We've all been riveted by the horrors Hurricane Katrina wrought on the Gulf Coast. Some of you may have even been personally impacted.
There are many lessons from disasters such as Katrina for providers of enterprise IT and communications services, such as ITS. Many of these lessons had been brought close to home last year during the Manoa Flood. Fortunately, ITS staff were on duty the night of the flood and able to divert incoming water just yards away from the University’s main data center on the ground floor of Keller Hall. However, the loss of power meant that not only were our information systems unavailable, but many of the communications services we needed to communicate internally and externally, such as email and web sites, were also unavailable until generators could be acquired and connected.
In addition, the most severely flood-damaged buildings on the Manoa campus, Hamilton Library and the Biomedical Complex, housed major information systems that provided significant university-wide or school-wide services.
It is no longer an overstatement to say that the use of and reliance on modern information technologies pervades our teaching, learning, research and administration. When the University's current strategy for restoring IT services after a disaster was put into place, the focus was on bringing our administrative systems back into service within about a week. It is clear that this is no longer adequate. So during the current academic year ITS will be engaged in some significant planning and new initiatives to bring our practices and plans into alignment recognizing the increasing criticality of IT and communications systems and services to the entire University system.
The biggest current threat to availability of our systems and services is the inadequacy of the facilities that house our core university-wide information and communications infrastructure. The main server and storage center, data communications hub, voice (telephone) hub, and video hub for distance learning are in four different rooms in three buildings. These rooms were renovated from other uses, in most cases decades ago, and none have the basic environmental controls and support that would be standard in any current data center.
I'm delighted to report that the UH Administration is once again recommending funding to design a new IT Center that would serve as a "hardened" data center for the UH system, provide some enhanced technology services on the Manoa campus, and house the ITS organization. And by the time you receive this, we expect that the Board of Regents will have approved this recommendation for submittal to the Governor and Legislature. It's still a long way to construction, but as more organizations become concerned about emergency management, especially in the wake of the Manoa Flood and Katrina, the need for a high quality hardened facility is becoming more widely apparent within and beyond the University community. The new IT Center could also house a new UH Emergency Operations Center, since the building will be "hardened" with backup power, generator systems, backup air-conditioning and multiple telecommunications entries.
In addition to improving the quality of our primary facilities, we are also looking at collaborating with the State Information Communications Services Division (ICSD) and the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) on a shared facility in the Maui Research and Technology Park that could serve as a backup data center for both UH and the State of Hawaii.
A more robust infrastructure is not only important to disaster preparedness; it protects against more routine outages and data losses that might be due to problems with external service providers or other equipment or software malfunctions. Our overarching goal in this initiative is to maximize our ability to provide you with uninterrupted access to the systems and services on which you depend in your teaching, learning, research and administrative activities.
We hope you enjoy this newsletter and find it useful. And please don’t hesitate to let me know what we could be doing to serve you better!
CIO, Information Technology Services