARC-TS), the research computing arm of ITS, and including the College of Engineering, LSA, the School of Public Health, and the Medical School.
When Flux was launched five years ago, it was built around a centralized infrastructure assembled and provided by ARC. However, instead of providing centralized support through one IT organization, ARC experimented with a distributed, multi-organizational model for delivering support for end-users of Flux.
As a result, researchers using Flux receive direct support from right within their units, with support provided by CAEN, LSA IT, SPH IT, or Medical School Information Services (MSIS). Jeremy Hallum, Computational Research Consultant in MSIS, explains, "Researchers want support directly within their departments, from 'the guy down the hall.' This model puts user support in the hands of people who are close to and backed by organizations who specialize in user support." Support can include helping Flux users get started, compiling applications, troubleshooting, and building workflows.
What started as an experiment has turned into a big success. Most of the campus IT organizations that support Flux have increased their support staff (or are in the process of hiring). The next goal is to take this distributed support model and translate it to other services. By bringing support services closer to U-M researchers, these campus IT organizations are helping researchers be more productive and ultimately facilitating discovery.
Testing Tool for High Capacity Networks
by Patty Giorgio, ITS Communications
perfSONAR is a widely-deployed test and measurement infrastructure used by science networks and facilities around the world to monitor and ensure network performance. It is a tool for researchers or others with substantial capacity requirements.
U-M has deployed perfSONAR appliances at the network core and data center locations. It can be used to test network performance and establish end-to-end usage expectation, both within the Ann Arbor campus and between our campus and other institutions.
Network performance can be checked from a desktop to the edge of the university network, where network traffic is handed off to the ISP. Many other higher level academic institutions also use perfSONAR appliances, allowing for testing of network performance to another institution.
A typical perfSONAR Toolkit installation includes the Network Diagnostic Toolkit (NDT). NDT provides an on-demand service which launches a java applet on your local machine that runs network throughput tests to the perfSONAR appliance. This allows NDT to determine inbound and outbound network speed, the slowest link on the end-to-end path, and ethernet duplex settings. It can also indicate whether congestion is limiting end-to-end throughput, or whether there is excessive packet loss due to faulty cabling.
"We must ensure the core network is never a bottleneck for U-M faculty and researchers. This means not only providing the necessary capacity and speed, but also providing tools to assist with diagnosis of network problems," said Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Communication Systems. "The addition of perfSONAR devices on the network core allows faculty and researchers to test the speed of their network connections and quickly identify if there are issues with the network."
Shawn McKee, a physics research scientist in LSA, agreed: "perfSONAR gives us visibility into what the network is doing. When things move slowly, people automatically think it is the network, but sometimes there are problems with storage or applications. Now we have tools allowing us to see what is happening with the network that will either rule the network out as a problem or provide information to diagnose the issue."
The Future of CTools Project Sites
by Heather Kipp, ITS Communications
Since 2002, CTools has supported a variety of features used by faculty, staff, and students, including courses and project sites. While pilots of the Canvas learning management system focused primarily on CTools course sites, ITS is also beginning to collect information on the collaboration, research, and administrative uses of CTools project sites.
"There are more than 20,000 project sites in CTools, so we are partnering with faculty, staff, and students to understand how they use project sites," said Sean DeMonner, executive director of ITS teaching and learning. "These conversations will help us recommend alternatives and migration support."
No date is set for CTools decommission. ITS is awaiting a recommendation from the Digital Innovation Advisory Group (DIAG) faculty governance group which will inform milestone setting for migrating all courses to Canvas, and the future of project sites.
"We are committed to ensuring alternative solutions meet the needs of campus before we move away from CTools. We want any change to be as seamless and painless as possible," DeMonner said. "Just as ITS is supporting campus in moving course materials, we also will support them in moving materials from project sites."
ITS has collaboration tool options to meet most of the current project-based uses in CTools; however, every situation is unique. To speak to someone about moving your CTools project site, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Profile of Information Technology at University Health Services
by John Talarek, University Health Services. (Re-printed from Student Life's publication UHS Electronic Round Table, May 2015)
The IT support model at UHS is comprehensive. It addresses standard workstation needs as well as UHS’s more complex healthcare workflows, which are fluid in the ever-changing healthcare environment. For example, recently, MiWorkspace Neighborhood IT demonstrated its flexibility to meet UHS’s needs by loading the Electronic Medical Record on some mobile devices. This in turn improved care for patients.
