Where Do We Want to End Up?

As we head down the road of changing UCI’s approach to Information Technology, it is helpful to paint a picture of where we want to end up.  Although it will take many years to get there, together we can build a computing environment wherein the quality of services will not depend on variable factors such as the resources local units have been able to invest in IT.  Recognizing that IT is critical to all university activities, our IT environment will be universal to all UCI “knowledge workers.”

Our future integrated IT environment will enable every process that can significantly benefit from automation to be available online with consistent interfaces.  We will use the same IT systems from department to department, reducing training time as staff relocate and/or have to learn new functions.  We can look forward to having data entered a single time and instantly shared with all applications that require it.  Data can be mined to produce information that is made available to decision makers interactively.

IT assistance will be available both through self-service tools and a responsive central help desk. The help desk will be able to triage problems remotely and dispatch assistance from regional support centers as needed. Failed desktop computers will be replaced very quickly, without losing files or user customization.  Security patches will be coordinated campus-wide, ensuring that systems are not vulnerable to new threats any longer than absolutely necessary.

IT staff will be able to focus their talents in specific areas.  For example, software maintainers and programmers can focus on projects with greater efficiency than is possible now (as they are interrupted to handle support issues). In addition to receiving direction from functional units, programmers will have access to the senior developers, specialized technical expertise, and IT leadership found in an appropriately staffed, modern IT organization.  Programmers will use common development and operating frameworks that allow them to take advantage of pre-existing code libraries, user interface tools, and other assets that help them work more effectively.  This results in applications that can easily be integrated as a part of a consistent end-user experience, making them easier to use, and easier to support by other programmers.

UCI will increasingly turn to externally available software packages to augment or replace homegrown IT solutions.  Commercial software will play a role, but the many open and community source systems that are becoming available will be an especially important component of our campus IT strategy.  This will allow us to leverage local programming talent by factoring in the resources of the higher education and open source communities as a whole.

IT services will run on “virtualized” servers housed in energy-efficient data centers. Virtualized servers make more efficient use of capital resources, and can greatly improve reliability and business continuity by automatically moving functions to backup hardware when primary hardware fails, allowing work to continue uninterrupted.  We will create a shared approach to operating servers and server rooms that minimizes costs in energy and support labor.

In short, the IT environment will be highly integrated and responsive, and will greatly facilitate the conduct of university business, research, and education.  This will help pave the way for UCI’s continued growth and excellence.