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> Office of Planning & Analysis
Information Services Task Force: Final Report
March 1995

Contents

Preface - The Charge to the Task Force and procedures followed I. Vision - the ISTF vision for the future of information services at MSU II. Mission - the proposed mission for Information Technology Services III. Recommendations - the specific recommendations and the rationales A. Organization of Information Technology Services B. The Evolution of the Network C. Support D. The Library and other Providers of University-Wide Information Services IV. Summary and Priorities - the ISTF statement of priorities V. Conclusion - the ISTF final recommendations to the campus

Preface

On September 15, 1994 President Michael Malone appointed the Information Services Task Force (ISTF) to address a wide range of issues surrounding the current status and future of information systems and services at MSU-Bozeman. The members of the Task Force included Bruce Albert, Library; Jerry Coffey, English; Cathy Conover, Employee Relations and Personnel Services; Jim Efta, OSCS; Pamela Hill, Architecture; Chuck Nelson, Registrar's Office; Kim Obbink, Burns Center; Craig Roloff, Administration; Vince Smith, Agricultural Economics; and Chair David Dooley, Chemistry and Biochemistry. In his charge to the Task Force President Malone stated:

We are now at a critical juncture in the development and operation of the means by which we make electronic information available to students, faculty, staff, and citizens....It is time, therefore, that we give attention to these matters and do so with dispatch, so that we might enhance our access to information.

All the members of the ISTF strongly agree with President Malone's assertion that this is a critical time for the University to examine carefully the status and future role of computing and information services. Indeed, we are convinced that it is essential that MSU-Bozeman enhance its computing and information services in order to successfully conduct its missions of teaching, research, and outreach. Not long ago the needs for cutting-edge computing and information services were largely restricted to the sciences, engineering, and some fields in the social sciences. Today, as forcefully articulated across the entire campus, computing and information services are an indispensable infrastructure for practically every aspect of the educational, research, and service activities of a land-grant university.

President Malone specifically requested the ISTF to examine the following questions:

  1. In what broad, general directions are information services at MSU (particularly OSCS, the Libraries and the Burns Center) likely to be heading during the next decade? (This should not require detailed consideration of technologies, but reaching a consensus on major directions on issues like centralization and decentralization, or the changing nature of networking).

  2. As we look to the near future, what are the most desirable information services that need to be provided to faculty, students, and staff, and are these services different from what we provide today?

  3. What are the desired working relationships among the various providers of information services, especially OSCS, the Libraries, and the Burns Center for both the immediate and more distant futures?

  4. What are the most appropriate organizational models for MSU, given the desired relationships among these information service providers and the successes/failures of various approaches used around the country?

As we considered these questions, we rapidly came to the conclusion that broad campus input was required. Consequently, requests for information were posted electronically, and mailed to deans, department heads, and program directors. Members of the ISTF met with representatives of every college and most departments, and with representatives from special programs such as KUSM, the Museum of the Rockies, and Outreach. Two "town meetings" were organized: one for the faculty in Letters and Sciences, and one for students and ASMSU representatives. Collectively, the response from the campus - whether in meeting attendance, expressed through representatives, or in the form of individual messages and letters - was tremendous. Committees from Physics, Math, and Agricultural Economics wrote lengthy reports with extensive sets of recommendations. Well over a hundred faculty and staff members contributed individual responses. Hundreds of pages of thoughtful suggestions were contributed from every sector of the campus. The number and thoughtfulness of responses from students were especially noteworthy.

The ISTF also sought advice from two outside consultants: Dr. William Lewis (Vice Provost for Information Technology at Arizona State University) and Dr. Larry Rapagnani (Director of Computing and Communications, Estrella Mountain Community College Center). Both of these individuals visited campus, met with various constituencies, held public forums and provided much valuable insight, advice, and information. In addition, Professor Jerry Coffey, a member of the Task Force, and Vice-President Rob Specter, attended the national CAUSE meeting (the most valuable national forum on information technology at colleges and universities). Both gave reports to the ISTF outlining their impressions and insights gained in talking to representatives from other institutions.

The information gathered through all of these processes was both broad-based and informed, and led the Task Force to many clearly supported conclusions. The recommendations contained herein largely reflect the views of the campus, informed by the consultants' expertise and the experiences of other institutions. We found a remarkable degree of consensus among the various communities that comprise MSU-Bozeman. That consensus was strongly reflected in the members of the Task Force. All of the recommendations herein have the unanimous support of the ISTF. Given the breadth of experience and expertise spanned by members of the Task Force, this is a remarkable outcome and should serve to reinforce the recommendations.