Julie Stocks, RDN
University Health Service, University of Michigan
As you know, technology is essential to our everyday work. At University Health Services (UHS), we actually have two IT Units working together to support and enhance the technology we use every day. We have our very own Unit IT known as UHS Information Technology Services (UHS ITS), and we also have dedicated MiWorkspace support onsite called Neighborhood IT.
Our UHS ITS department is focused on software and workflows that are unique to UHS and not primarily used in other areas on campus. SOFT in the Lab, RIS and PACS in Radiology, OfficeMate in EyeCare, FileHawk in HIM, Harmony Health and Intellicode in the Business Office, QS/1 in Pharmacy, MiChart work queues, and Travel and Student Immunization workflows are a good examples. Our Business Systems Analysts (BSAs)—Sabrina Ervin, Beth Speer, and Polly Wierzbicki—and I manage projects related to these systems and a handful of others. We also coordinate and facilitate work with vendors and other IT teams on Campus and UMHS as necessary.
MiWorkspace Neighborhood IT is instrumental in keeping the day-to-day computing environment up and running at UHS. This includes workstations and laptop hardware, network connectivity, printing, account security and access, and any standard software that is common across Campus. If your technology problem requires onsite assistance for one of those things, this is the team that comes to your aid. Considered "Tier 2" support, they are the onsite eyes and ears behind 4-HELP. We are privileged to have an NIT team on site at UHS. They support 30 buildings on Central Campus but choose to locate 4 of their 15 staff here. This is a testament to how important they know our work is.
With an eye toward developing business-enhancing solutions and creating a seamless technology platform at UHS, the extended "IT Family" that works behind the scenes sometimes includes various teams at UMHS, MCIT, Central ITS, and other departments. Needless to say, we all work together to create the best experience possible for our staff and entire UHS customer base.
Kudos & Campus News
Got some news to share or know someone who deserves a shout-out? Let us know!
UMHHC awarded for excellence in IT
The U-M Hospitals and Health Centers received the 2015 Most Wired™ recognition from the American Hospital Association's (AHA) Health Forum and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The award recognizes hospitals and health centers for excellence in adoption, implementation, and use of information technology. Read more.
Supporting wireless research
Walter Reynolds, a principal systems security development engineer at ITS, was recognized for his efforts to help the EECS Embedded Systems Research Lab determine wireless connectivity patterns on campus. Walter's assistance also led to an appropriate way to analyze data without undermining the privacy of those involved. "With Walter's help, we will be able to draw strong conclusions about the performance and functionality of a blocking-, censorship-, and surveillance-resistant communication technology," said Robert Dick, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science. His team is developing a system for direct and transitive smartphone-to-smartphone communication that has the potential to keep working even if Internet connectivity is disrupted or blocked.
Michigan IT Symposium: Call for participation
Are you working on an exciting IT project? Did you recently launch a new system, service, or improvement in your unit? Have you overcome a challenge in a creative way through non-traditional uses of technology, cross-unit partnerships, or soft skills? Show it off at the Michigan IT Symposium, a two-day event highlighting the expertise, innovation, and personality of the U-M IT community. Applications are now being accepted for poster and formal presentations. Fill out a brief Presenter Application by September 23. The event will take place the afternoon of Monday, November 23, and all day on Tuesday, November 24, at the Michigan Union. Get more details.
IT capital investment requests due September 11
University units seeking information technology investments for the FY17 budget year that are estimated to cost more than $1M or that will result in a new or significantly changed shared service should submit a request by Friday, September 11. These requests will be reviewed and prioritized by the CIO and the U-M IT Governance committees this fall. The IT Capital Investment and Shared Service Approval process allows the IT Governance committees to review and compare information technology requests collectively instead of on a case-by-case basis and ensures alignment with U-M's IT Strategic Plan. Additional information about the request process and schedule (as well as an FAQ) is available on the CIO website. If you have any questions, please contact UM-IT-Planning-Request@umich.edu.
