Page 1

Summary: Strategic Plan 2012-15

Introduction In May 2000, the University of Pittsburgh’s Information Technology Steering Committee (ITSC) submitted to the Chancellor a strategic plan to guide the development of our technology environment: “An Information Technology Foundation for the 21st Century.” That plan described the then-current environment in terms of its infrastructure, support, programs, and resources, and, perhaps even more importantly, recognized and acknowledged that the rapidly changing nature of technology and its potential applications within our University environment were highly dynamic. A hallmark of information technology planning at Pitt has been this recognition of flexibility and responsiveness as key values.

In 2003, an updated plan was prepared to identify progress made, to describe actions to be undertaken in the coming years, and to provide a framework within which the development and delivery of information technology could be increasingly responsive, stable, and secure. Those earlier documents provide the foundation for Computing Services and System Development’s (CSSD’s) strategic approach to providing innovative, reliable, and secure information technology services to support learning, teaching, research, and business at the University. The 2012-2015 CSSD Strategic Plan acknowledges the foundational technology goals established in the University’s technology plan and identifies strategic areas of effort involving current and future revenue and staffing resources. This plan retains the core goal of the University’s information technology plan – providing a world-class information technology environment – and advances progress toward that goal through strategic efforts to efficiently deliver services within a stable, secure, and responsible technology infrastructure.

providing a world-class information technology environment

Background Prior to 2000, the University managed technology services through several central administrative offices and a number of department-based support efforts. In 2000, Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) was created, with a staff of 262. This was in support of the determination that centrally-supported enterprise services were key to strengthening the technology infrastructure and developing responsive, stable, and reliable services to effectively meet the strategic needs of the University.

CSSD implemented the technology goals outlined in the original planning document. Examples include:


Network infrastructure was upgraded to Gigabit


Ethernet, considerably increasing network speed »»

Port speed was increased from 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps


University Internet bandwidth was doubled

implemented, and wireless access was provided in several locations »»



student information system selected and purchased

were identified, replaced, and upgraded, and network »»

of greater redundancy »»

Digital modems replaced the analog modems in the

A comprehensive data warehouse was developed to aggregate data from enterprise systems and a new

Deteriorating network infrastructure components reliability was improved through the implementation

A central directory was developed as the authoritative source for identity information and authentication

immediately and significantly increased annually from that point forward

Wireless network standards were developed and

A state-of-the-art backup system was implemented for centralized backup of enterprise systems


E-mail kiosks (109) were installed across campus to

University’s pool, improving reliability and connection

provide convenient access to email and the Internet in


high traffic areas

While a number of these goals appear modest, such as provision of wireless access in ‘several’ locations and implementation of email kiosks, these were cutting edge at the time. Others – such as the increase in University bandwidth and the need to replace end-of-life components of the network infrastructure – remain pertinent to CSSD’s ongoing strategic efforts. The understanding articulated by the University’s Information Technology Steering Committee (ITSC) ten years ago remains even more relevant today: “[The University of Pittsburgh’s] reliance upon information technology becomes ever greater, and the threats to our information technology environment from misuse and attack have never been greater. In response to these increasing threats, greater emphasis must be placed on securing our resources. This will be accomplished in a manner that is sensitive to our particular needs as a research institution….” In 2003, CSSD identified a set of key long-range objectives and strategies specifically developed to strengthen and enhance Pitt’s information technology environment. Those objectives and strategies have guided development of the University’s central technology services and are outlined below. CSSD is now at a point where work in these areas has been completed or, in the case of objectives such as ‘enhanced mobile computing capabilities,’ ready to take new shape in response to evolving technology.

CSSD was established to fulfill two overarching goals for the University: (1) to develop, maintain, secure, and continually enhance the University’s technology infrastructure, and (2) to provide centrally-supported enterprise technology services to the University.

Looking Forward By 2003, the applications provided for the University’s

technology staff increased, making it more and more difficult

enterprise services included a student administration system,

to recruit and retain qualified IT staff. As resources have

data warehouse, course management system, server hosting,

declined over the past decade, CSSD concentrated efforts on

email and calendar, web integration, and a University-wide

maintaining the University’s technology infrastructure. In

portal. All of these services have seen a significant growth in

order to address the University’s technology needs and not

user demand. The pace of technology adoption and change

lose ground against other universities’ technology offerings,

has also accelerated, and requires planning now for possible

resources are required to ensure that the emphasis placed

replacement of enterprise applications, and the addition of

on the maintenance and enhancement of the infrastructure

new enterprise services (such as cloud storage, mobile apps,

continues but that resources are also available to evaluate

enterprise document management).

and adopt new applications that can best serve the emerging

Since CSSD’s establishment in 2000, however, the size of the staff has decreased while competition for skilled

technology needs of the University community.