The report is organized into the following sections:

I. Vision - the ISTF vision for the future of information services at MSU;

II. Mission - a proposed mission statement for the Information Technology Services (ITS) office;

III. Recommendations - the specific recommendations and the rationales for reorganizing ITS, its reporting relationships with the central administration, and its interface with the libraries and outreach;

IV. Summary and Priorities - the ISTF priorities for the immediate and the long-term investment of central resources;

V. Conclusion.

The Task Force believes that the most critical recommendations concern the philosophy and reorganization of OSCS. We are recommending, in response to a campus-wide mandate, fundamental changes in the orientation, spirit, reporting relationships, and organization of OSCS.

There are many challenges ahead for the development of computing and information services at MSU-Bozeman. However, this is also a time of substantial opportunity. Information and computing services now have a prominent profile on campus, and expectations for improvement and expansion of services are very high. At the same time, there appears to be a general awareness that the university has under-invested in essential computing and information services infrastructure, and that additional resources should be devoted to this area. Efforts to achieve particular goals, i.e. recruiting a Chief Information Officer, establishing a structure to support academic computing, migration to TCP/IP as the network standard, and moving to non-proprietary standards and vendor independence, need to begin at as soon as possible. The process initiated by President Malone has created a climate of anticipation and goodwill as students, faculty, and staff have shared their frustrations, needs, and plans with the ISTF and each other. We believe that this report captures fairly the spirit, intent, and general content (if not the detail) of what the campus shared. We hope the university will capitalize on this important opportunity to improve and enhance computing and information services, and thereby improve our capability to teach, conduct research, and serve the people of Montana.


I. Vision of Information Services at MSU

Information Technology Services (ITS) exists to enhance MSU's ability to: serve as a national leader in re-defining the land-grant mission to better meet the needs of people living in a rural state; support cutting-edge teaching and research activities; and improve the academic environment. We believe that by adopting the recommendations proposed here:

  • MSU can enhance its national reputation as an innovator in educational methodologies which prepare our students for active roles in the 21st century information society.

  • MSU can become a pioneer in the electronic transfer of information services to a rural state to support K-12 outreach programs, extension services, and lifelong learning programs.

  • MSU can advance its cutting edge research and creative activities, and more easily disseminate the results of this work throughout the state and the world.

  • MSU can support economic development within Montana by providing cost-effective access to the vast information resources available.

We are at a critical juncture in terms of the information revolution and its impact on the State of Montana. We have an obligation to train our students in the latest information technologies so they are able to compete equally with others in the global economy. Since the Internet and other information technologies make time and space almost irrelevant, we can no longer argue isolation as an excuse for being behind the times.

The economic future of Montana may lie to a significant degree in high technology industries and information services. In expanding these sectors of the economy, Montana can preserve the quality of life and the environment while, at the same time, providing well- paid and challenging work for its citizens. There are real opportunities now for garnering outside support for the expansion of information technologies on campus and throughout the state. High tech industries are increasingly looking to expand into rural states and may be willing to help. Significant public funding is also a possibility. One thing is abundantly clear: MSU, in partnership with the public and private sectors, should begin immediately to plan, build, and expand the information technology infrastructure throughout the state.


II. Mission of Information Technology Services

The mission of Information Technology Services is to provide the infrastructure and services necessary to support and enhance, in a cost-effective manner, the university's academic environment, its teaching, research/creative activities, and its outreach services at MSU and throughout the State of Montana. The central computing service (ITS) must, as an essential part of its mandate:

  • respond to the needs of faculty, students, and staff at MSU, with service to users as the highest priority;

  • reflect the priorities of MSU in carrying out our teaching, research, and outreach missions;

  • provide the highest level of connectivity to our faculty, students, and staff;

  • identify and provide new technologies to the campus;

  • enhance MSU's state outreach abilities, in keeping with MSU's historical and special role as a land-grant institution;

  • enhance the ability of MSU's administrative and service operations to support the teaching, research, and outreach missions.

The advent of distributed computing, the power of the desktop machine, and the construction of the Internet have driven and enabled the ongoing revolution in information technologies. This has escalated the needs and demands of faculty and students for equipment, support, access, and services. To meet these demands, the central computing facility can no longer play its historical roles and follow its preexisting priorities; roles and priorities appropriate to the era of large mainframe systems and centralized control are no longer viable in an era where the former mainframe power is on the desktop. Now individual users best understand their own individual needs and the resources available in, and essential to, their particular disciplines. There must be a shift from a culture of resource allocation and centralized control to one of user empowerment, support, and service.


III. Recommendations

The ISTF has endeavored to make detailed recommendations based upon commonly shared principles while avoiding specific recommendations of hardware and software. Some of our suggestions and rationales are inherently technical in nature, but we have attempted to be as clear and explanatory as possible within the limitations of a short report.

