Network Refresh Update | October 2017

Dear Colleagues,

You may have read in the internal newsletter that Dell have provided a solution to the issue that halted the University’s Network Refresh project.

I am pleased to announce that both wired and wireless network migrations are no longer on hold, and the new network will continue to be rolled out across campus.

Schedule for migrations

Ewing

  • Tue 17 Oct, 07:00 – 12:00 | Basement and ground floor
  • Tue 17 Oct, 13:00 – 18:00 | First floor west
  • Wed 18 Oct, 07:00 – 18:00 | First floor east

1-3 Perth Road

  • Thu 19 Oct, 07.00 – 12:00 | 3 Perth Road, Ground and 1st Floor (West)
  • Thu 19 Oct, 13.00 – 15:00 | 1 Perth Road, Basement, Ground and 1st Floors
  • Thu 19 Oct, 15.00 – 19:00 | 3 Perth Road, 1st Floor (East)

Dalhousie

  • Sat 28 and Sun 29 Oct, all day | All building

Do you work in any of these buildings? More information about what to expect can be found on IT Status.

We look forward to having a world-class network once the project is completed.

Kind Regards,

Jonathan

Dr Jonathan Monk
Director of IT

 

 

Virtualisation and a change of location

Product Engineer Ian Angles walks us through what virtualisation means for the University, how it relates to his job role and his experience at the recent VMworld conference in Barcelona.

 
“How do you feed 10,000 attendees in under 2 hours?”

Virtualisation is a very old (in computing terms anyway) technique for getting the most out of an expensive bit of hardware. It comes from the IBM mainframe days but has seen a resurgence over the last 15 years as enterprise systems have become bigger and more capable.

Here at the University, we use it to run many ‘virtual servers’ (or VMs) on a single physical server. We have about 40 physical servers that altogether, run over 1,000 VMs which provide such services as My Dundee, SITS, CODA, research group computing and other systems.

Introducing Ian Angles

My name is Ian Angles and I work for UoD IT in the Infrastructure, Security and Research Computing division, Datacentre and Networking Team.

One of my roles is Virtual Infrastructure Product Engineer and that means I work on the provision of infrastructure on which the University runs the majority of its servers and services.

VMworld 2017

Recently, I attended VMworld Europe 2017 in Barcelona, one of the two worldwide trade shows for users of our major virtualisation software, which is supplied by VMware. It’s a massive EMEA event with over 700 seminars, 150 exhibitors, 4 keynote speeches from the CxOs of VMware, and access to hundreds of training sessions. It’s spread over 4 halls and over 50 seminar rooms, with about 15,000 people from all over EMEA attending.

I primarily attended for the content of the seminar series, focusing particularly on the products that we are about to deploy in production. This includes:

  • the latest versions of vSphere – the hypervisor and control applications
  • vRealize Automation – a one-stop catalogue for VMs and services
  • vRealize Operations – a system for monitoring, managing and reporting on VMs and performance

Outcomes

The experience of networking with the key movers and technologists within VMware and the wider community was extremely valuable in terms of new connections both within and outwith the HE sector, and the knowledge I’ve brought back will help us develop and hone our services for the next couple of years.

I’ve said that it doesn’t matter where VMworld is held, it’s the content that matters. Still, I’m glad it was in Barcelona and not Basingstoke.

Ian

Tired of typing your password? We’re streamlining your sign in experience!

August 2017 brings with it a change to introduce the best provision of a Single Sign On we’ve ever achieved at the University. This change will improve the day-to-day IT experience of all students and staff, perhaps without them even noticing it…

What does that mean?

Right now we authenticate some of your resources via Shibboleth and some via Azure.

Azure authenticated resources include:

  • Office 365
  • Help4U
  • My Dundee

When you open a browser and go to one of these, you’re presented with this login screen:

Azure login screen

If you then go to another of the resources listed above, you’ll be signed in automatically.

Shibboleth is used to protect many resources, with the top 10 accessed this year being:

  • eVision
  • Box
  • Primo
  • Science Direct
  • DawsonEra
  • Alma
  • Solcara Legal Search
  • Talis Aspire Reading Lists
  • Westlaw
  • Wiley

When you go to a Shibboleth protected resource, you’re presented with this login screen:

Shibbeloth login screen

If you then go to another Shibboleth protected resource, you’ll get signed in automatically.

The problem is Azure and Shibboleth don’t talk to each other, which means there is no Single Sign On between them. A common example of what this results in is:

You sign into your online email (webmail) to check your inbox. Someone you know has included a box link in the email they’ve sent to you, so you click on it to view the document. When you do so, you have to sign in again to get to the file.

This is not a great user experience and we needed to improve that.

What will it do?

When we go live with the change that second login will not be required. A single initial login to either an Azure or Shibboleth protected resource will be all that’s required for you to access all of these resources on the web.

The confusion caused by there being two different login experiences will be gone and you will only ever see the Azure login page.

What are the benefits?

  • You will have a much better user experience.
  • The University will have a fully managed, supported and maintained service.
  • This service will always be running the most up-to-date, secure versions.
  • We will no longer be reliant on only two people being on site should a problem occur as our provider will be available to deal with any issues.
  • Our provider will also give us a web based reporting tool, which will allow us to analyse what resources are being utilised. This will give a better indication of the value of resources and help us to find cost savings.
  • Staff uptake of the new self-service password reset tool, which can only be set up and used in at the new login page, will improve because they will be presented with it more often. This will further reduce the number of password reset calls we receive and help staff get back to work quickly should they forget their passwords.

Getting to this stage has been many years in the making, so we’re excited to finally release the change to our students and staff.

Network Refresh Update | August 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Following on from my previous communication in July, Circle IT and Dell EMC are still working to resolve the issue affecting a very small number of the new network switches installed on campus. Please be assured that considerable resource has been assigned by the vendors to investigate and we hope to have a solution soon.

As previously noted, both wired and wireless network migrations are on hold because of this. I am, however, pleased to say that we have now confirmed this issue does not affect the new wifi delivered via eduroam. We are, therefore, re-starting this aspect of the migrations to bring the benefits of the superfast wifi to students & staff prior to the beginning of academic year 2017/18.

The schedule of where we will be introducing the new wifi over the next few weeks is as follows:

  • Tue 22 Aug – Fulton Building
  • Wed 23 Aug – Old Medical School Building
  • Thu 24 Aug – Queen Mother Building
  • Tue 29 Aug – Carnelley Building
  • Wed 30 Aug – Ewing Building
  • Thu 31 Aug – Kirkcaldy Teaching Block

This work should ensure that the new wifi is available in the majority of areas across campus and will provide a more consistent experience for all without the need for a full network migration.

How will it affect me?

The wifi migration will start at 8am in each of the buildings on its allocated day, at which point the:

  • Existing wireless (UoD_WiFi) will be switched off
  • No internet connection via wifi will be available for devices to connect to
  • Over the next 4 hours, the new wifi will be switched on in small batches
  • Some areas will become available prior to others

This means that wifi should be considered unavailable for the 4 hour period and at risk for the rest of the day.

The work will not affect the operation of the wired network (via ethernet cable). Any devices connected to this network should not experience any loss of service.

Do I need to take action?

You will need to re-connect any devices that were using UoD_WiFi to eduroam. Details of how to do this can be found on the IT Get Connected webpage.

Kind Regards,

Jonathan

Dr Jonathan Monk
IT Director