MIT Reports to the President 1995-96
Information Systems (IS) strives to enable members of the MIT community to use
information technology more productively in all their work. IS focuses on
providing specialized services to the specific constituencies of academic and
administrative computing, as well as a broad array of general services
including telephones and network connections to the rest of the Institute.
In March 1995, senior officers announced the launch of I/T Transformation, the
transition of the Institute's I/T staff into a new framework designed to meet
the challenge of delivering "great systems fast," as well as supporting
dramatic increases in network-based applications and users expected to arise
from reengineering initiatives. The Information Technology Leadership Team,
led by the Vice President for Information Systems, has worked over the past
year to implement I/T Transformation and to ensure successful results on all of
its three dimensions - work, skills, and customers.
Over the year, Information Systems staff left behind the six departments that
previously defined IS and moved fully into the new team-oriented,
process-driven framework. The five work processes - I/T Discovery, I/T
Delivery, I/T Integration, I/T Service, and I/T Support - and the two practices
- Academic Computing and Office Computing (which were recently joined by a
third practice - Voice, Data, and Image Networking), as well as the I/T
Competency Groups - replace the old IS departments of Academic Computing
Services, Administrative Systems Development, Computing Support Services,
Distributed Computing and Network Services, Operations and Systems, and
Telecommunications Systems. As in the past, IS staff continues to work with
others throughout the Institute in ongoing activities and new initiatives, and
they remain deeply involved in efforts to reengineer the Institute's
administrative processes. By the end of the fiscal year, IS staff had achieved
an impressive range of accomplishments, some of which are highlighted in the
reports which follow. This section presents an IS overview.
Use of MIT's information technology resources continues to grow as the
I/T infrastructure is improved and expanded. Annually the MIT community comes
to IS with some 100,000 requests for help and service changes, ranging widely
from upgrading telephone service to installing a new office computing
environment to assisting faculty in using computing in their teaching. As in
past years, new and more platforms and services, including more third-party
software, were introduced into the Athena environment. IS staff worked to
provide full telephone and network connectivity to all on-campus student
residences. In fiscal 1996, a new voice mail system was installed; site
licenses for Oracle and SAP R/3 were negotiated and their software made
available; a new I/T core curriculum for members of the MIT community was
developed and implemented to support the rollout of reengineering applications;
and the campus I/T infrastructure was more completely defined and
At the end of the last fiscal year, a new team was named to lead the I/T
framework. Over the course of the year, there were some changes to that
- Leaders of I/T practices advocate both on behalf of customers to IS and on
behalf of IS to customers. Late in fiscal 1995, Diane Devlin was named the
Director, Office Computing Practice. In May 1996, M. S. Vijay Kumar succeeded
Gregory A. Jackson in the position of Director, Academic Computing Practice.
At the end of fiscal 1996, a third practice area was added to focus on MIT's
electronic communications infrastructure. The Voice, Data, and Image
Networking Practice, with Dennis Baron as its Director, will ensure that the
necessary I/T systems and services are available to support academic, research,
and administrative efforts at MIT. This will include working with IS process
owners and outside vendors to make sure current systems are accessible and have
adequate capacity. In addition, this practice will identify the need for new
communications technology and facilitate its availability to meet future
- At the end of fiscal 1995, named I/T process leaders were Greg Anderson as
the Director, I/T Discovery; Susan Minai-Azary as the Director, I/T
Integration; and Roger A. Roach as the Director, I/T Service. Late in the
year, William F. Hogue succeeded Cecilia R. d'Oliveira as the Director, I/T
Support, and IS's year-long search for the Director, I/T Delivery ended with
the appointment of Robert V. Ferrara.
- I/T Competency Group leaders concentrate on the skills dimension of
Information Systems, working to provide a staff well-qualified to meet future
work requirements. In fiscal 1996, Erin Rae Hoffer succeeded Timothy J.
McGovern to join Shirley M. Picardi as a Director, I/T Competency Groups.