A. Organization of Information Technology Services

The ISTF strongly recommends reorganizing the existing structure within which information services operate. Our proposals include: the creation of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) position; a reorganization of the OSCS department; the creation of a single advisory committee; and the development of a structured process for communication and coordination amongst the various information service providers within MSU.

1. Information Technology Services Leadership

ITS should be led by a Chief Information Officer (CIO) who reports directly to the President and the President's Executive Council. This reporting relationship is crucial, for it will allow the CIO to work with the vice presidents as a peer, to develop a broad-based understanding of campus needs, and to contribute on issues where technology can help find solutions.

A search for the CIO should be initiated as soon as possible. The criteria for selection should include thorough familiarity with the major aspects of a land-grant institution and the role technology can play in supporting the teaching, research, and outreach missions. The CIO must be credible with the academic units of the university and be thoroughly familiar with instructional and research technologies in an academic setting. Proven leadership skills are essential since the CIO must be able to move ITS successfully in new directions which focus on customer service and empower all campus constituencies in applying the available technology. Dynamic leadership from the CIO will be required to ensure that institutional priorities are supported with the most appropriate and advanced technology available. This individual must be able to work effectively with the broad constituencies and far-ranging communities that are MSU. Since the costs of making these transitions cannot be borne by appropriated funds alone, it is essential that the CIO have excellent fund-raising and grant-writing skills. Finally, in conjunction with ITS and the advisory committees, the CIO should foster greater communication and coordination among providers of information services and support staff working in colleges, departments, and programs at MSU.

2. Structure of the Information Technology Services

The CIO should play a major role in the restructuring of information services. The current OSCS department should be reorganized into a division with three departments to serve separate needs within the university. Those departments would be 1) Academic Computing Services, 2) Administrative Computing Services, and 3) Network and Communication Services. The division title should be changed to Information Technology Services (ITS), emphasizing the customer orientation that is so critical. Existing OSCS staff would be reassigned to the newly created departments, and some will undoubtedly undergo a redefinition of responsibilities as well. Some staff will require retraining to enable them to develop the necessary expertise required by the restructuring.

A reallocation of current staff and other resources, as well as identification of additional financial resources, should be directed to enhancing support for academic needs. Because the enhancement of service to academic computing is a major focus of the Task Force recommendations, it is critical that the director of the Academic Computing Services department have credibility with faculty and students. Preferably, the director would have a terminal degree and teaching and research experience. The CIO and Director of Academic Computing Services should meet regularly (perhaps monthly) with each college dean to ensure their computing needs are adequately supported. This regular communication will help to formalize the accountability the academic computing director will have with the academic and research sectors of the institution.

An innovation component of ITS should be created to span the three-department structure. This component would be charged with identifying and evaluating advances in technology and new and potentially useful applications for the campus community. The specialists within the innovation component would become the architects for the future of MSU Information Technology Services.

The current salaries of the OSCS personnel are woefully inadequate and present serious problems in hiring and maintaining a well-qualified staff with clear career tracks and possibilities for advancement. One of the highest priorities in reorganizing OSCS and one of the first tasks of the CIO should be to bring ITS salaries closer to marketplace standards.

3. Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC)

A user advisory committee should be created to ensure that the CIO and Information Technology Services are totally conversant with the needs and priorities of the institution. This committee would report to the President and the President's Executive Council, thereby having the same reporting relationship as the CIO. The committee should be comprised of faculty, students, and staff, representing Colleges, Administration, Outreach, and Extension. The chair of the committee should be a user of information services, not a provider. The CIO would serve ex officio. Sub-committees could be established to focus on specific users and services such as telecommunications, central/core services, academic and research computing, and administrative computing.

The CIO would also be charged with creating a providers coordinating committee, distinct from the advisory committee, consisting of other information services providers and support personnel at MSU. The committee would include representatives from KUSM, The Burns Center, the Libraries, and Communication Services.

[Please refer to the organizational chart.]


B. The Evolution of the Network

The goal of Network Services shall be to provide the highest possible level of "open" access to information technology on the campus to the greatest number of people. "Open access" implies that computing be viewed not as an enhancement to, but rather as an integral part of, the university environment. All students and faculty at MSU should have the same access to resources accorded users at other institutions, and computing and network connectivity should be viewed as essential services in the university environment.

Being competitive as an academic institution requires an electronic information environment that delivers a high level of access and service, and at the same time is flexible enough to accommodate new technologies and services without losing the basic core services upon which the business of the university depends. Success in achieving this requires: (1) some basic, general level of standardization be provided for individual desktop resources, and (2) the campus environment be structured to incorporate change and evolution. It also requires a basic recognition on the part of service providers that they have an obligation to be participants in the evolution and innovation processes. The CIO, in consultation with the ITAC and members of the ITS, will establish a set of basic standards for services and system operations that will allow the maximum flexibility for users to configure their working environments, while also insuring the integrity of the network and the availability of services to all users. In order to meet these general goals for the network, the following standards should be followed.

