2003 May 28, v.3
The University has laid out a vision for its future, and mapped a set of supporting goals in the areas of learning, discovery, and community engagement. In other words, the campus has created a strategic plan. Each University program is charged with creating its own strategic plan using the University goals as benchmarks.
Many University programs support activities associated with information technology (IT). Information technology is body of practice that extends beyond the division of Information and Educational Technology (IET), though its overlap with that division is great. A sub-branch of IT concerns activities and systems associated with technology infrastructure (Ti). Ti is the area addressed by this document.
Technology infrastructure underpins an increasingly distributed academic and administrative computing environment. Hidden from the application-based world of end-users, technology infrastructure encompasses the unseen realm of middleware, protocols, and networks that bind the computing enterprise together and facilitate efficient data flows. Yet Ti involves more than just the mechanics of data systems; it also includes people providing support and services.
The IT Strategic Plan outlines three priorities for information technology in support of University goals. One of these priorities is to provide a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure. The Technology Infrastructure Forum (TIF) was asked to develop a set of goals for this component.
A strategic plan for technology cannot be a rigid document. Turnover in technical systems is often rapid and changes can be unpredictable. Goals must be flexible enough to embrace the unforeseen. Nonetheless, we can identify certain infrastructure elements needed to support the goals for information technology.
We could simply say technology infrastructure is a subset of information technology and defer to the mission and vision statements of the IT Strategic Plan. But it is useful to define mission and vision statements tailored to Ti. We start with a definition of technology infrastructure as a distributed technical framework in support of user and enterprise computing. By examining the three priorities of the IT Strategic Plan:
we could infer the role of technology infrastructure is to support the computing priorities defined for Education and Business. But that view would be too narrow. Technology itself opens new possibilities, and the introduction of new technologies can innovate existing educational and business processes. Recognizing this synergy, the mission of technology infrastructure is actually two-fold:
To provide a robust technical framework for user and enterprise computing, and to broaden the University's capabilities for applying information technology within the enterprise.
It follows that the vision for technology infrastructure is also two-fold:
To develop a state-of-the-art technical infrastructure, and to support a culture of innovation that expands the campus's technological horizons.
The goals support this vision.
The goals for technology infrastructure are grouped by programmatic area. Within each area, goals are listed without rank except as noted.
Middleware mediates between disparate applications. It is the essential glue for unifying campus information systems. Its use promotes efficient software design, generates developmental cost-savings, and facilitates consistent interface design by departments. Many reengineered business processes depend on middleware. The core campus set comprises:
Less critical but very useful:
Protocols and systems are needed to facilitate data sharing and collection. First, new and legacy information systems should integrate with campus middleware and support common protocols for efficient data sharing. Second, a campus data warehouse would promote wide collaboration on datasets and simplify data retrieval for departments, enhance their capabilities and reduce retrieval costs. A data warehouse would also assist centralized analysis in promoting a "culture of evidence" for UC Davis educational initiatives (a WASC review recommendation). Finally, the campus portal, as the gateway to faculty, staff, and student services and administrative and business functions, must continue to be developed.
A strong security infrastructure protects the privacy and integrity of University and personal data, and prevents the unauthorized and malicious use of computing resources. A security infrastructure includes centralized services, but also depends on education and awareness in the campus community for its effectiveness.
Research and teaching demand ever-increasing bandwidth and network flexibility. Further, the need for better classroom utilization and increased use of multimedia will shift more educational resources on-line, providing opportunities for new methods of learning and teaching. All the while, the workplace and individuals will demand greater integration of voice and data.
Much of the campus community depends on IET account and email services, which should be accessed through secure log-in. New services may be needed to support business or administrative needs.
Infrastructure is not all about the mechanics of computing. Faculty, staff and students depend on departmental technical staff to assure IT services -- these frontline individuals need continued support to perform their mission. The IET Data Center staff provide system and database administration for several Tier 1 systems and important backup for others. The IT Express team maintains a one-stop helpdesk for the campus community, a service especially valuable for students. Finally, the software licensing program provides economic benefits and convenience for the University.
2003 May 28, Technology Infrastructure Forum