Vice President for Information Systems

Information Systems (IS) fulfills an essential role in furthering MIT's core missions of education, research, and service by working in partnership with the Institute's faculty, students, and staff to apply, and help them apply, information technology (I/T) to reach their goals. To do this, IS focuses its work through four strategic themes:

These themes are embodied in the IS vision: quality, service, value, and leadership.

IS's principal goal is to provide a world-class information technology environment for MIT's world-class faculty, students, and staff. To this end, IS provides "common" services such as computing help, voice and data network connectivity, data storage, cable television, software acquisition and support, and the Athena computing environment. Services provided by IS range from strategic partnerships at the Institute-wide level to operational services and support at the departmental and individual levels. Many of IS's wide range of products, support, and services are provided at no cost to the departments, laboratories, and centers (DLCs). Others (such as telephone and network services) are provided on a cost recovery basis or through competitive prices to cover the costs of these resources.

For many members of the MIT community, their first contact with IS is through a request for support or service. In a typical week, IS receives over 2000 requests for help and service changes. These range from upgrading telephone and network service to installing a new office computing environment, to assisting faculty in using computers in their teaching, to supporting major MIT strategic initiatives such as OpenCourseWare (OCW) and the HR/Payroll Project. Faculty, students, and staff in DLCs interact with IS in many obvious ways each day: they call the Computing Help Desk with Macintosh, PC, Linux, and UNIX hardware or software questions, or they call the Business Liaison Team (BLT) with questions about business applications. Members of the community also rely on IS in more intrinsic ways. When anyone at MIT turns on a computer—in an office, in an Athena cluster, in a lab, or in a dormitory room—and sees the network; when someone picks up a telephone receiver and hears a dial tone; when someone backs up the documents and data on their computer to storage systems in the data centers in Buildings W91 and W92 or otherwise uses the servers in these data centers, they are interacting with IS.

One of the major events of this past year was my announcement on December 4, 2002, to retire:

At about this time two decades ago, Bill Dickson and I began to talk about computing at the Institute and ultimately about my assuming responsibility for those activities. After a lot of conversation and, I must admit, not a little arm-twisting, I said 'yes.'

The result of my saying yes has turned out to be the most exciting things I have done in my professional career.

Now, we have come full circle, and it has come time to tell you that I plan to retire this summer. The official date is June 30, but I've agreed with John Curry that I will stay until my successor is in place. During the time remaining in my 'term' as vice president, I expect to do business as usual but with an appropriate 'eye' towards the change in leadership that will occur.

For the past two decades, I have been privileged to lead Information Systems and to work with you in delivering information technology services to the faculty, students, and staff at the Institute. This has been a time of tremendous change. In these 20 years, we've seen computing at MIT go from mainframes and time-shared minicomputers numbering considerably less than 100 to something like 30,000 network attached devices on the campus. In 1983, there was no campus network; it came later. Today, none of us could think of not having essentially ubiquitous network connectivity; in fact, we only notice the network when it's not available!

In the years ahead computing will continue to evolve. Computing and what we do with computing and communications technologies ten years from now will be as different from today as today is from a decade ago. Just as an exciting future was before us in 1983; it still is before us today.

After my announcement, John R. Curry, executive vice president, announced that Professor Robert P. Redwine, dean for undergraduate education and professor of physics, would chair a search advisory committee, which would be formed to conduct the search for my successor. The search has been underway for about seven months and it is anticipated that my successor will arrive in the fall of 2003.

Many other major activities occurred during the past year as well. Perhaps the most notable was that our portfolio of supported products and services continued to grow; that more clients came to us for solutions, problem resolution, training, and knowledge; that these products and services were used by our clients more extensively than ever before; and that we continued to work on fine-tuning our processes and improving our toolsets.

We completed the 5ESS-2000 telephone switch installation. The last steps here involved disconnecting the old 22,000-line switch and then moving the running, new switch modules into their permanent locations. In addition, we began installation of a single mode fiber plant to enhance our on-campus communication capabilities. We installed a new mainframe to support critical enterprise legacy applications. Like all major organizations around the world, we encountered and addressed a record number of network security events, including increasingly serious vulnerabilities such as "Slammer" and "BugBear." We collaborated with Apple Computer to enable them to include Kerberos authentication capability in the more recent releases of Mac OS X. We expanded our service offerings to make it attractive for DLCs to colocate their servers in our data centers. These are just a few examples of the work done by IS staff during the past year to continue to deliver value to clients. Additional information about this work as well as highlights of other accomplishments follow. There they are organized around five operational themes—client orientation, collaboration, sustainability, accountability, and professionalism—originally suggested by the executive vice president.