- At the end of June 1996, Marilyn A. McMillan completed 18 years of service to
information technology at MIT, and accepted the position of Director of
Application Assembly and Integration in Information Technology Systems and
Services at Stanford University. Thomas Mullins will assume Marilyn's planning
responsibilities, which fit well with his own responsibilities as Director for
Administration and Finance.
The I/T leadership team and the IS staff are committed to continuing to learn
our way into working in the new framework, and to ensuring that the new
framework works for us, for our customers, and for the Institute.
James D. Bruce
The Academic Computing Practice seeks to promote and enable MIT
education through the effective use of computers and other information
technologies. Collaborating with I/T Process teams and in partnership with
academic departments, the Academic Computing Practice provides widely
distributed client-server computing designed to facilitate undergraduate
education, primarily through the Athena Computing environment, which is used by
thousands of users each day and over 10,000 different people on peak days.
Academic Computing provides advocacy, training, documentation, and consulting
services to support academic work.
During fiscal year 1996, the Academic Computing Practice focused its resources
on activities aimed at strengthening the infrastructure for educational
- It continued to encourage new instructional uses of Athena. In
the past year, MIT's suite of educational software was enlarged to include
molecular modeling software for Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Materials
Science, as well as rendering and graphics software for Architecture and
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).
- Academic Computing also assisted faculty interested in using the World Wide
Web in novel ways to enhance instruction, helping them digitally animate
natural phenomena for use in Physics classes, and helping them create and
publish digital images for educational use in the departments of Architecture,
Foreign Languages and Literatures, and the Health Sciences and Technology (HST)
Program. MAE (Macintosh emulation) was provided on Sun workstations in various
Athena clusters to support the needs of faculty using Macintosh software in
- In partnership with I/T Support teams, the Academic Computing Practice
introduced a "moveable workstation" service, through which faculty members may
obtain a Silicon Graphics workstation with projection capabilities for use in
any classroom equipped with a network drop.
- Working with the Athena Computing Environment Software Release Delivery team,
the Academic Computing Practice continued its annual renewal of Athena
equipment, purchasing workstations and peripherals to replace aging equipment,
and purchasing additional functionality for older machines to address the
emerging computational needs of MIT subjects. A new Athena cluster was added
in the Rotch Library in fiscal 1996, and the 4-035 cluster was equipped with
twenty SGI Indy machines as a specialized facility for classes.
- Academic Computing enhanced its constituent relationships by participating in
a number of joint projects with groups such as the Public Service librarians
from the MIT Libraries, the Educational Technology Council, and the Development
- To improve communication on campus, the Academic Computing Practice
introduced WebMeet, a Web-based conferencing and electronic mail archiving
system. To extend the spirit of that communication outside MIT, the Academic
Computing Practice continued to host a variety of visitors from organizations
worldwide who express interest in Athena and MIT's educational computing
Dr. Vijay Kumar succeeded Dr. Gregory Jackson as Director, Academic Computing
M. S. Vijay Kumar
The Office Computing Practice works to ensure that office computing
customers derive maximum value from MIT's information technology resources.
Collaborating with I/T Process teams and in partnership with administrative
offices and departments, the Office Computing Practice works to build
constructive relationships with office customers. This work relies on a solid
understanding of office computing needs, opportunities, and priorities is
essential to discovering and implementing the best applications of information
technology to simplify and improve administrative work.
- Complementing its primary purpose of advocating on behalf of customers with
IS, and on behalf of IS with customers, the Office Computing Practice devoted a
substantial amount of time in fiscal 1996 to meeting directly with
administrative customers to identify opportunities for I/T improvements. Many
of these conversations involved clarification of IS's new process-centered,
- Also during fiscal 1996, the Office Computing Practice worked to build
relationships with individuals and teams within IS who specifically impact
office customers. This effort led to the formation of the Practice/Discovery
(PD) Team, which is chartered to focus on customer needs and to support
Discovery Process teams and the Office Computing and Academic Computing
Practice leaders. Also established this year was the Office Computing
Management Group (OCMG), a forum for IS and other administrative I/T staff to
meet, share ideas and information, discuss issues of mutual concern, and plan
together for the future.
