Dispatches From The Geeks

News and Announcements from the MCS Systems Group

Some upcoming changes you may have heard about

Hey, all. We’ve got some upcoming changes in the MCS IT landscape over the rest of this calendar year, and it’s probably time to announce them to everyone at large. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.

1) Argonne is phasing out Zimbra and migrating all Argonne Zimbra users to Microsoft Exchange.

Over the past year, Argonne’s been looking at ways to improve and streamline operations, and one of those fronts has been determining if there’s a genuine need to support multiple e-mail platforms. CIS formed a working group to look at the feasibility of going to a single solution (that solution being Exchange). I was part of that working group, and conducted interviews with a number of you to gather data on how we use Zimbra, and if there are any show-stopping reasons why we couldn’t use Exchange. There were representatives from every ALD on the working group, and we ultimately concluded that there was no technical reason we could not consolidate under a single service. In fact, we identified a number of advantages besides the obvious cost savings in running a single service, including improved coordination capabilities and vastly reduced support overhead for employees who move between divisions using different systems.

What does this mean for you? We’re still working that out. Timelines are very fluid at this point, and we’re working on the migration plan with CIS. They will be handling most of the effort involved in migrating people to the new service, as well as training users in changes they’ll see. We’re still gathering information, identifying potential difficulties, and helping to come up with solutions. So I don’t have anything concrete to tell you, yet, but I know word of this has been flying around already since the memo to division directors went out a little while ago. I haven’t announced anything until now because aside from “it’s going to happen at some point”, I don’t have anything really concrete to tell you.

During the working group’s evaluation, I switched over completely to Exchange and used it for a month. I found it to be perfectly capable, had no show-stopping issues, and I’m confident that once this is complete the overall user experience for e-mail and calendaring will be improved. I think that most of you won’t even notice the difference (except for the web interface changes).

There are some other changes that will come out of this process. For one, we’ll need a different solution for CI mail and calendar, since we can’t use CI authentication on the Exchange server (necessitating Argonne accounts for all e-mail users on it). We’ll deal with that issue separately and further announcements on that will go to the CI mailing list. Another change is that we’ll officially start supporting MS Outlook as a Mail and Calendar client. And, perhaps the biggest change, is announcement number 2.

2) MCS is phasing out MCS-only accounts and moving to Argonne accounts for all authentication (where possible).

With the integration of services, the onerous requirements of Argonne account policies, and a continuous drive to reduce duplication of effort, it’s become clear that the concept of the MCS-only account has to be phased out. The new e-mail service will require authentication using Argonne accounts, and Argonne as a whole is moving towards making that account be the single sign-on you use for all things Argonne. The feedback we’ve received from you, as well as our own experiences in supporting everyone has shown us that the problems resulting from remembering multiple account identities and passwords (with different password policies) far outweigh any benefit we derive from running our own account authentication system. So we’ve started working towards the model of using your Argonne account to access MCS resources.

What does this mean for you? Well, you’ll see some communication from us soon as we go through the various phases of the project. The first thing we need to do is handle cases where MCS usernames and Argonne usernames differ. We’re working with CIS on their policies regarding account names (specifically, releasing names of unused/deleted accounts for reuse), and coming up with the migration plan. In some cases, Argonne usernames will change, in some cases MCS usernames will change. It will ultimately be your decision which happens (and your e-mail address won’t change in either case, so don’t worry about that). If they already match (like mine), then congrats! You’re successfully through phase 1! Once we’ve got all usernames matched up, we’ll start rolling out the changes in our account management system such that it becomes a resource management system, using Argonne accounts as its back end.

You’ll still be able to get collaborator accounts for your collaborators, though that process will change slightly. We’ll have more details on that later, once we’ve got the process mapped out.

Later this summer I’ll schedule a town hall on both of these changes so you can see demonstrations and get better answers to the questions you’ll surely have.

3) Ken Raffenetti is leaving the group (but not MCS).

Over the next couple of months, Ken will be ramping down his involvement in the system administration side of MCS and ramping up his involvement with MPICH development, as he’ll be moving into Pavan’s group. While I’m not not happy to lose Ken’s services in the group, I’m delighted for this opportunity for him and very happy he’ll be staying with MCS and with Argonne. I’m confident he’s going to do very well in his new role! Congrats, Ken, and thanks for all you’ve done in your time with us in Systems!

That’s it for the announcements (for now). There will be more targeted communications on the various projects mentioned above, as well as general announcements on when the town hall will happen.


Written by Craig Stacey

May 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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