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Client Orientation

Client orientation is defined as listening to and understanding the service needs of colleagues in the DLCs, and then working with those colleagues to resolve problems and streamline processes in support of the Institute's primary academic and research missions. Much of IS's work is aligned with this theme as we strive to create clear lines-of-sight between IS service providers and our clients. Major accomplishments within this focus are described below.

IS continued to improve its front-line support of the MIT community. During fiscal year 2003, several front-line teams, e.g., User Accounts, Residential Computing, Business Liaison (BLT), the Help Desk, and the MIT Computer Connection, were combined into a support cluster called First Contact. The cluster handled an average of 950 client-originated cases per week with an average time of well under a minute to answer telephone calls.

During the year, Web Communication Services managed over 60 projects for the DLCs. The Usability Lab provided usability services to a number of key Institute projects including Environmental Health and Safety, Stellar, Homeland Security, the Office of Employee Development, Medical, and the MIT Home Page. The Adaptive Technology for Information and Computing (ATIC) laboratory opened its new location in Building 7 where they are colocated with the Disabilities Office to better serve the needs of their customers. IS Training provided over 1,500 training and quick start sessions for the MIT community with a median satisfaction rating over 4.5 on a five-point scale.

Stellar was introduced as MIT's preferred course management system. Usage has more than quadrupled over the last academic year with 269 subjects now supported. Stellar is the core academic and administrative delivery platform for key educational programs including the Singapore/MIT Alliance and the Technology Development Program's support to the Malaysia University for Science and Technology (MUST). Stellar Release 1.5 is now being readied for the fall 2003 semester and will include a number of new features.

IS initiated a laptop loaner program for students without laptops who were taking subjects which required them. The program was piloted by the MIT Libraries in Barker and Hayden Libraries and provided over 100 laptops, which were also available for programs, conferences, and other special project requests.

Responding to requests from MIT staff who travel for a convenient way to connect to the Internet remotely, Information Systems has begun to provide access to iPass, a worldwide, fee-based Internet service provider (ISP). With iPass, wherever you are in the world, you can call a local (or nearby) number and connect to the Internet, eliminating long-distance charges.

A number of IS Discovery projects, completed with significant client involvement, also reflect our client orientation and response to specific client needs. Some of these, such as TechTime Enterprise Calendaring and MIT Remote Access, have already been implemented as new IS services. Others, including Windows XP Desktop Support, Windows 2000 Server Domains, PDA Handheld Support, Computationally Intensive Computing, Student Ebill/Epay, Hardware/Software Management, Oracle Middleware Upgrade, and Online Conference Services for the LSA 2005 Institute are providing tools and direction for ongoing work in IS and elsewhere at the Institute.

In response to client requests and customer satisfaction survey results, IS has implemented several new services. Spamscreen provides members of the MIT community with a method to reduce the volume of unsolicited and unwanted email. Auto-responder automatically responds to the sender of an email message with a configurable message. Also known as "vacation away messages," this tool can provide notification when you will not be able to respond to email for some period of time. TechTime provides members of the MIT community with an enterprise calendaring solution.

Also, feedback from our customer satisfaction survey pointed to the need for IS to improve communications with its clients as well as with its staff. In June 2003, IS completed the first phase of a major redesign of the IS web pages. The primary goal of this redesign was to make it easier for our clients to find and use information technology at MIT. To do so, IS changed the focus of its web pages from team- to service-based. IS has also produced an IS brochure that will complement the web site by providing an overview of our products and services. This brochure was mailed to the MIT community during the last week of July 2003.

Internally, I began a monthly email letter to the IS staff to provide an overview of the process to identify my successor, the IS budget and the Institute's financial position, and other IS news, as well as to highlight key issues and significant successes. We also formed an IS communications group to provide an informal review of IS's communication activities. This group worked with the Tech Talk editors to create a new column—"Digitalk"—to provide highlights of changes in the MIT I/T environment.

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Collaboration is teamwork, boundary-blind business processes, and open sharing of common information. Collaboration brings added value to all parties in a collaborative effort and may occur both across organizational units within an institution as well as across institutional boundaries. It is only through active collaboration that IS is able to do its work. Examples from the year are described below.

