DCS Offers SunRay™ Support

If you own and use a single Unix or Windows workstation, the effort required for system administration (maintenance, security, software licensing, and user support) is usually not an unreasonable burden. But if you have a group of systems, this can drain precious resources away from your research or other duties.

NACS Distributed Computing Support (DCS) now offers a cost-effective alternative. DCS can help you acquire, set up, configure, and maintain a client/server environment based on SunRay™ workstations instead of individual computers.

SunRay™ workstations are “smart terminals” which boot off the network, and then behave just as if they were independent Unix or Windows workstations. The SunRay™ client machines have jacks for connecting keyboard, mouse, display, and USB devices, as well as local memory, but leave everything else to the server.

The operating system (Windows or Unix), and all the application software your users need are installed on a single server. One copy is much easier and cheaper to keep up to date, and when new applications are needed, installing once is much faster than managing multiple independent workstations. (You still need to be sure you are licensed to run as many copies of the software as you need.)

This service may be of particular interest to people responsible for setting up and maintaining instructional labs, or researchers who oversee a large number of graduate students to whom you supply computers. If you are interested in exploring whether this technology can help you, contact NACS.

New Assistant Manager

Francisco Lopez

Francisco Lopez

NACS is happy to introduce the newest member of the Distributed Computing Support group, Assistant Manager Francisco Lopez.

Francisco is a double graduate of UC Berkeley. He received an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a graduate degree from the Haas School of Business. Francisco was a member of the technical staff at UC Berkeley while an undergraduate and a career employee upon graduation.

Francisco also worked as a system administrator and manager for Inktomi in Silicon Valley and as a system administrator at Ceridian in Orange County before coming to UCI.

Unix System Administration

NACS Distributed Computing Support (DCS) provides a full range of UNIX system administration services for UCI research and other computing environments on a contract basis.

DCS staff members provide direct Unix system administration services for some computer systems. They also serve as consultants to departmental system administrators.

DCS staff keep abreast of emerging applications and system technologies as well as the latest security fixes in order to provide high quality system support.

System support also includes remote monitoring and proactive trouble resolution. In fact, problems are often diagnosed and resolved before departments are even aware of any problems!

The various staff members of DCS bring a mix of people skills and technical skills to bear. Some staff read, “triage” and respond to the daily influx of phone and e-mail inquiries from clients and trouble reports generated by computer systems. Other staff ensure that security fixes and system upgrades are distributed and installed as promptly as possible.

The broad range of services and professional level of support provided by DCS usually matches and frequently surpasses those offered in the private sector.

System Administration Services

For over 10 years NACS Distributed Computing Support (DCS) Group has provided professional system administration services to the UCI campus for UNIX (and to a lesser extent Windows).

Computer system administration generally refers to the maintenance of a reliable and secure computing environment. DCS has recruited, trained, and maintained a dedicated support staff alleviating individuals and workgroups of this burden and some of the associated costs.

DCS relies heavily on the use of automation and standard client hardware configurations. DCS is also responsible for maintaining DCSLib, an extensive software library.

DCS currently supports 300 systems in virtually every academic school and department, but the heaviest demand comes from the School of Physical Sciences, the College of Medicine, and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. Over the past 5 years the number of DCS contracts has increased approximately 6 % per year.

More information on DCS services can be found at http://www.nacs.uci.edu/support/unix.html. If you would like to discuss support of your system, please contact NACS.

Computer Security

NACS Distributed Computing Support has developed software to improve campus computer security.

In the same way a night watchman proceeds through a building, turning doorknobs to check that they’re locked, hackers scan the network looking for open ports on computers. The new NACS system collects and analyzes information from UCI Unix and Linux computers to check for activity indicative of possible misuse or attempted misuse.

This system is modeled on security features integral to Linux, and delivered to other Unix systems on campus through NACS’s autoinstall software. It depends on modified network applications (such as telnet and ftp) which are often used for compromising system security. These modified applications report to NACS’s logging system whenever they are used. Certain patterns of use are clues that a particular system may need attention.

Intrusion efforts which can be caught by this system range from the simple-minded (probing for improperly secured network ports) to some very sophisticated kinds of attacks (e.g., “buffer overflow” exploits). While the only way to guarantee a computer is safe from network-based attacks is to remove it from the network, this new system represents another way NACS is making it harder to cause harm to UCI computers.