University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2005-2006 Activities Report


THE PROVOST’S CHARGE

Provost Maher delivered the Council’s charge on September 27.  He asked the Council to:

  • Provide advice to CSSD on campus computer security issues, the campus security plan, web-based classes, and future CSSD initiatives.
  • Work with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and University departments to develop an ongoing speaker series that highlights trends in academic computing. 
  • Sponsor brainstorming sessions on topics (e.g., modeling and simulation) that facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation among the sessions’ participants.

COUNCIL RETREAT

Members of the Council met on May 17, 2006, to create an agenda for the upcoming academic year.  Issues of interest included:

  • Simulation and Modeling
  • E-Science and Large Databases
  • Speaker Series
  • First Responder Project
  • CAC Meeting Schedule

CAC SEMINAR SERIES

The Council sponsored one seminar in the fall and three in the spring.  Experts in a variety of areas of academic computing were invited.  The seminar dates, participants, and titles were:

Date

Participants

Title

November 9, 2005

Jacobo Bielak, Ken Jordan, Ralph Roskies, Pei Tang

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center at the Frontier of Academic Computing

January 23, 2006

Wendy Huntoon

High Performance Networking in Support of Research and Education

February 1, 2006

Kirk Jordan

IBM’s Blue Gene and High Performance Computing

March 24, 2006

Charlie Catlett

The NSF TeraGrid Project

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center at the Frontier of Academic Computing

Ralph Roskies, Scientific Director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, discussed how members of the academic community could use the Center’s resources to further their work.  Jacobo Bielak, from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Ken Jordan, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Chemistry; and Pei Tang, from the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Anesthesiology provided examples from their research.

High Performance Networking in Support of Research and Education

Wendy Huntoon, Director of Operations for the National LambdaRail, described the National LambdaRail, a major initiative of U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies.  The initiative is designed to provide a national-scale infrastructure for research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications. She also covered regional infrastructure and services and how they could be utilized to support daily and research activities. Specific information on national funding opportunities was provided as well.

IBM’s Blue Gene and High Performance Computing

Kirk E. Jordan, Deep Computing and Emerging Solutions Executive at IBM, discussed Blue Gene.  Blue Gene is the product of an IBM research project that was dedicated to building a new family of supercomputers.  These supercomputers are optimized for bandwidth, scalability, and the ability to handle large amounts of data, while consuming a fraction of the power and floor space required by today’s fastest systems. Dr. Jordan discussed how Blue Gene works; applications and research efforts that leverage its technology; and the IBM roadmap for high performance computing.

The NSF TeraGrid Project

Charlie Catlett, a Senior Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory and Executive Director of NSF’s TeraGrid project, discussed the TeraGrid project.  NSF established TeraGrid in order to link many of the country’s high-performance computers, data resources and tools, and high-end experimental facilities.  These resources are jointly offered to the academic community via the project’s high-performance network connections.  The project is the world's largest, most comprehensive, openly available distributed cyberinfrastructure.  NSF recently announced a five-year, $150 million initiative to operate and enhance TeraGrid.

BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS

Interdisciplinary Modeling and Simulation Project

Dr. Klinzing is exploring the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration in the areas of modeling and simulation.  Thirteen faculty members from the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Information Sciences, and Medicine met on January 19, 2006, and on April 20, 2006, to discuss interdisciplinary collaboration in modeling and simulation.  Attendees expressed a broad array of concerns regarding research and collaboration, proposal development, computer facilities, and student preparation.  Meeting participants identified several potential solutions, including sponsoring an internal research seminar series, creating a University marketing program, and enhancing University computing facilities.

COMPUTING SERVICES AND SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT

Jinx Walton frequently reported on the activities of CSSD.  Computing milestones and achievements often were announced.  The following is a breakdown by area.

Copyright Notices

During the 2004-2005 academic year, the University received 16 copyright infringement notices from the recording industry.  When it receives a notice, CSSD identifies the relevant IP address and its owner, supplies the information to the company involved, and notifies General Counsel of its actions.  The University requires students to remove the copyrighted material from their computer.  Further University-related action is usually taken through the Student Judiciary Board.  Any remaining issues are then resolved between the named individual and the recording industry.