As a large public research University, Pitt requires a dynamic technology environment that responds to the changing needs of teaching, learning, research, and business. Staff and funding resources are dedicated to: »» maintenance and upgrade of existing services and infrastructure; »» regular assessment of existing services, infrastructure, and University demand; »» evaluation of new technologies and applications that may better serve University needs; and »» retirement and replacement of enterprise services and applications.

Strategic Areas of Focus: 2012-2015


n order to make the most effective use of resources, CSSD will focus efforts in several key areas as described here. Our annual planning document will include an assessment of progress in each of these areas. Infrastructure and security will always be priority efforts; while specific examples of projects for both are noted here, infrastructure enhancement and security play a central role in all other focus areas described in this plan.

Mobile Strategy Mobile devices are dramatically changing how technology is used in higher education. Services must be developed and implemented with the understanding that many, if not most users will expect to access to educational services, resources, and data via some type of mobile device. The complexity of developing services and systems to work with the multitude of devices is only one aspect of the challenge of developing a workable mobile strategy. Another significant challenge is implementing appropriate controls to secure data while making it highly accessible. A February 2011 worldwide survey of corporate employees found that on a daily basis 34% used two computing devices, 42% used three, and 22% used four or more. Examples of services related to a mobile strategy include: »»

Access to course materials and lectures


Access to restricted and secure resources such as enterprise administrative systems (i.e., PRISM, and data warehouse), grades, course schedules, student records, bill payment, licensed software, departmental systems, library materials, etc.


Printing from mobile devices


In addition to traditional web-based applications, providing mobile versions of these applications

Self-Service Functionality University students, faculty, and staff expect their University interactions to reflect the trend toward self-service. To add self-service functionality to our existing and future services will be an area of concentration over the next few years and will require a different technical expertise than currently exists within the organization. Eventually these efforts should result in reduced support costs, but initially both new development and support of the existing system will be required. Examples of self-service functionality include: »»

Provide tools to allow users to manage quotas without contacting CSSD.


Provide tools to allow individuals or departmental administrators to manage the allocation and registration of network addresses.


Make firewall rule sets available to departmental IT administrators.


Automate provisioning of websites for departmental and faculty pages. This process will allocate space, reserve the name, perform a security scan, and activate the site.


Offer online technology training and tutorials for popular software and University-specific services.

Cloud Services Cloud computing is a term used for computing resources that are located remotely and delivered over a network, often the Internet. These resources can include storage, applications, or computer processing power. The services can be provided internally or by a commercial vendor. Cloud computing can provide cost savings because of economies of scale and centralized management, and can provide flexibility because resources can be increased or decreased dynamically. Slow adoption of cloud computing using an outside vendor is related to security concerns, actual security incidents, and an uncertainty related to availability and reliability. Identifying the appropriate use of cloud services for the University will require an evaluation of vendors, services, and the development of policies and guidelines to govern use. Examples of cloud-based services useful to the University community include: »»

Identification of a product, such as, to be used for storage of non-sensitive data and integration of this product into our infrastructure


Integration of internal resources (such as the Simulation and Modeling Cluster) and external cloud computing processing resources to support research efforts


Internal and external resources for advanced collaboration services such as instant

messaging, video conferencing, and online meetings.

Storage Storage demands have increased dramatically over the past three years. Industry expectations estimate that demand for data storage will increase as much as 100% annually. Data intensive applications, multimedia, and large databases contribute to storage requirements. Researchers are often using collections of data sets that are large and complex and require special storage. This has become known as ‘big data’ and as this grows at the University storage solutions will need to be developed to accommodate it. The 2014 infrastructure maintenance plans, for instance, include $4 million to upgrade existing storage. In addition, requirements for research data retention, archiving, and ongoing access have recently been increased. A project to explore solutions is currently underway with the University Library and Office of the Provost. Examples of data storage services at the University include: »»

Storage utilization improvement project


New storage infrastructure


Development of NSF-compliant research data storage system

Enterprise Business Intelligence: Expanded Analytics Service The University’s third-generation data warehouse is being developed using best practices and an understanding of higher education’s business intelligence needs; it is no longer simply a repository for data. Business intelligence practices – including adoption of standard, verified sets of data and powerful query and

Research Computing Faculty and administrators are increasingly

taking advantage of the cost and performance benefits of having computing clusters hosted at the Network Operations Center and in using

the NOC-hosted Simulation and Modeling clust

In the past, a concern about floor space in the d center was a problem; however the new, comp

computing equipment alleviates this concern a

current challenge is power and cooling for thes computing systems.

data visualization tools – provide a more effective and

Beyond the local level, CSSD participates as the

reliable way for users to access the data. The next step

representative in key research and education n

is to maximize accessibility and usefulness of the

such as Internet2, National Lambda Rail, and KI

data through advanced analytics tools. Examples of

Pennsylvania Research and Education Network

next-stage business intelligence services include:

Examples of research computing efforts includ


Dashboards that visually summarize data


and provide access to key performance indicators »»

Acquisition of advanced analytic tools


Further development and

Accommodating the expansion of Simula Modeling cluster (Frank).