1. A Non-Proprietary Environment

The MSU network should end its dependence on the DECNET proprietary model and move as soon as possible to non-proprietary standards which allow easy integration of hardware and software from a variety of different vendors. This will allow for the highest level of connectivity for the various types of platforms that exist on campus and provide the most cost-effective solutions for integrating the campus-wide networks with the state, regional, and international networks. The following are the basic elements of this non-proprietary environment:

a. UNIX platforms should be the standard central servers.

UNIX has become the standard operating environment for scientific research, mathematics, and academic computing. UNIX allows for the integration of the broadest range of applications and services, and it can best provide services to a "platform- independent" environment. Any new systems that service the academic clientele should be UNIX-based.

Existing administrative applications represent a substantial investment in the proprietary Digital Equipment VMS environment. Services supporting these applications must continue to be provided to the university community until opportunities arise to migrate such applications consistent with the campus path. Understanding that the process will by necessity be difficult and time consuming, administrative computing should nonetheless be expected to follow the migration path of the rest of the campus.

b. TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) should be the standard network protocol.

TCP/IP is the software protocol used on the Internet, which interconnects universities, government offices, businesses, and individual computers. To use the Internet, one must "speak" TCP/IP. As a general principle, proprietary protocols, developed by individual commercial vendors and sold as part of commercial packages, should be removed from the campus network, and TCP/IP should be used for all network communications. Migration toward TCP/IP should begin immediately. Those departments, laboratories, and divisions that wish to install and maintain proprietary networking environments do so at their own expense, or through their college's distributed support person. The ITS will provide TCP/IP connectivity and services only, and should not be responsible for the operation and maintenance of proprietary local area networks (LANs).

2. A Distributed Computing Environment

A distributed computing environment allows for the easy integration of disparate types of computers into a single network, the authentication of users and allocation of resources from a single point of entry, and the ability to monitor and maintain the network remotely. This standard implies that the network be open, non-proprietary, and non-vendor dependent.

a. The emphasis should be on smaller systems with dedicated functions as opposed to "do it all" large systems.

The distribution of smaller systems around campus would be more effective and versatile at meeting the disparate needs of the MSU community.

b. Client/server applications should be emphasized to reduce network and systems loads.

Client/server applications are computer programs that share the workload between the user's desktop and the system to which it is connected. As opposed to "login" applications, client/server applications reduce system load and use resources far more efficiently.

c. A standardized file and print sharing system needs to be established to enable the efficient sharing of resources.

Sharing specialized equipment and information efficiently across the network is cost-effective and efficient.

Additional elements of a distributed computing environment successfully implemented at other universities include: centralized access for network services; automatic account creation and security authentication; sophisticated routing and network traffic management systems; and remote monitoring and maintenance of network systems. Such elements should be considered by ITS.

3. The Desktop Environment

The desktop computer should meet certain minimal standards for network hardware, memory configuration, hard drive space, and operating systems in order to be connected to the common network. These standards must be vendor and platform independent.

a. A base-line of network standards should be established that permit choices among several vendors for network hardware.

It is a legitimate concern of network managers that hardware attached to the network conform to certain standards, that the operation of the network is not compromised by users who have non-standard hardware, and that standard hardware that fails can be rendered harmless to the network automatically.

b. Reasonable guidelines for base-line capabilities of desktop hardware (computing capacity, memory, hard drive space, etc.) should be established which allow for vendor competition and individual preferences and needs.

Again it is reasonable to expect that all new platforms meet certain minimal standards for processing power, memory, etc., and that they be capable of running TCP/IP client software. There are standards that network services can require for any platform connected to the shared resources. Within the limitations of the State purchasing requirements, users and departments should be free to choose their own platform types and vendors.

c. There should be an emphasis on GUI client/server applications as a means of reducing training times and delivering information more efficiently.

GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) are an alternative to the traditional typing in of text commands. They allow the user to operate the computer by means of pushing buttons or pointing to pictorial representations of actions (icons) without having to memorize complex commands. Examples of GUIs are the Macintosh operating system, Microsoft Windows, and X Windows in the UNIX environment. GUIs are quicker to learn and often quicker to install and maintain once standardized.

d. Every effort should be made to provide hardware adequate to give every student and faculty member full access to the shared computing environment and network.

1. Faculty.

The university should make every effort to provide faculty with the hardware needed to access the university's computing services. The university may wish to consider providing faculty with desktops and network connections at no or reduced cost to their departments, especially for departments that do not have large operating budgets or other sources of funding.