- To a large extent, MIT's reengineering initiative has meant a reexamination
of MIT's business practices. This, combined with the shifting work demands
necessitated by the need to align MIT with changing market opportunities, has
created a rapidly changing environment for the Institute's administrative
processes. The Office Computing Practice conducted strategic planning meetings
in major administrative areas this past year to prepare for the delivery of
reengineered business applications, with a primary focus on SAP R/3.
Collaborating with IS teams and customers, the Office Computing Practice
coordinated reengineering-related planning for MIT's central administrative
groups and the new MIT Learning Center, including the deployment of over 300
new computers. These computers were delivered with administrative software and
networking installations as needed.
- Throughout the year, the Office Computing Practice championed the MIT
Electronic Catalog (ECAT) project. Built in partnership with VWR Scientific,
Office Depot, and American Express, and using private-key authentication
technology (Kerberos) to provide security over the network, the Electronic
Catalog is a custom Internet and World Wide Web sourcing, pricing, approval,
ordering, and payment system. ECAT is currently in its pilot phase, and will
rollout over the remainder of calendar 1996.
Diane M. Devlin
As the first of the five work processes identified in the new I/T
process-centered organization, the I/T Discovery Process seeks to define the
I/T requirements of the MIT community. Discovery creates a dynamic and bold
environment in which business customers and technologists can work together to
define systems which create value. Beginning primarily as a business process,
where "business" encompasses the full range of academic, office, and research
activities at MIT, Discovery projects design and frame technology solutions
that can be delivered to the community efficiently and effectively.
Working in focused project teams, Discovery efforts pursue and structure ideas
that promise dramatic change and improvement to current work. Discovery
efforts seek innovative solutions to problems, and work to add value to and
remove unnecessary work from work. The goal of the Discovery Process is to
challenge the status quo, and to influence and guide "best practice" approaches
to I/T work. Although it locates efforts within the context of the Institute's
strategic mission and near-term goals, Discovery also remains aware and
cognizant of the rapidly changing business and technology landscape at MIT and
In its first year, the Discovery Process has been extraordinarily productive
and has realized several organizational and project milestones. These
accomplishments are testimony to the talented staff involved in the projects
and to their willingness to engage new approaches to our work. Highlights of
the year include:
- The Electronic Proposal Submission System Discovery team - a
cross-organizational team composed of customers from labs, centers, and
departments, OSP, local I/T specialists, and IS staff - completed Discovery
and prototype projects to realize the business requirement of submitting
research proposals electronically to federal agencies. This project has moved
to the Delivery Process for full development and implementation.
- Conducted primarily by Telecommunications Service staff, the Voice-Mail
Discovery project resulted in the smooth implementation of a new voice-mail
system for MIT in January.
- The Writing Requirement Discovery team recommended a new technology design to
support the administration of MIT's Writing Requirement. This project has also
moved to its Delivery phase.
- The Alumni Networked Services Discovery team designed an overall strategy to
deliver electronic, networked services to MIT alumni. In its Delivery phase,
the project focuses on the building of an electronic mail forwarding-for-life
facility as its initial service.
- The Admissions Discovery project is underway to determine a new conceptual
design for MIT Admissions.
- The ISDN/Tether Discovery team determined that changing technology, the cost
of ISDN services to the home, and promising new alternatives suggest that MIT
not develop its own products to provide network access via ISDN connections.
- As part of IS's effort to maintain existing services, the Discovery process
ensured the successful operation of "Back to School" activities, such as HASS-D
lottery, PE Lottery, Math Diagnostics, Freshman Essay Evaluation, and Freshman
In addition, there is an ongoing effort to understand, establish, improve, and
frame the Discovery Process within the new I/T organization.
As the second of the five work processes, the I/T Delivery Process
exists so that MIT and its schools, departments, laboratories, and centers can
realize business value as rapidly as possible from the implementation of new
information technology products and services.
- Working with I/T Integration teams to continue the work of the reengineering
program's Information Technology Readiness Team, Delivery Process teams focused
on devising workable and supportable strategies for the initial offerings of a
number of reengineering-related projects, including among others the
Appointment Process (TAP) applications TAPS and TQF; MIT's new financial
system of record SAP R/3; the Electronic Catalog; the Office of Sponsored
Programs awards system; and the Physical Plant system.