Integrating storage with research computing cluster environment


Upgrading power and cooling

enhancement of the Faculty

infrastructure to accommodate

Information System

research environment

Security The implementation and monitoring of enterprise IT


security effectively reduces the impact of security threats and helps ensure the availability and reliability of the University’s resources. As technology becomes more integrated


data act

and the

se more dense

e University’s



k (PennREN).


ation and

and more distributed, however, the risk of exposure to security threats increases and our investment in security must also increase to effectively protect the University’s data and technology resources. In addition, more rigorous government regulatory compliance requirements demand increased security resources to protect sensitive electronic information. According to industry predictions, the top five security threats of 2013 will be: mobile devices, social media, hackers, more sophisticated viruses, and accidental loss of storage devices. These will also require new security measures. Examples of necessary security infrastructure efforts and approaches include: »»

Implement intrusion detection system for enterprise services


Mask sensitive data in enterprise databases and systems


Implement advanced security (two-factor authentication) for CSSD administrator access to systems


Extend advanced security to departmental administrator access


Streamline processes for encryption


Continue to increase authentication and logging capabilities

Enterprise Infrastructure: Maintenance and Enhancement The technology infrastructure that supports the

maintained, enhanced or replaced. It is also necessary to plan

University is invisible even though the smooth operation

for provision of new enterprise services, such as document imaging, that will be important to ongoing business

of the University requires that this infrastructure be

practices at the University. Because our services involve

reliable, secure, and state-of-the-art. The availability

thousands of users with a broad range of expertise,

of email, desktop and wireless devices, phone

enhancement and replacement of these systems is

service, internet access, server access,

both challenging and resource-intensive.

and enterprise systems rely on an effective technology infrastructure. The

Examples of enterprise infrastructure work

maintenance and enhancement of the


technology infrastructure is the most important and resource intensive of responsibilities.

»» Expansion of the wireless network for increased capacity and coverage

All planning for staff and funding resources


begins with planning for ongoing and significant investments in infrastructure. As »»

one small example, the wired and wireless »»

wireless access points. To maintain optimal service and keep pace with network advances wireless network switches and internet routers will need to be replaced in 2014 at an initial cost estimate of $6 million, with an additional $14 million upgrade, to include end-user switches, expected in 2016. In addition to the network, the University’s technology infrastructure is comprised of numerous systems that support enterprise services. These systems require assessment to determine how they should be

Evaluation of course management systems that meet

academic needs as well as learning outcome analysis

network is comprised of more than 2,500 routers and switches and approximately 2,400 wireless controllers and

Replacement of network core

infrastructure, including firewalls

Enhanced virtual server infrastructure to support expected demand


Continued expansion of disaster recovery capabilities


Implementation of additional network security infrastructure


Ongoing review of infrastructure replacement roadmap

Our vision for University technology is one that harnesses the strengths of i

Conclusion New and Additional Services

dedicate to keeping pace with

As mentioned throughout this document, a critical responsibility

changing University needs.

is the ongoing maintenance, enhancement, and upgrades to the

New initiatives include

technology infrastructure. As a leading research University,

review and evaluation of

a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure that includes

emerging technologies,

associated services and systems is expected. Significant

review of existing

staff and funding resources are dedicated to maintaining the

systems and services,

robust technology infrastructure we currently have in place.

and identifying when/if

This ensures that the University does not find itself in the

services are ready to be

position it was in prior to 2000 where the neglected state of

replaced or eliminated.

the infrastructure had an extremely negative impact on the

Support of the University

University community and took multiple years to correct.

community requires support

The current challenge is continuing to dedicate the required resources to these tasks and identify additional resources to

evolving technology and

of school and departmental initiatives. We face constant demand from individual users

individual departments while strategically investing in enterprise solutions.

and from University units for new technologies and services improvements; in many cases the demands are reasonable for an institution of Pitt’s caliber. Unfortunately, the strain on our existing resources has made it impossible for us to focus on new services. In recent years, with support from senior administration, a number of distributed services have been centralized. The centralization of these services,

such as email, web infrastructure, and firewalls, has not only increased the effectiveness and security of these systems but has also significantly reduced support costs. As schools and departments identify local solutions to meet their needs, CSSD is typically asked to participate in some part of the evaluation. The earlier this happens, the better the opportunity to evaluate the solution for potential use in multiple areas. This will also result in more robust solutions that conserve staff resources and reduce overall costs. New and additional services or applications, such as electronic document workflow, business intelligence analytics based on shared University data, and virtualized desktops, are just a few examples of technology that we know the University community wants and needs, and CSSD is committed to a robust, enterprise approach in providing them.

2012-15 Strategic Plan  

An overview of Computing Services and Systems Development's technology strategy for the University of Pittsburgh through 2015.