2. Students.

The student labs should provide the same levels of access and technology available to faculty. The CIO and ITAC need to determine what quantity and staffing of student facilities are required to meet student needs. Connectivity to dorms should be available for those students who have their own hardware. Residence Life should work together with the CIO and ITAC to insure that each dorm provides a reasonable number of commonly accessible networked computers, available to residents on a 24- hour basis. For students and faculty who do not have direct access to campus network connections, or those who are required to work off campus, dial-in access should be provided.

4. The Network Environment

The migration to the TCP/IP, distributed computer environment will require changes in the network systems responsibilities and the network infrastructure.

a. Central computing services' primary responsibilities end at the wall.

ITS shall be responsible for providing network connectivity to offices, labs, and dorms. ITS and individual departments might share responsibilities for the maintenance of such things as proprietary local networks and laboratories by mutual arrangements, but this should not be considered ITS's primary obligation.

b. Fiber-optic cable should be the new standard for the backbone of the network.

The existing radio frequency broadband technology for the network backbone should not be extended; instead, funds for network expansion should be directed toward the installation of a new, fiber-optic based networking system. The implementation of this fiber-optic technology should begin as soon as possible.

c. An intelligent routing scheme should be developed for the campus, and routers must be installed in all major buildings.

This will provide the capacity for implementing the TCP/IP migration.

d. A network management standard should be put in place that will allow for rapid pinpointing and control of hardware problems on the network.

e. Dial-in access should be supported and expanded to provide a temporary solution for those buildings that are not presently connected to the network, and to enable a high level of connectivity from off campus.

As the campus grows, consideration and planning should be given to the possibility of multiple Internet connections as a protection against system failure. This would insure uninterrupted connectivity and the ability to manage network loads intelligently.

5. Services

The ITS, CIO, and ITAC should identify a set of "core" services that are of essential value to the university community and implement them for the entire campus in accord with the distributed, client/server, GUI guidelines. Such services should include, but are not limited to: e-mail, file and print sharing,

security, Usenet, Campus-Wide Information Services, Student Information Services, the World Wide Web, home pages, etc. The implementation should follow the non-proprietary, vendor and platform independent scheme.

6. Near-Term Priorities

Some things can be done now, at modest cost, to enhance existing access and resources. These should begin immediately.

a. The connection of those buildings to the network that do not currently have connectivity should be given the highest priority.

b. Pathworks 5.1 can provide a temporary bridge from the existing proprietary file and print services to the TCP/IP standard.

c. The existing VAX hardware should NOT be replaced with VAX hardware or VMS software.

The only exception is in the case of systems dedicated for administrative functions, which rely on the existing VMS-based administrative software. Any systems destined for academic usage should be UNIX and TCP/IP based.

d. Dial-in access should be supported and expanded to accommodate those users on campus who do not have network connectivity.

e. Student labs should be upgraded to open-access, TCP/IP standards.


C. Support

Overall Philosophy:

Computing resources must be seen as an essential part of the University's general mission, not as luxuries for those who can afford them. MSU-Bozeman must therefore take steps to insure that support is available on an affordable basis to all departments and units across campus. The ITS organization should ensure the availability of a common set of services, while at the same time recognizing the unique needs of colleges, departments, and individuals. To accommodate these diverse needs, a model should be developed which combines distributed support and central support. Since no fully legitimized system of distributed support has existed on campus until now, the general recommendation of the Task Force is that a system of distributed support be established and that the central support system be redefined in accord with the restructuring of OSCS. The specific recommendations that follow reflect this general reorganization.

1. Distributed Support

The Task Force proposes the creation of cooperative positions, jointly funded by the ITS and individual colleges, which would have a reporting line to the ITS organization and would be accountable to both the ITS and the deans and division heads.

Computers are now essential to almost everyone's daily work. Hardware failures and software problems can often prevent individuals from doing their work and must be resolved as quickly as possible by someone who is knowledgeable, has full access to resources, and who arrives directly at the site of the problem. Such a person would be expected to be familiar with the local environments as well as the general resources. The initial contact person should be able to resolve the vast majority of the common problems that occur, but would have access to specialists within the central organization for the more difficult problems. Distributed support personnel would receive some common level of training by the central facility and some specific training provided by the departments. As a cost-saving measure and to enhance the availability of support, ITS might consider developing a cadre of well-trained work-study students to provide some of the initial contact support. There should also be a forum in which these distributed support people can interact and share experiences.

The number and disposition of these distributed positions will be decided by the CIO in consultation with the deans and division heads. The intention is to provide personnel who have the expertise needed by individual colleges and research units and who will also maintain coordination and communication with the central facility and each other.