- The Athena Computing Environment Software Release Delivery team updated
Athena to newer versions of system software from Sun and SGI, as well as more
current versions of several third-party software packages, including a
Institute-wide filesystem software, AFS from Transarc. The Athena Delivery
team also began to phase-out older models of IBM RS/6000 and Digital DECStation
hardware from Athena's public cluster infrastructure. In the coming year, the
team expects to qualify at least one new hardware/software platform for Athena
- Currently, Delivery Process teams are working to implement the Electronic
Proposal Submission System "discovered" in fiscal 1996 by the I/T Discovery
Process. Also in Delivery phase are the new technology designs to support the
administration of the Writing Requirement and the building and implementation
of the Alumni "E-mail-Forwarding-For-Life" project. On-going work towards
Release One of SAP continues, and work on Release Two will commence shortly.
The nationwide search to fill the position of the I/T Delivery Process leader
ended in July 1996 with the appointment of Robert V. Ferrara as Director, I/T
Michael D. Barker
William D. Cattey
Paul B. Hill
Daniela A. Aivazian
The mission of I/T Integration is to implement an information technology
infrastructure that has high levels of reliability, availability, and
serviceability; provides excellent price/performance; meets current MIT needs
and can quickly adapt to meet future needs; and enables effective performance
of the other I/T processes. During the past year, teams working in the
Integration Process made progress in the following areas:
- The Integration Team worked to educate developers and purchasers of
software about the current information technology infrastructure. To encourage
its effective use, the Integration Team developed and presented a four-day
course, "A Developer's Introduction to Secure Client-Server Computing."
Building on this effort were a participatory series of lunch seminars and
discussions for system designers. Other educational services of the
Integration teams included adding to information for developers on the World
Wide Web, and purchasing bulk training units for selected tools so that all MIT
developers could share in reduced training rates.
- Integration work teams also provide consulting services to designers and
developers. Data Administrators have helped with data modeling for new systems
and reverse engineering to develop models for current systems. By reviewing
designs for new systems and possible commercially-packaged software for teams
working in other processes, and by checking high level process and data models,
Integration teams work to ensure that different teams are developing systems
that are either independent or well-integrated, and adhere to MIT's current
standards and practices.
- Early work with Discovery teams helps Integration teams understand and
prepare for coming infrastructure needs. Collaborating with developers from
across MIT, Integration teams have extended the MIT data model and added shared
data to the MIT Warehouse. Fiscal year 1996 also saw the inauguration of an
Integration Laboratory for developers to use to test the integration of their
business applications into the MIT application set. Also in fiscal 1996, the
Security Officer and other interested parties at MIT formed the Institute
Physical Security Coordination Team.
- Integration teams worked both to update current I/T infrastructure components
and to build new ones. A key accomplishment of the past year was the building
and implementation of a People ID Server and Database, a single coordinated
service for assigning a unique MIT ID available to people and systems. The
building of the database was accomplished with the help of the Service teams;
thus its implementation rests with the Service Process. The MIT Data Model and
sharable data in the MIT Data Warehouse were extended. By designing,
developing, and coordinating the external development of Kerberos Version 5,
Integration teams continued MIT's leadership in network security. On a related
note, a "Pretty Good Privacy" (PGP) Key Server, which provides a directory
service for public keys, was added to the MIT infrastructure. Integration
teams designed a secure and authenticated web server to be built unless the
market provides a comparable solution within the next six months. Integration
teams designed and prototyped an MIT-wide access system to provide a
consistent, high level interface for defining who is authorized or responsible
to perform various operations in business applications. Integration teams also
developed tools to move bulk data securely between systems. Throughout the
year, they continued to test new releases of selected tools for developers and
to provide example interfaces between different tools.
- One goal of the Integration process is to propagate strategic MIT technology
to vendors of commercial products and to other users outside MIT. By exerting
influence in strategic areas like network security in open-network
environments, MIT has the opportunity to buy rather than build our preferred
infrastructure in the future. Intending to encourage a standard for network
security, the Integration Process provided Kerberos Version 5 to the public
domain, and urged its use in industry.