IS is a key contributor to the Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) project ( which is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. OKI achieved a key milestone with its release of its Open Service Interface Definitions (OSIDs) for supporting Digital Repositories, Course Management, Assessment, and Grading as well as Common Infrastructure Services, such as authentication, authorization, and logging which was done through the SourceForge™ open source software development web site

Significant progress has also been made building and refining tools that demonstrate the value and implementation of various OSIDs from an application perspective. This includes OKI's engagement with partner institutions towards the development of CHEF (University of Michigan), CourseWork (Stanford University), and OnCourse (Indiana University), which continues. In addition, the OKI team has been working with the Tufts Visual Understanding Environment and the associated Fedora digital repository product.

The work of OKI has become part of the lingua franca of educational interoperability specifications (see, for example, OKI has, through close engagement with IMS (an international nonprofit organization concerned with standards for learning systems), proposed a new architectural framework to complement and extend data specification efforts to address behavioral functionality needed by applications and systems developers alike. These attributes have become the new fundamental baseline for educational interoperability efforts. Not surprisingly, commercial developers such as WebCT, Giunti Interactive, Learning Objects Network, and Blackboard have begun to apply OKI to their products.

IS facilitated the move of the Controller's Accounting Office (CAO) and Facilities from E19 to Technology Square, transitioning their network and telephone services in record time.

The Academic Computing Practice (ACP) provided better support and professional server management to several academic software projects having Institute-wide impact. These included the Physical Geology Tutor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MetaMedia in the Comparative Media Studies program, Valencia in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the Department of Physics's use of the TEAL classroom. Beyond establishing production quality support processes, these efforts identified a collaborative business model that directs technical resources where they can most effectively support educational initiatives, leaving faculty to innovate and IS to deliver reliable "backend" production services.

The Business Liaison Team (BLT) and the Distributed Information Technology Resource (DITR) team partnered with the Administrative Advisory Council (AACII), the School of Science, and the Office Computing Practice to conduct a pilot experiment with departments in the School of Science to understand the need and to improve support for the administrative desktop computing environments in the school. The pilot has successfully concluded and resulted in new resources from the executive vice president's office for an IS provided, Institute-wide administrative desktop preventive maintenance program.

This year, following a number of successful pilots, IS and CAO implemented the ClearCommerce credit card processing software package. This software is now available to offices needing to process credit card payments.

IS continued its collaboration with the MIT Libraries on Spatial Data Services. Geographical Information Systems support by the Spatial Data Service (SDS) transitioned from a project to a community service this year. The service has a physical presence in the Barker Engineering Library where new tools (e.g., Geodata Search Tool) are available to a growing roster of student and faculty users.

The Discovery Process increased its collaboration with other departments, laboratories, and centers by involving more of their staff in projects and continuing its work with clients on I/T projects. Approximately 40 percent of the team members for Discovery projects in FY2003 were from outside IS.

MIT and Apple Computer, Inc. collaborated to include MIT's Kerberos authentication environment in the release of Apple's new operating system, Mac OS X. The result is a more secure platform for Macintosh users, including those at MIT and other universities.

The Administrative Business Services Team (ABST) and the Competency Group (CG) have collaborated with the executive vice president-sponsored, shared services project by providing a model to be explored as part of this effort. If implemented, shared service centers will provide efficiencies and potential cost savings in how we perform transaction type work in the administrative departments. ABST/CG is the only one of the three MIT shared services models that is within the executive vice president's area.

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IS is committed to developing an information technology infrastructure that provides the foundational capabilities needed to support the teaching, learning, research, and business needs of the Institute. IS's goal is to ensure that the MIT infrastructure is reliable, sustainable, and secure, and that it does indeed "stay the course," which is a key descriptor of the operational theme of "sustainability." Much of IS's ongoing work centers on keeping the Institute's I/T services running as well as renewing and improving those services. Key accomplishments are described below.

IS continued to improve the campus network infrastructure by increasing the commodity bandwidth, diversifying its commodity bandwidth vendors, connecting additional buildings to the campus backbone at 100Mbps, rewiring several areas of campus, and developing a plan for upgrading the communications infrastructure of the MIT dormitories.

The new Single Mode Fiber (SMF) plant will provide service across the entire campus by early fall 2003. The availability of this fiber vastly increases our ability to deliver high bandwidth, diverse communication services across the campus.