2. Central Support

There are some areas of support that are best centralized and that will cut across the three divisions of ITS:

Hardware and Software Support

Provision must be made for the upkeep of legacy systems on campus and for the repair and upgrading of network hardware. Software site licenses should be negotiated and license records should be maintained by central commuting services.

Purchasing support

Within the limits of state purchasing and the standards set forth by the CIO for network connectivity, individuals should be allowed to choose their own platform hardware and software most appropriate for the type of work they are doing. It is the responsibility of ITS to identify a multiplicity of suitable hardware platforms and software and to assist individual departments with their purchasing decisions.

Central Support Specialists

In addition to distributed support positions, there need to be central support personnel who provide services needed throughout the university community (for example, statistical consultants, Unix specialists, network specialists, etc.). These individuals can also serve as resources for the distributed support personnel.

3. Areas of Support

Each division of ITS shall have its support responsibilities redefined according to the following general guidelines:

Academic Computing Support

Academic Computing services should be responsible for delivering the core computing services to faculty and students throughout the campus and for the operation of the systems that deliver them. These core services include, but are not limited to, maintenance of faculty and student accounts, development and maintenance of student labs, access to electronic mail and other network services, and related training and support.

1. Global Student Labs (those centrally owned and operated)

Global labs should provide the same core of services that are provided to the rest of the academic community. These labs should allow students to complete their academic assignments in a timely manner, and provide on-site user support and easy access. They should be managed by a central person in ITS who is responsible for the operation of the labs and the training of student monitors. Students have requested 24-hour access, and every effort should be made to keep at least one lab open to meet this need. As a general principle, student computer fees should be used only to support computing resources directly accessible to the students.

2. Partnerships Labs (those owned jointly by a college or department and a central provider)

If student or University resources are used to establish and support these labs, the labs must be seen as a University resource, and must be managed jointly. Every attempt should be made to accommodate the specialized needs of faculty and students outside the immediate college or department.

3. Technological Support of Teaching

Academic Computing should be responsible for researching and implementing new electronic classroom and teaching technologies. There is a great need on the campus for computer-assisted teaching labs and computer demonstration classrooms. It is desirable to provide every major classroom building with at least one computer-assisted teaching lab and one computer demonstration classroom.

4. Research/Creativity

Academic Computing has primary responsibility for supporting the computing needs of faculty and student research and creativity. This may include hardware and software support, consultation, problem solving, and technical advising with grant writing. The Task Force has identified an emerging need among the faculty for supercomputing resources. Academic Computing would be responsible for assisting in the development and support of supercomputing resources on campus.

5. Outreach

In the spirit of the mission of a land-grant institution, and in cooperation with the Dean of Outreach and the other various outreach efforts on campus, Academic Computing will assist in making information resources at MSU-Bozeman available to the larger community served by the University.

Administrative Computing Support

Administrative Computing has responsibility for the maintenance of the state and University databases, hardware and software support of the administrative organization, centralized administrative information system support, and the legacy systems. Administrative Computing is also responsible for providing users with friendly and timely access to the databases appropriate to their jobs. Administrative Computing should plan to follow the migration pattern of the rest of the campus. Administrative computing should develop and support graphical user interfaces that allow easy access to the database resources on campus. They should also develop mechanisms by which the data can be exported to individual users' spreadsheets and word processors.

Network and Telecommunications Support

ITS is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the hardware that provides connectivity and access and for supporting sufficient maintenance personnel to ensure the continued operation of the network.


D. The Library and other Providers of University-Wide Information Services

1. Background

In addition to the current OSCS, various other units of MSU, e.g. the Library and Burns Center, provide university-wide information services. A variety of computing and operating systems have been developed by these units to fulfill their respective missions. To allow the MSU community to take full advantage of all the information services available at MSU, all providers should bring their information services into conformity with the campus standards proposed here. For example, some of the library's present network consists of proprietary technology, which hinders general outside access to the Library's own resources and to networked services or databases from within the Library. In order to function effectively, staff and faculty in the Library and other units who provide university-wide information services need desktop access to those resources essential to their role. This access is essential to providing the kinds of services mandated by an electronic resource age. An additional problem faced by the Library is that many of its access points are outdated terminals which cannot provide access to the kinds of resources the university community needs, nor can they provide access according to the TCP/IP, graphical environment described in these recommendations.

2. Recommendations and Priorities

1. Migration toward non-proprietary, TCP/IP, UNIX-based, graphical interface standards: All providers of university-wide information services should begin to migrate their services toward those standards proposed by the Task Force when feasible. No new investments in proprietary technologies should occur. As the need to replace, redesign, or expand existing proprietary systems occurs, they should be replaced with systems that meet the standards proposed by the Task Force.