New Contact Center Operations G+ Community
Communication Systems and Data Centers (CSDC) is working to optimize U-M's contact centers. We know this is a large and diverse group and we want to hear from contact center managers, supervisors and operations staff across all our campuses! By joining our G+ community you'll have the opportunity to stay up-to-date on issues affecting your operations, collaborate with your peers, and help us develop a strategic vision for the future engagement centers. Come join the conversation!
Sue Schade discusses healthcare IT innovation in video interview series
Sue Schade, chief information officer at U-M Hospitals and Health Centers, was recently interviewed by Catalyze, an IT organization that provides technical resources in the healthcare environment. Schade participated in the Catalyze Healthcare Innovation Series, where the organization explores healthcare innovation with some of the IT industry's top thinkers and doers. In the interview, Schade discussed innovation, mobile health, achieving a balanced scorecard, and more. Read more.
Michigan IT Service Mini-Symposium
On July 27, the Community of Practice (CoP) for IT Service Management held a "Mini-Symposium" to bring together campus IT service providers. One side of the Dome at Arbor Lakes shined a spotlight on current services, while the other focused on service management. "We set out to create an informal event where people across campus could share knowledge and experience about managing IT services, as well as spreading awareness of which IT services are out there," said Joe Bauer, a facilitator for the CoP. "The attendance was double what we expected, so I think that shows that there is demand on campus for this kind of event."
Michigan IT Newsletter updates publication schedule
The Michigan IT Newsletter has adjusted its publishing schedule to better align with the practices of other campus publications. Starting with this issue, the newsletter will be distributed on the first business day of the month, rather than the last business day as was done previously. To allow for the change, this current issue is dated July/August. The next issue (September) will go out on Tuesday, September 1; the October issue on Thursday, October 1, and so on.
Training & Events
Contact us to get your event listed.
IT4U 50: IT4U Live Webinar on Accessibility Tips for Mac Users
Thursday, August 6, 9-9:30 a.m. Ready to climb Yosemite? Jane Vincent, Assistive Technology Manager (ITS), reviews OS X Yosemite's features that make computing easier for people with disabilities—and possibly everyone else. Innovations include screen configuration options and improved speech recognition and text-to-speech. Note: Registration is required to participate in this live webinar.
Supercomputing for Everyone Series
Performance Tuning Summer School, August 17-21. This five-day course will be held at the Duderstadt Center. From a user perspective, supercomputers are more complicated to program and handle than an ordinary desktop workstation. This can lead to parallel programs that do not necessarily satisfy user performance expectations. Such unexpected results can have many reasons. Basic knowledge on performance modeling, prediction and verification, as taught in this summer school, is needed by users to formulate and verify their performance expectation. Learn more.
ITS Innovation Lunches
ITS Innovation Lunches are an effort to get people excited about new trends in technology. They are open to the entire Michigan IT community and offer the opportunity for staff to interact outside of their usual teams and spark new ideas. Lunches typically take place each month at noon on the third Wednesday at Boyer and the third Thursday at Arbor Lakes. Bring your lunch and enjoy the discussion!
Alex Peplinski will discuss 3D modeling on August 19 at Boyer 111 and August 20 at Arbor Lakes Building 1, room 1412. To stay up-to-date on the lunches join the ITS Innovation Lunches MCommunity group. The July lunch was a tour of the Taubman College FABLab (pictured). View more photos and notes of past events at the ITS Innovation Lunches blog. If you have topic suggestions, would like to give a presentation, or want to help plan the lunches, email the planning team.
U-M Google Apps Developers
The next meeting is on Tuesday, August 11, 1-3 p.m. in room 2001 of the LSA Building. Join their G+ Community or MCommunity group to get notifications about upcoming meetings and to participate in group discussion.
Using public WiFi? Secure the connection with U-M's VPN
You know that public WiFi can be insecure, but sometimes you just have to use it. You can improve the security of your public WiFi connection by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). ITS provides U-M VPN profiles to all students, faculty, staff, and sponsored affiliates, as well as alumni and retirees. The U-M Health System and the Flint and Dearborn campuses also provide VPNs for their communities.
