University Messaging System Working Group

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Team ID: 
861
College / Administrative Unit: 
Finance and Business
Date Started: 
June 2008
Objective: 
To improve collaboration between all Finance & Business units. The UMS Working Group is a subset of the Unversity Messaging System Committee that was charged by Al Horvath. The decision was made, for the first phase of the project, to consolidate five separate Microsoft Exchange environments within individual units of F&B into one central F&B Microsoft Exchange environment. This would allow for the sharing of calendars, mailboxes, address books, and resources across F&B. The second phase of the project is to try and integrate the central University Messaging System with the Office of Physical Plant’s Novell GroupWise system.

It should be noted that UMS will not only provide for greater collaboration within F&B but will result in substantial cost savings for individual F&B units and for F&F as a whole. Another major benefit will be the availability of a F&B wide BlackBerry Enterprise service.

The UMS Working Group is made up of members from all IT departments with F&B and were charged with implementing both phases of the project. This is also the first time that all F&B IT departments have come together to work on a project with a common goal.
Desired Results: 

The UMS Working Group, as I mentioned earlier, is charged with implementing the new central University Messaging System which resides in Old Main with a remote disaster recovery site located in the Housing and Foods Building. Working through many challanges with this cutting edge technology the Working Group currently has UMS operating in production mode in both the primary and remote sites. They will be migrating the first F&B unit, The University Budget Office, over to UMS starting today. They expect to have all 1500 or so F&B employees, in the first phase, migrated over to UMS by the beginning of summer.

8/3/10

The UMS project has been successful, albeit not without lots of work and caveats along the way. We implemented a large Exchange environment, utilizing Microsoft Exchange 2007 in a CCR (Cluster Continuous Replication) model within a Resource Forest Domain Active Directory infrastructure. We have quite a few departments on it already, including Auxiliary and Business Services, University Budget Office, President’s Office, Office of Human Resources, Corporate Controller’s Office, University Relations, Bursar’s Office, Schreyer Honors College and Police and Safety. We are looking forward to the future as we are currently planning the transition to Exchange 2010 as well as the inclusion of the Office of Physical Plant’s e-mail users. The Resource Forest model allows the separate departments to attach to the UMS domains utilizing their own Active Directory systems. The system is housed in Old Main as well as in the Housing and Foods building, ensuring availability and providing redundancy. As we move towards the 2010 model, we are considering a third data center for additional redundancy and for disaster recovery.

The overall result of the consolidation has had some significant benefits for our e-mail users. The impact varies depending on which department one refers too, as each department had its own system or utilized central ITS prior to the merge. Calendar sharing has significantly improved for all parties involved. Departments that were not on Microsoft Exchange using Outlook clients have seen improvements overall in their e-mail functionality. The consolidated Global Catalog and address book allows e-mail users quicker access to folks in different departments. Dynamic address lists and Resource Calendars allow users to more easily reach the groups of people or schedule resources. The Barracuda Spam filters have had a very positive impact on Auxiliary and Business Services users. Our past policy dictated that we did not block Spam at all but simply re-directed it to the junk mail folders, requiring the end users to filter through looking for false positives. The Barracuda filters do require extra administration but I think this is clearly outweighed by the fact that very little Spam actually gets through now.

Administratively, creating new accounts actually takes longer on this new system for Auxiliary and Business Services, but as we have worked to streamline this process it has become less cumbersome. Other departments may have differing opinions on this however. I cannot speak to whether or not there has been actual cost savings due to this merger as I am not privy to all the financials involved. Since e-mail is a very necessary tool and more ubiquitous as we move towards a more connected university and society as a whole, this consolidation does make a lot of sense from a structural standpoint, and I would think would account for some cost savings in the long run as there will be less disparate repetition of services.

We currently have 1601 mailbox objects on the UMS environment. 969 of these mailboxes are Auxiliary and Business Services resources. There are 407 static Distribution Groups on UMS and 268 contacts (which are required when adding users who are not on UMS to a Distribution Group). In my role as a Systems Administrator with Auxiliary and Business Services and one of the folks who built UMS (John Matty and Jason Browne being the other two key folks who were deeply immersed in building the environment), I see that we have gained resiliency for our e-mail infrastructure. With this extra resiliency comes added complexity but as the amount of users grows it also becomes more necessary.

Giles de Streel

Contact Person: 
Steve Neeper
Members:
  • Giles de Streel, Co-Chair
  • John Matty, Co-Chair
  • Jason Browne, Member
  • Todd Cardamone, Member
  • Beth Davis, Member
  • Fred DiMuccio, Member
  • Joe Laskowski, Member
  • Steve Neeper, Member
  • Cindy Newman, Member
  • Sandy Stauffer, Member
  • Tom Weber, Member