2. Systems design and operation: Major purchasing decisions regarding electronic information systems should be made cooperatively among the unit, ITS, the CIO and ITAC, to insure that services are compatible with the campus standards.

3. Access: Providers should endeavor to establish a standardized, single-access point, such as a WWW homepage, for the coordinated delivery of its services to the university community. Providers should begin migration away from outdated terminals and proprietary technologies, and utilize available resources to provide the campus community with efficient, orderly access to information resources according to the standards identified by ISTF.

4. Systems and Support: Systems should be supported according to the distributed support model proposed by the committee. In addition, a cooperative relationship between providers and ITS must be fostered, such that the resources of the ITS will be available to the units to help integrate their operations into the standardized environment.

5. Information resources: No new electronic information resources that are incompatible with, or cannot be made compatible with, the environment recommended by the Task Force should be obtained. Those electronic resources that presently exist in the Library collection should be migrated toward the Task Force's recommended standards. In cooperation with relevant faculty and colleges, the Library (and, where applicable, other providers) should establish means for identifying and cataloging networked resources of interest to the university community, as well as devise


IV. Summary and Priorities

Our recommendations are summarized below and grouped into broad categories. In addition, we have marked with bold those recommendations that are directly related to the highest priorities for the investment of central university funds, or reflect an overwhelming mandate from the campus and the consultants, or both. These recommendations are what the university should do first in order for its students and faculty to remain competitive and for the university to meet contemporary standards for information technology.

A. Recommendations on Organizational Structure

  • We unanimously and strongly recommend that a Head of Information Technology Services at MSU with the title of Chief Information Officer (CIO), or similar title, be appointed. We further unanimously and strongly recommend that the CIO report directly to the President, be a peer of the vice presidents and Provost, and discuss all issues related to information technology on a regular basis with the President and vice presidents. A major responsibility of the CIO will be to seek public and private funds so that the recommendations presented herein will not have to be financed solely out of general funds. The CIO must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of a modern university and the roles of technology in supporting research, education, and outreach. The CIO must have experience, expertise, and credentials such that he or she can be a credible contributor to both academic and administrative decisions and policy.

  • Information services should be reorganized into three units that serve: (1) academic computing; (2) administrative computing; and (3) the network and infrastructure. The new name of this organization should be Information Technology Services (ITS), which reflects an important change in the role and focus of the information services on the MSU campus. The ITS unit shall report directly to the CIO. ITS should have an innovation component that spans the entire three-part structure. Enhancement of academic computing is a major focus of the recommendations. Thus it is critical that the leader of academic computing services has credibility with faculty and students.

  • A new Advisory Committee on Information Technology should be appointed with faculty, student, and administrative representation. The CIO will be an ex officio member of the committee, and the committee shall report directly to the President.

  • The CIO shall create a coordination committee, distinct from the Advisory Committee, consisting of information services providers, including KUSM, the Burns Center, the Library, and Communications Services.

  • A reallocation of resources should take place to create the three-part ITS structure. If more resources become available in the future, the vice presidents should make a priority of allocating funds to information technology. Relatively more central resources should be devoted to academic computing support, where the need is greatest.

B. Recommendations for the Evolution of the Network

  • The network and central services should migrate toward:

    • A distributed computing environment with TCP/IP as standard network protocol;

    • UNIX as the standard for servers supported by central services;

    • Platform independence, especially for non-administrative applications.

  • MSU-Bozeman should adopt non-proprietary standards for information systems and services.

  • Within State purchasing guidelines, the principle of vendor independence should be adhered to for all procurement.

  • All non-residential buildings on campus must be connected to the network, and greater access must be provided to the dormitories.

C. Recommendations Concerning Support

General

  • All departments will need some level of support for administrative functions and student services. Staff support for personal computing applications shall be handled largely within departments. Support for systems software shall be provided by the individual administrative offices that manage the programs. Only tasks requiring more computing knowledge than is available from these offices will be handled by the ITS office.

  • MSU-Bozeman should create a category of jointly-funded support positions to be distributed and accountable to individual academic or administrative units. These positions will report both to their respective units and ITS. The CIO, Provost, and VP for Administration will decide how to mutually fund and distribute these cooperative support personnel.

Academic Computing Support

  • Support should be provided for the two categories of student labs that exist on campus:

    1. College/departmental computer labs should be run as partnerships between central services and academic units. These arrangements should be flexible to allow for differing needs among these labs. If student fees or central resources are used for college/department labs, access must be provided for all students on campus. The CIO and Advisory Committee should have input into the operation of all student computer labs. Support for non-departmental/college use will be provided by ITS.

    2. For general computer labs supported solely by student fees, the CIO and ITS will work with the academic units to maintain and support these labs. ITS will have, as its highest priority, operating these labs in ways that will provide the highest level of access and support for students and instruction.