Enterprise Exchange

CSSD soon will install Enterprise Exchange, which will be available without cost to all University departments.  Forty-eight departments currently possess their own exchange servers and pay the hardware, software, and personnel costs associated with the servers.  Enterprise Exchange is centrally managed, so system-wide changes can more easily be implemented and the server can be monitored by CSSD’s network center.

Student Support

CSSD continues to work with students to educate them about computer and technology related security issues, particularly at the beginning of the academic year.  CSSD sponsored “Love Your Computer Week” in February.  This event consisted of a series of informational sessions at which students were taught about computer security, software packages, PittNett, virtual private networks, and my.pitt.edu.

Software and Hardware Upgrades

Ms. Walton announced upgrades to or implementation of the Web Portal, IMAP servers, Courseware software, the PeopleSoft information system, and the University’s voicemail system.  CSSD continues to analyze University technology and computer operations to determine where changes are necessary.  CSSD is developing a new strategic plan to provide structure for this process.

Wireless Networks

Wireless networks currently exist on campus, but they are not linked in a systematic fashion.  Student-funded wireless networks are available (only to students) in five indoor and two outdoor public areas.  Fifteen departments currently possess their own wireless networks, and another 10 departments have requested them.  In response to increasing demand, CSSD developed a University-wide wireless implementation plan.  Wireless networks will be installed in University buildings in two phases.  CSSD hopes to complete the project in 24 months. 

INFORMATION SESSIONS

PittGrid: Campus-Wide Computing Environment

Hassan Karimi, Professor in the School of Information Science’s Department of Information Science and Telecommunications, discussed PittGrid, an initiative that is designed to link the University’s computing resources.  Professor Karimi is working with Ralph Roskies, Scientific Director at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, and staff from CSSD on this project.  Grid computing began as a mechanism to link supercomputers, enabling them to share unused resources.  The concept has been extended to include resource sharing across any type of networked environment.

Currently, the University’s computing processors and storage are only available to individuals who are located where the resources reside.  PittGrid would include a set of tools that permit researchers across the campus to access computing resources in other schools, departments, and centers.  The project only requires that software, referred to as middleware, be installed to manage resource availability across the network.  Current partners include the School of Information Sciences, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, CSSD, the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, and the Departments of Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Physics.

PittNet: Digital Video Services

Jay Graham and Brian Stengel from CSSD discussed the increasing demand for digital video at the University.  CSSD’s goal is to provide an efficient, University-wide platform so that content can be created and delivered cheaply for distance learning, webcasting, university events, etc.  CSSD staff are addressing issues related to storage and transmission of video; operational control of webcasting; and ease of use of technology.  They currently are developing and integrating technology to support centralized video storage and access, video-on-demand, and video conferencing capabilities. 

CSSD also wishes to integrate cable-related technology with other video technologies and to support “rich content” media presentations from the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education.  In the future, video-on-demand will be available via PittNet TV.  Viewers will be able to access digital content via a program guide similar to those available on cable TV channels.  Point-to-point and point-to-multipoint video conferencing also will be available.  Users will be able to schedule time on a multi-station communication unit on PittNet Video to conduct real-time video conferences.

MEMBERS

Chair

 

George E. Klinzing

Office of the Provost

 

 

Arts and Sciences

 

Ahmed Amer

Computer Science

Taieb Znati

Computer Science

 

 

Health Sciences

 

Julius Kitutu

Nursing

J.B. McGee

Medicine

Bambang Parmanto

SHRS

Michael Zemaitis

Pharmacy

 

 

Professional Schools

 

Angela Foster

GSPIA

Christopher James Earls

Engineering

Laurie Kirsch

KGSB

Kevin Ashley

Law

Doug Metzler

SIS

Dan Dewey

Education

 

 

Regional Campuses

 

Melanie Anderson

Titusville/Natural Sciences

Gregory Dick

Johnstown/Engineering

Clara Vana

Greensburg/Library

 

 

Senate Computer Usage Committee

 

John Close

Dental Medicine

 

 

Staff Liason

 

Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development