The I/T Service Process works to keep MIT's information technology
infrastructure running in a reliable and efficient manner. This infrastructure
includes the datacenter in W91, MITnet, telephone and related services, the
Athena computing environment, database services, and desktop maintenance (PC
A number of significant milestones were reached in each of these areas during
the past year:
- Efforts to improve the reliability and performance of the W91 datacenter
continued throughout fiscal 1996. Accomplishments include migration of data
stored on the datacenter's oldest disk devices to newer, more reliable devices,
and an incremental upgrade of the VM/ESA operating system on the IBM mainframe.
To support secure transfers of data to and from the IBM mainframe, the "Pretty
Good Privacy" (PGP) encryption program was ported to the VM mainframe operating
system. To support the new SAP financial system and other administrative
systems, new administrative servers were installed in W91. Throughout the
year, I/T Service staff continued to work with BBN Planet to enhance their
facilities on campus to support intra/inter New England Internet traffic.
- Working collaboratively with I/T Support, I/T Service extended MITnet to
MIT's Professional Learning Center (W89). Network Operations and Network
Software Services teams upgraded routing connectivity to NEARnet, and completed
planning for a major upgrade of the MITnet backbone. Towards this effort, the
electronic mail servers were upgraded to Sparc 20 systems. I/T Service staff
also worked to improve the performance and reliability of web.mit.edu,
the campus' primary World Wide Web server, and worked on applications to
support the SAP and ECAT reengineering efforts.
- The 5ESS Operations Service team upgraded the MIT 5ESS generic software to
5E9, and replaced the voice mail system with an Aria 350 system to increase
both its capacity and robustness. MITnet was extended to two graduate
residential units, Eastgate and Westgate, and the data network and 5ESS
telephone services were
provided to newly constructed or acquired buildings, like Tang Management
Center and W89, as well as the new addition of the Whitehead Institute. In May
1996, Service teams installed an Automated Call Distribution (ACD) system to be
used initially by the new I/T Support Help Desk to provide better control of
call flow and statistical data on the helplines. Other telephone-related
accomplishments include the installation of new PBX's for Endicott House, MIT
Process, and WW15 (Mail Services), and the upgrade and extension of radio
systems for Campus Police and Physical Plant.
- Efforts to upgrade the hardware and software used to provide Athena services
to the MIT community continued throughout fiscal 1996. To improve reliability,
many of the older servers were upgraded to a new server platform;
uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) were installed; and fixes were applied to
the Athena file system. To accommodate the growing need for more disk space,
the default disk quota for Athena accounts was raised to 12.5 Megabytes this
year. To achieve significant gains in efficiency, cluster services
restructured their deployment process for Athena workstations.
- The Database Services team consistently provided database support and
maintenance of many administrative applications to the wider MIT community,
while continuing to be heavily involved in the implementation of new
reengineering systems like SAP.
- With the addition of a new software updating service for HP scientific
workstations, Desktop Maintenance Services now services Apple and IBM
microcomputers, HP printers, and DEC, Sun, SGI, and HP workstations.
Roger A. Roach
Fiscal year 1996 was highlighted by the continued evolution and
refinement of services related to the core mission of the I/T Support Team:
the effective and efficient delivery of timely, high-quality support to the
Institute's information technology users. Support was provided by a variety of
standing teams: I/T Help Desk; Training and Publications; Desktop Products;
Adaptive Technology Support; Departmental Computing Support; Campuswide
Information Systems Support (CWIS); Athena Help/Residential Computing
Consulting; Academic Computing Support; Telephone Operators; 5ESS Support;
and Support Team Headquarters.
To better identify and refine support services, Support team members
concentrate on listening carefully to customers and balancing customer feedback
with Institute goals and resource availability. While focused on different
aspects of users' needs, the highly qualified staff on these teams share a
common commitment to the I/T Support mission. During 1995-96:
- I/T Support staff participated intensively on numerous MIT reengineering
projects and teams. In particular, Support teams provided extensive support
for SAP development, deployment, training, and documentation. One notable
accomplishment was the completion of the information technology infrastructure
for the W89 training facility on a very short timeline.