Download and install if needed. Before using the VPN on many devices, you must download and install it. See Use a Secure Connection for links to the U-M, UMHS, Dearborn, and Flint VPN downloads and instructions. For the U-M VPN, follow the links for your device type to either download the VPN or see instructions for setting it up. MiWorkspace laptops already have a VPN client or equivalent installed. MiWorkspace Windows laptops include DirectAccess, which provides the same security protection as a VPN. MiWorkspace Macs have a VPN installed. See MiWorkspace Mac: Sensitive Data Protections for details.
Turn it on when you connect. Once you have a VPN set up on your device, just turn it on when you need it. Connect to the wireless network first, then turn on the VPN. You will be prompted to log in to the U-M VPN using your uniqname and UMICH password. On iPhones and iPads, as well as many Android devices, open Settings, and you'll see the option for turning on the VPN near the top of the list in the section with WiFi and Bluetooth settings. If you don't see where to turn on the VPN, check your device's documentation or online help for instructions. The VPN connection will close after a period of inactivity, so you will need to turn it back on whenever you use an untrusted network.
Another benefit of using a U-M VPN is that you are using a U-M network. Some U-M resources are only accessible to those using U-M networks. For more information about the U-M VPN, see the U-M VPN FAQ.
Working on a project you'd like share with the Michigan IT community? Let us know!
Between June 1 and July 1, MiWorkspace team members completed more than 60 one-on-one interviews with faculty members in five schools and colleges—that's more than three per day! During the sessions, interviewers talk to faculty members about their computing needs in preparation for their move to MiWorkspace, including file storage, software, and research requirements. The Ford School of Public Policy began migrations July 20 and Taubman College begins migrations in late August. View the MiWorkspace project website and academic unit implementation status for additional details.
The next major milestone for the SiteMaker Transition project will happen on August 28, 2015. At that time, all remaining SiteMaker sites will become read-only. Sites will remain accessible for viewing, but after that date no edits will be possible. The project team has compiled a list of sites that have been accessed and/or edited within the last two years and is reaching out to those site owners directly. View the project roadmap for details on functionality changes in the "read-only" SiteMaker environment, and read the latest project updates for more information.
The Campuswide WiFi Upgrade Project has kicked off with a bang! The multi-phased approach for this project is different than a traditional building upgrade in a few ways. Existing Meru model wireless access points in buildings on campus are being replaced with Cisco APs with the goal of standardizing the wireless platform across campus. To take advantage of lower traffic during summer months, many large classrooms in high-priority buildings are being upgraded over the summer, with full building upgrades to be completed at a later date. Site survey crews are performing wireless surveys in buildings across campus. These site surveys may be completed well in advance of a scheduled building upgrade. Visit the project site to learn about the most recent progress on WiFi upgrades across the Ann Arbor campus.
Shared Service Updates
If your unit or group provides a shared service to campus, this space is available for short news items and updates to the Michigan IT community. Send us your information.
The CTools application will be updated to a new release (2.9T) during the standard application maintenance window 5-7 a.m. Saturday, August 8, 2015. Read the Service Status Report.
Flux, Flux Hadoop, and their storage systems (/home, /home2, /scratch, and HDFS) will be unavailable starting at 7 a.m. Friday, July 31, returning to service on Friday, August 7. Read the full update.
- Redesigned Folder Settings Page
- M+Box by the Numbers: July 2015
- M+Box Monthly Updates: UI changes, Notes Welcome Tour
- See all updates
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Data Egress waiver is finalized and communication has gone out to customers. This pilot program will run through the end of the year and will likely be renewed if there is continued growth in AWS consumption. Site-to-site VPN Service is in the planning phase.
- More Functionality added to Google Sheets
- June Monthly Digest
- Add Attachment Becomes Permanent Feature in Calendar Events
- Customize Your App Launcher
- Mail Labels, Filters, and Best Practices
- New Sharing Options for Drive Files
- See all updates
The UI for Fuji, the latest upgrade to ServiceLink, became active on Thursday, July 30. View the Overview of Changes support documentation. For updated Incident module training materials, see: ServiceLink Users Resources and IT Service Provider Toolkit User Resources (Login required). Join the ServiceLink G+ Community for additional updates and details.
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