  • Student computer labs should be upgraded to provide current software packages, as well as standard operating systems and working environments. Hours should be extended to meet the demand.

  • The CIO/ITS/Advisory Committee will identify a baseline set of core central support services that will be provided to the campus. These central services will include programming, consulting support, and centralized systems support. Unique departmental and college needs will be served by the jointly-funded, distributed support staff.

  • Central support should provide appropriate resources and people to bring new technology into the classroom.

  • Innovation for core services will be the responsibility of the entire ITS organization. Distributed support staff will have the responsibility of leading innovation for unique department and college needs.

  • The CIO shall work with deans and departments to bring various college and department support staff on campus together for communication and coordination.

  • ITS will continue to provide off-campus access support.

Administrative Computing Support

  • Support for essential administrative services will continue to be provided by ITS along current lines, subject to revision and reallocations mandated by the CIO and the Advisory Committee.

  • ITS shall maintain essential legacy systems during the migration to new systems and standards.

D. Recommendations for the Library and other Providers of University-wide Information Services

  • These providers shall also migrate to TCP/IP and follow the standards established for the rest of the campus.

  • All units should follow the model of other colleges and departments with respect to communication with ITS.

  • Major decisions regarding information services within these units shall have mandatory input from campus, i.e., through the CIO, ITS, and the Advisory Committee.

E. Additional Services that MSU Should Seek to Provide

  • An appropriate computer should be provided for all tenured, or tenurable, faculty who want one and will use it. Requirements of new faculty for information services and hardware should be addressed and accommodated at the time of hire.

  • Connectivity to the network should be provided to all non- residential buildings on campus and increased access provided for all dormitories.

  • Supercomputing capabilities should be an important long-term goal. These capabilities should be based on shared resources among various units of the university for cost efficiency. It is likely that MSU funds can be leveraged with soft funds to accomplish this goal.

  • Additional kiosk information services for students should be developed.

  • Interactive video connectivity needs to be expanded.

F. Priorities for University Investment

The Task Force recognizes that many of its recommendations may require reallocation of scarce central resources. A variety of options may be available to implement the recommendations and a variety of internal and external funding sources might be identified. Nonetheless, it is clear that funding the proposed changes in information technology will require compensating sacrifices in other areas of the University. With that in mind, the Task Force felt that it was its responsibility to establish a prioritized list to guide the campus community in the very difficult decisions now before them. In this context, we unanimously agreed on the following relative priorities for the use of central university resources.

  1. Appointment of a CIO and reorganization of OSCS into ITS.

  2. Desktop computers for tenurable faculty whose teaching/advising/research require them.

  3. Networking all non-residential buildings at MSU-Bozeman.

  4. Migration to non-proprietary TCP/IP protocols.

  5. Distributed support personnel.

  6. Enhancement of student computer labs to provide improved network access and services.

We have also identified the following needs that may warrant the investment of central university resources. These are accorded a lower priority by ISTF than the items above and are listed in no particular order:

  • Supercomputing capabilities;

  • Greater network access and connectivity to dormitories;

  • Bringing modern information technologies into the classroom, perhaps with support personnel to assist faculty in developing new ways to teach using information technology and network access;

  • Providing additional student information kiosks;

  • Expanding and enhancing central UNIX services.


V. Conclusion

The single, most central conviction that motivated the work of the ISTF, and provided the context for our recommendations, is the conviction that improved computing capabilities and enhanced access to and delivery of information are critical for the future of MSU-Bozeman. Information systems and services are now essential infrastructure for all of the university's activities and missions. The needs for access to information and for increased computational power will continue to grow rapidly. Sharing information effectively among the various campuses of MSU will be pivotal to system integration. As the United States continues its transformation into a "knowledge-based" society, the life-long acquisition of knowledge and the continuing development of critical-thinking skills will become increasingly important to every citizen. For all of these reasons, we are convinced that now is the time for MSU-Bozeman to commit significant resources in time, effort, and funding to articulate a new vision and expanded mission for OSCS, to reorganize that office, and to make fundamental changes in the information systems and services infrastructure.

The ISTF received an enormous number of valuable suggestions during its information-gathering phase. The report reflects, to no small degree, the best advice and wisdom from every segment of the campus. There now appear to be high expectations across campus that substantial efforts will be made to significantly improve computing and information services at MSU. The Task Force must also note that there is an enormous amount of goodwill all across the campus and a real willingness on the part of faculty, students, and staff to help make these proposed recommendations happen. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that improvements in information technology cannot just come from the top down. Success will require everyone's continued goodwill and best efforts, and the commitment of resources from every part of the campus.


View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 7/19/2006
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