Kerberos version 5 core development work on the next reference release has continued, with vendor interoperability as a major focus. Several development versions (including versions for several operating systems) of Kerberos v5 1.3 have shipped to customers and developers.

Casetracker, an IS-developed application to support customer service interactions, has become a cornerstone for servicing MIT customers and is now used by more than a dozen support groups around the Institute. The functionality was enhanced this year by the introduction of a new web interface and a "case set" feature.

The Data Warehouse team continues to broaden, deepen, and further integrate the data available to the community. Major additions this year included data from Student Services, Graduate Admissions, the Card Office, the Medical department, and Environmental Health and Safety. Also, the team expanded their support for AAUDE (a consortium of research universities for which MIT designed and now hosts a data exchange service) this year.

During FY2003, IS made a commitment to provide a Windows environment at MIT. The Windows 2000 Servers and Domains Delivery project was a part of this strategy. This project had two goals: to enable the MIT community to navigate the Windows server options available to them and to firmly establish IS's support capability to that part of the community that relies on Windows servers. The team has established a design review process to work with MIT departments, labs, and centers on their Windows 2000 implementation options, and primarily those who need to migrate from NT4 solutions.

In the past year, we have also reequipped the Building 37-312 cluster as a Windows-based, special-purpose public computing cluster. This facility marks the Institute's first implementation of a centrally managed Windows environment that can be scalably managed, leveraging core MIT IS infrastructure services.

Also as part of its work to sustain the MIT computing environment, IS maintained some 300 servers located in three on-campus data centers, replaced some 200 public and departmental Athena workstations to support MIT's educational programs, provided about 35 application software packages for use in the Athena environment, upgraded hardware and software on 60 Athena servers, provided support for over 100 administrative databases, addressed needs to archive older data in SAP Financials, initiated a new model for conducting system upgrades of enterprise software, upgraded the automated tape libraries supporting the backup function for administrative servers, upgraded the mainframe to an IBM Multiprise 3000 which resulted in a significant cost savings, and maintained LISTSERV software and over 1,500 mailing lists with more than 500,000 subscribers while migrating users to the new Mailman email list service.

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Accountability is that which is necessary to hold everything together. Accountability only exists when deviation from standards, obligations, and commitments is measured, and when it is both organizational and personal. Significant IS work in this thematic area are discussed below.

IS continued its collaborative effort with Stanford University to develop Help Desk benchmarks. In addition to providing information to improve the operation of the Help Desk, this project is intended to set an example for MIT's administrative operations. During the year, processes, data definitions, and comparative data were developed and presented to the MIT and Stanford senior administrative leadership. MIT has designed an at-a-glance dashboard of key metrics, indicating their value and illuminating actionable measures. It also began a weekly survey of a random sample of current Help Desk clients, which has proven very informative and successful. The findings from this benchmarking activity will help establish a culture of performance metrics at MIT, and will provide insight into the optimum balance among client satisfaction, operational effectiveness, financial efficiency, and, in the future, staff satisfaction.

IS leadership focused on improving IS's budgeting process, identifying needs of the customers, and how to meet these needs given the financial constraints the organization and the Institute are facing for the next few years. This work involved staff at all levels of IS identifying process improvements and cost savings so that all available resources could be used to support work that is of a high priority to our clients.

Early in FY2003, IS completed a project which resulted in a new, transparent price-setting methodology for telephone and network services. The resulting model addresses the needs of IS customers for stable, understandable, and predictable prices; will comply with federal regulations; and will address IS business requirements of simplicity and effective cost recovery. It was used to set prices for FY2004 and will be used in the coming years.

IS, in collaboration with Facilities and Western Telecommunications Consulting Incorporated (WTC), has undertaken an initiative to review the requirements for telecommunication rooms across the Institute. The study will enable us to better recommend standards for the Institute's telecommunication rooms, benchmark existing and new processes, recommend process improvements, and develop an appropriate renovation schedule.

IS consciously used the year's annual merit review process again as part of its process to measure individual performance against expectations. Steps were taken to address both the under-performers as well as strong performers for whom promotions or above average pay increases were appropriate.

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By professionalism, we mean striving for leadership across all the professions, which define us beyond our roles at MIT. IS staff members serve as professional leaders in many ways and in many organizations.