- One of the key functions of the Support Process is to provide Macintosh,
DOS/Windows, and Athena technical support, as well as consulting and
user-account services, to the MIT community. In fiscal 1996, the Help Desk was
reengineered, which involved the installation of new hardware, the realignment
and consolidation of Help Desk staff, the integration of new tracking tools,
and the initiation of planning for self-help and local expert components of
- In a partnership with the Academic Computing Practice, I/T Support
inaugurated a "movable Athena workstation" service for classroom use.
- In collaboration with the I/T Service Process, I/T Support introduced Eudora
to the MIT community. This new electronic mail product will eventually replace
Dr. William F. Hogue succeeded Cecilia R. d'Oliveira as Director, I/T Support
in May 1996.
William F. Hogue
I/T Competency Groups organize Information Systems staff by their
technical expertise and/or common focus. A "job competency" may be defined as
an underlying characteristic of an employee - a motive, trait, self-concept,
knowledge, or skill - that results in effective or superior performance on a
job. Competency Group Leaders work to ensure that appropriately skilled human
resources are available to staff MIT's I/T processes and projects.
In late summer 1995, four I/T Competency Groups were established, and staff
were encouraged to enroll. About 70% of IS staff enrolled, as well as several
staff in the I/T areas outside of IS. The four groups are:
Applications (investigate, design, and build products and services)
Assistance (help customers, document, and communicate)
Systems (keep operational aspects of work running)
I/T Management (help all the rest of staff get the business work done)
The I/T Competency Group leadership focused on three primary activities
throughout the year:
- To address the increasing need for skilled project managers not only within
Information Systems but within MIT as a whole, IS engaged the firm of Duncan
Nevison to provide project management training and consulting services to MIT.
Duncan Nevison developed and customized an eight-day training program based
upon project manager competencies. Within the framework of this program,
project managers were able to speak openly about the challenges they face in
the MIT-IS environment. Using competency assessments, individualized feedback,
and training plans, the Duncan Nevison consultants taught the tools needed to
cope with these challenges, including scope statements, work breakdown
structures, three-point estimation, team-building, scheduling, critical paths,
progress measurements, accountability, and risk management.
- In May 1996, the I/T Competency Group leadership launched a project to help
define and plan for the development of the I/T competencies. Working with the
consulting firm of Hay McBer (part of The Hay Group), they defined the
Define "roles" in IS's process-oriented, team-centered environment, with the
ultimate goal of replacing older and sometimes outdated "job descriptions."
Identify the competencies required to successfully perform work in this
Help individuals determine what competencies are important to them today and in
the future, as well as prepare personal development plans.
Redefine the four I/T Competency Groups.
Develop a training agenda for I/T professional development to address broad
needs over the next few years.
Introduce a consistent approach to competency assessment in I/T recruiting and
hiring; learn how to interview for I/T competencies and train staff in these
Begin the process of redesigning the IS performance appraisal system.
- Throughout the year, Competency Group leadership sought to learn more about
competency-based organizations. In addition to attending conferences, they met
or talked with outside organizations which have implemented "competencies,"
including Canadian Tire, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Eli
Lilly, London Life, and OSRAM/Sylvania.
In the future, the I/T Competency Group leadership will work to tie skills
inventory results into MIT's strategic I/T needs, while identifying "gaps" for
future training, hiring, and outsourcing. Guided by MIT's Human Resource
Principles, they will work closely with the MIT Human Resources and the newly
chartered Human Resources Practices Design (HRPD) reengineering team.
Throughout the coming year, the Competency Group leaders will strive to
maintain their awareness of similar developments in corporations and other
institutions, and will work to make Information Systems a "best practices"
Erin Rae Hoffer succeeded Timothy J. McGovern as Director, I/T Competency
Groups. Katherine K. Allen recently joined the I/T Competency Group leadership
as Senior Project Manager, Human Resources.
Erin R. Hoffer
Shirley M. Picardi
MIT Reports to the President 1995-96