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[Message from Dean Andrew Moore]

Four SCS Computing Facilities Updates - Details

As part of my directive to leverage central scalable technology services as much as possible, and augment with layered local services specific to SCS needs, I would like to transition our email infrastructure to leverage the email services offered by CMU Computing Services (CMU/CS). Let me begin by saying something that I will repeat throughout this message: Nothing bad is going to happen to our accounts.

The SCS Computing Facilities (SCS/CF) team, working in partnership with the CMU/CS team, has investigated, evaluated and developed a plan to phase out the email approach currently offered by SCS/CF. The result of these changes will be to reduce or eliminate the redundant work associated with creating and managing email across duplicate services, help reduce the overall SCS user account facilities charges, and have a more future-proof set of systems. I know it sounds like things can go horribly wrong during this process, but if we go ahead with it, I will commit to personal accountability for the switchover being successful and advantageous. I also trust the teams involved and believe they have a good track record at this kind of transition.

Service for Personal Email/Calendar - Current State

SCS Computing Facilities

  • Backend: There are currently two email backend systems (users choose one):
    • An on premise Microsoft Exchange service.
    • An on premise Cyrus email service.
  • Frontend: SCS/CF lets its users work with a very wide variety of email clients some use Outlook, some use Gmail, some use Thunderbird and there are many others in common use. Some I am told, even use Pine and other clients from the distant past (and I am not judging). And some also use the SCS webmail frontend. The SCS Help Desk supports many of the clients we chose to use.

CMU Computing Services

  • Backend: There are currently three email backend systems (users choose one):
    • An on premise Microsoft Exchange service (mandated for all staff in central business units, optional for faculty and staff in academic units).
    • A cloud-based G Suite for Education (GSFE) solution (all undergraduates receive this service, optional for faculty and staff in academic units).
    • An on premise Cyrus email service. This is in the process of being decommissioned (which I personally agree with: IMHO Cyrus is old-fashioned). Users are being given the option to move to Exchange or GSFE. This transition will be done slowly and carefully over the next year or so.
  • Frontend: Users have the same set of options in what they choose for email frontends, but only native clients are supported by the Computing Services Help Center (Outlook with Exchange for Mac/Windows and mobile, and the Google web interface for GSFE).

NOTE: Exchange and GSFE offer a calendar experience, but scheduling across the two is not seamless, and non-native clients are often very difficult.

Service for Personal Email/Calendar - Proposed Future State

Some things that won't change:

  • Our email addresses will remain. We will not force you to use @andrew addresses for email.
  • Existing SCS Help Desk staffing will remain the same. They will work closely with Computing Services Help Center to ensure that the quality level of support for the new email services will match your current experience.
  • You should be able to continue using your favorite email client, the IMAP protocol is supported on all email service options.

Some things that will change:

  • We will authenticate for email using our Andrew ID (even though our email addressing will be unaffected). In fact, as more online services become available through CMU/CS, use of our Andrew IDs for authentication will become routine.
  • Transitioning the SCS/CF email service to CMU/CS will help to eliminate duplicate services and aid in reducing the overall cost associated with current SCS/CF support charges. The actual reduction is still being determined. This is just one of many areas I am asking for review to help bring down the overall expense for everyone in the SCS community.

Moving Forward

Are these ideas now set in stone?

So far two things have happened:

  • First, SCS/CF has been discussing the high level of this plan with CMU/CS, and we have created an implementation team that has proposed a draft migration design.
  • Second, we discussed it at the SCS council. In both cases the main action item was: "start discussing this with SCS faculty".

What's happened so far?

  • I've assembled a small advisory group of faculty (John Zimmerman, Jessica Hodgins, Dave Eckhardt, and Chris Harrison) to help the implementation team interact with your feedback, tune the strategy, and stage the work.
  • The implementation team is working on a broader plan for communications and outreach with the SCS community.
  • An initial FAQ has been drafted to capture likely biggest concerns and initial ideas for mitigating them. There are bound to be other concerns beyond that list.

What's next?

  • The team is in the process of doing user study sessions with small groups to hear concerns and possible showstoppers.
  • Then based on the subsequent feedback, the team is developing a plan for backend and frontend migration that is not labor intensive for users. The team will then share it with SCS faculty and staff for discussion.
  • Then (if we are still on track) we will carefully execute on the plan.
  • The first phase of a planned email transition will be to address users of our current SCS/CF Exchange service, which is out of date and on outdated hardware.
  • Then my hope is that, other SCS/CF Cyrus users might begin to migrate to an email service options being hosted by campus so we might fully realize savings from eliminating redundant services.
  • Will SCS/CF Cyrus be decommissioned? This will depend on what happens while we investigate user needs.