IS has always presented itself as a technological leader in the higher education community. IS staff participate in, contribute to, and often play key (both formal and informal) leadership roles in various IVY+ and Internet2 groups, EDUCAUSE, the Common Solutions Group (CSG), NERCOMP, College and University Information Security Professionals (CUISP), the Boston Consortium, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) security and calendaring standards groups, Syllabus, SIGUCCS, ACM/SIGDOC, the New England Information and Technology Managers Group (NEITMG), the 5E Private Owners Association (5EPSOA), and the Association for Telecommunications Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), among others. In addition, staff provide advice on a regular basis to corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Sun, Lucent, and Oracle, via membership on corporate advisory boards or through ongoing consulting relationships, and collaborate with a wide range of other vendors and outside groups, apart from the higher education community, on technology development.

Because of the homeland security efforts of this past year, many IS staff members were involved in emergency preparedness strategy sessions to protect the Institute against terrorist attacks and major outages. Two of these staff members are also active in the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, Infragard, and the Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

IS continued work in the areas of human resource and staff development, benefiting both IS and MIT. This work included identifying "human resource liaisons" who work with each of the directors and team leaders on transactional items such as new hires, terminations, and promotions, as well as on more complex issues including team building and performance management. In addition, we continued progress in addressing internal and market equity issues; 1-1 coaching for team leaders and staff; and provided a central focus within IS for the support staff reclassification (this led to IS defining 10 technical positions in the support staff ranks of MIT).

For the past several summers, MIT's Network Security Team has hosted a summer "Security Camp" for network security teams from New England area academic institutions. The camp, which will be held again this summer, brings together individuals responsible for securing university networks and computer systems for a set of formal presentations and informal discussions, all designed to exchange information, ideas, and solutions. From time to time guests such as representatives from law enforcement and professional security consultants are also invited. Last year some 150 individuals representing seven states were in attendance. Given the events of the past months, these meetings have taken on added importance.

Phil Long, a senior strategist in academic computing, was selected to participate in the current MIT Leader to Leader (L2L) program. Greg Anderson, director of the I/T support process, and Theresa Regan, director of office computing, completed the program's first offering early in the year. L2L is a unique leadership development program for leaders from the MIT community. In the program, L2L fellows partner with senior leaders and MIT faculty to build MIT's internal leadership capability within the context of MIT's culture and aligned to the strategic needs of the Institute.

Within MIT, IS's project management expertise continues to attract other MIT organizations who wish to develop a project management capability within their own staffs. This year, project managers from the Discovery Process provided coaching and mentoring across MIT. Some of these efforts led to projects both within and outside of IS. We are now receiving inquiries from universities who have set up, or are in the process of setting up, project management processes. These organizations seek both help and information on how we manage our projects.

The support process continued to foster the technical skills of the DLC's "local technology experts" by sponsoring approximately 30 on-campus user groups, including the Macintosh, Windows, and IT Partners groups. The demand for user groups continues to increase and their effectiveness continues to contribute to campus-wide IT support. In addition, IS coordinated a variety of IAP activities.

IS continued to recognize professionalism within its own ranks through the MIT Rewards and Recognition Program. During the year and as part of that program, both Jeff Schiller and Jag Patel received the Institute-wide MIT Excellence Awards for Serving the Client. In addition, IS presented the second Steven Wade Neiterman award to Oliver Thomas and I presented the IS Vice President's Awards for individual and team achievements. The Individual Award also went to Oliver Thomas for his willingness to be held accountable, taking initiative, and demonstrating strong leadership. The team award went to the Data Warehouse Team for their high customer satisfaction, their ability to successfully run a "back room" operation and continuing to add new clients and products, such as AAUDE.

In the past year, many IS staff published contributions in EDUCAUSE and other publications. I/T Support won several awards at this year's SIGUGGS conference (Special Interest Group on University and College Computing Services): 1st place for Filemaker training materials, 1st place for Educational Computing Resources Guide, and 2nd place for the I/S Newsletter.

IS is proud of its achievements over the past year and is committed to moving forward and continuing to improve in each of these areas in the coming year.

It has been an honor and my privilege to lead IS and to work with its many world-class staff over the past two decades. As I move forward to the next stage of my career, I wish my colleagues and successor well with the full knowledge that the opportunities and challenges of information technology will continue to make for a very exciting time as you continue to support and serve this premier institute of science and technology.

James D. Bruce
Vice President of Information Systems
Professor of Electrical Engineering

More information about Information Systems and its work may be found at


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