• United States
by Staff Writers

More from the user wish list

Jan 09, 20068 mins
Access ControlSecurityVoIP

More wishes for 2006

6. Better communication. If Jim Hite could have one wish in 2006, it would be better communication from the departments he serves at Virginia’s Prince William County schools, where he is supervisor of network services and central operations.

“When that happens, we have a clearer objective” of what the departments want and need from his group, Hite says. “As a service provider, we provide a service. The better and clearer the other departments’ objectives can be stated, the easier it is for us to respond.”

It can be difficult for departments to express what they’re looking for in terms of IT support, he says, particularly because people easily become intimidated when talking about technology. “It’s an area where a lot of fear from other departments comes about, people don’t want to seem silly or uninformed,” he says. Over the years communication has gotten better, he says, but there’s always room for improvement.

7. VoIP for consolidating operations. Bill Homa, senior vice president and CIO of Hannaford supermarkets in Scarborough, Maine, spent the last several years adding automation and virtualization technologies to his data center operations. One of the drivers for the work was server consolidation, because Hannaford was seeing just 10% utilization on Intel servers. Now that data-center operations are more cost effective, the next step will be looking at hardware in retail locations.

“We still have two servers in each store, and our goal is to get down to one and then to no servers needed in stores,” Homa explains.

Homa plans to reach this goal in 2006 using VoIP.

“For us, leveraging voice over IP is going to be big. VoIP is still relatively untouched as an application, not as a technology. Most people with VoIP just do voice, but there is the capability to have a telephone be a terminal, especially for those of us in the retail industry or any industry with many branch locations,” Homa says. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to have our phones become more than phones, to be IP devices and terminals. That would have a dramatic effect on the retail industry and help us reduce the servers needed in our store locations.”

8. A bigger budget. What Rich Cummins, manager of network services with Community Medical Centers in Fresno, Calif., wants in 2006 is 5% of his budget back. The healthcare company, which manages hospitals, clinics and extended-care facilities throughout central California with 6,200 employees, cut back on its IT budget for 2006, which means that a number of important projects will be put off this year.

Cummins has a long list of projects he would do if he could get those dollars back. First, he would hammer out an overall security architecture for his network. The company has a number of point-security solutions in place, but Cummins wants to “take a step back and look at the entire enterprise,” he says.

Next, he would continue down the path of server and storage virtualization that the company has started on. He would also upgrade his core network infrastructure of Cisco switches and routers, and evaluate the company’s data-management strategy, particularly its disaster-recovery and business-continuity plans. “We’re growing our data at a rate of 200% a year,” he says.

As for management, Cummins says he would look at enterprisewide monitoring tools that would allow his staff to be more proactive regarding issues with the network.

9. More staff. Cummins says he also would fill out his staff, adding a project manager and a network engineer, positions that are on hold. Joe Poole, manager of technical support at Boscov’s Department Stores in Reading, Pa., says a beefed-up staff is on his wish list.

“Most important, we need to increase our staff,” he says. “I need another systems programmer to begin training this year. Our networking guys are overloaded and the server guys can’t keep up with their projects. We’re way behind on our Linux conversion because of all the distractions.”

10. A break from government regulations. Government regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are putting pressure on businesses to better manage and secure digital data, and enterprise users just want a break.

“Given all the mandated activities of the past few years and all the new technologies that we’ve had to absorb, the [Sarbanes-Oxley] compliance, [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act], all those things and the new technologies we’ve put in place to deal with those regulations – give us a breather,” says Robert Rosen, president of IBM’s user group Share. “You feel like you’re running a million miles an hour, and you’re not making any progress, because the stuff is coming in so fast that you don’t have a chance to absorb it.”

“It one of those things that gets a nervous chuckle,” Rosen says. “You think it’s funny, but deep down you know it’s absolutely true.

11. Simplified SOA. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) continues to be the big buzz, as enterprise users strive to integrate Web-based applications. Al Tobey, software infrastructure development architect at Priority Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., says he wants that integration to be easier.

“I hope that SOA becomes the integrator’s dream: Vendors supply services, and I consume them,” Tobey says. “Right now the hype is for everything as a service. Experience makes me think that the right path is somewhere between nothing and everything. I have a number of vendor applications that are providing SOA-labeled services that should allow me to do integration in a much less cumbersome way than before.”

“My wish: that all [independent software vendors] get SOA and I get to reap the benefits regardless of my company’s choice of architecture – Java/JEE, .Net, LAMP, whatever.”

12. Identity management. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently migrated 1,700 employees to VoIP services as part of a move to a new campus outside Washington, D.C. Eventually, 7,700 employees will work from the new campus using a converged IP backbone, so securing access to the network is critical, says Glenn Rogers, deputy CIO of the FDA.

“One area of interest to us is identity management,” Rogers says. “One technology that we would be interested in looking at is smart-card technology with respect to accessing IT services. We’re interested in using smart cards for user log-ins.”

13. Blogs, streaming content for empowering users. At the Saugus Union School District the focus will continue this year on empowering its schools by giving teachers access to online content and blogs.

“We plan to continue to build our newly unveiled streaming-content catalog, with the goal of having some sort of content produced and posted by each school, on at least a weekly basis,” says Jim Klein, director of information services and technology at the school district in California. “This means installing additional streaming servers, as well as a good deal of training and coordination with individual school sites while they learn to build digital video content.”

Klein also plans a major roll out this month of an open source social networking Web site, called the SUSD Teacher Community site.

“This site, which is based on an open source LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP] application, will allow teachers to keep blogs, create and join interest groups [communities], share files and lesson planes in a secure way,” Klein says. “It’s something like, only it’s secured by our network systems, rules and access control lists.”

14. Stepped-up security with open source. Security is on tap for Mike Nix, director of communications technology for IT Services at the Kansas University Hospital Authority in Kansas City. Nix’s network supports a teaching hospital with some 11,000 managed nodes and 15 WAN sites. His most important technology plans in 2006 involve implementing 802.1X – both wired and wireless – to enable role-based network access and improve security via Cisco’s Network Access Control strategy.

Nix also plans to increase the company’s internal intrusion-detection systems by augmenting with the freeware IDS tool Snort, as well as using his organization’s embedded infrastructure of McAfee Antivirus and ePolicy Orchestrator products along with Cisco’s Trust Agent. The goal is to make improved security a reality for both wired and wireless users. He also plans to implement “private virtual LANs to segregate users from each other, as well as mitigate or eliminate the spread of viruses that might get through the other initiative.”

“I’ve got a laundry list of projects, but I view these as the most critical areas for improving our service to customers,” Nix says.

15. No more patches. Jeff Allred, manager of network services at the Duke University Cancer Center in Durham, N.C., says he’s tired of patching operating systems.

“If I had one thing I would like to see in the coming year, it is for someone, not necessarily Microsoft, but they come to mind for sure, but for someone to release an operating system where all the time and money was spent perfecting the operating system as opposed to worrying about new features, new bells and whistles,” he says. “To have someone actually develop [an operating system] that did not have to be patched every month – that is my wish for the New Year.”

Back to the first part of the wishlist