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Activities Report 2014-2015

Supporting the University’s Mission

Network Infrastructure and Services is a leader in provisioning advanced network services with an emphasis on robust, integrated and secure information technologies. Years of experience in the design, deployment and operation of wide-area, high-performance computing and communications networks ensure the university has highly reliable, direct access to leading edge, high-speed national and international research networks and facilities.

Whether for teaching and learning, research, administration, or community service and engagement, the Virginia Tech community has access to gigabit Ethernet, wireless local area networks, wired and wireless voice communications, video and related services, broadcast-quality teleconferencing, and a cable television system. The continuous growth in the use of mobile devices continues to drive expansion of comprehensive wireless and broadband access.

Internet-based applications such as IP videoconferencing and high-definition video provide greatly improved quality and performance for distance learning programs. In all cases, essential technical, security, and help desk support are integral to daily infrastructure operations.

Connections to resources throughout the state of Virginia and to national and global research networks such as Internet2 and National LambdaRail enable massive data transfers, allow the visualization of results and provide remote access to specialized scientific equipment.

Documented in more detail in the Vice President for Information Technology’s Annual report, a variety of key programs or projects were underway during the period:

  • Substantial expansion of wireless capacity and coverage on campus, including an ongoing implementation of wireless in all residence halls
  • A full deployment of our new distributed antenna system in Lane Stadium and our six largest residence halls to improve cellular capacity and coverage
  • The near completion of the Unified Communications project, transitioning campus away from Rolm phones
  • Improvements to our off-campus disaster recovery capabilities, including a new data backup capability at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke

Following is detailed information about the organization, projects and performance metrics.


Technical Operations

Network Infrastructure and Services designs, develops, operates and maintains the network serving the diverse and challenging needs of students, faculty, staff, researchers, and administrators. Reliability and security are paramount concerns given Virginia Tech's inherent dependence on computers and the sensitive nature of data processed. Technical operations are highly dynamic and require planning and investment in technologies of tomorrow while operating and maintaining those of today. John Pollard directs Converged Network Operations, Field Engineering, Facilities Management, Computer Aided Design/Geographic Information System, and Satellite and RF Engineering.

Converged Network Operations. Directed by Brian Jones this unit supports Application Management, Service Provisioning, and Network Operations and provides a foundation for integration of real-time communications services, including telephony, instant messaging, chat, and desktop videoconferencing with other non-real-time communications services such as email, voicemail, and fax. The multi-year roll out of Unified Communications (UC) services across campus and at university locations state-wide, continued this year.

  • UC Applications – This team oversees the emergency “blue light” telephones on the Blacksburg campus and supports critical law enforcement and service provider telecommunications needs. The applications group provides and supports UC services as well as legacy telephone and voice messaging services. The university's main campus telephone system up-time was 99.953% for FY 2013-2014.
  • Service Provisioning - Led by Vicki Wright, with assistance from Russ Eller, the Service Provisioning team is responsible for adding technical details to work order requests originated by the Customer Support Services team, including assigning, configuring and provisioning resources. This helps ensure that work orders to be processed by other internal work groups are complete and accurate, enabling those groups to complete the provisioning of requested services. This group is also instrumental in maintaining the orderly flow of work orders through the system to complete telecommunications service requests and projects on time.
  • Network Operations - Led by Ron Keller, Network Operations implements, manages, and operates the university's data network. Team members configure software, measure and analyze performance and continuously adjust the network to improve processes and throughput. To achieve reliable network systems availability, Network Operations staff members employ an array of management, testing, and troubleshooting tools and systems. Network Operations works with other NI&S engineering teams to recommend and implement improvements to existing services and related infrastructure. Network Operations activities encompass the following major areas: infrastructure planning and upgrades, network services planning and implementation, and systems and applications integration, and administration.

Field Engineering (FE) - Led by Matt Serr, FE performs the planning, design and installation of structured telecommunications cable distribution systems (both within and between buildings) which are designed to reliably and securely support Virginia Tech's communications needs. FE works closely with the University Building Official, Facilities Services, university architects, project engineers, commercial vendors and manufacturers.  FE often collaborates with vendors to customize systems to meet the needs of the university.  FE also ensures that the cabling systems, which include pathways, spaces, advanced copper and fiber-optic cabling, cable management, terminations and other related equipment, meet or exceed all required capacities and standards.  FE is responsible for activating voice, data, video and wireless services. During construction and upgrades, FE helps ensure smooth workflow, employee efficiency and safety.

Computer Aided Design/Geographic Information System (CAD/GIS) – Field Engineering benefits greatly from its computer aided design and geographic information tools for managing, troubleshooting, and strategic planning associated with the university’s computing network infrastructure.

Facilities Management - Robert Rankin’s Facilities Management unit is responsible for ensuring that the Network Infrastructure and Services-managed facilities supporting the University telecommunications infrastructure are highly reliable and secure. Facilities Management researches, specifies, and recommends products to manage and improve university telecommunications facilities and related systems. The group schedules and performs required maintenance and repairs, and also serves as the primary contact for telecommunications facilities issues.

Satellite and RF Engineering - Directed by Brian Jones and led by Tom Wynn, cable television video engineers distribute commercial television programming content via the university's cable television system.  This group accommodates local preferences for channel lineup, local programming insertion, and university informational broadcasts. They also make channels available for instructional use with the capability to store and replay instructional content as needed. Cable television video engineers also support the university by broadcasting special events for departments and the university at large. Services vary from an individual class lecture replay to university commencement exercises and interviews of notable university individuals. The team emphasizes rapid response and close collaboration with commercial providers to enhance service options, maintain high availability and a variety of programming options to meet the university’s needs. Satellite uplinks and downlinks are also provided to meet scheduled or emergent educational, athletic, or other communication needs.

Business Operations

Network Infrastructure and Services is supported by several business administration and operations units. Pat Rodgers, Director of Business Technologies, oversees the following units, which support the daily enterprise business activities and operations of the organization.

Financial Management - Dubby Charlton is the Fiscal Director for NI&S and serves as a liaison with the university's financial areas. He is responsible for the fiscal integrity of the organization including budgeting and, financial planning and analyses for all areas.

Human Resources and Safety (HRS) - Led by Dan Joyce, this group provides support to managers, supervisors, and staff in the areas of recruiting, compensation, position classification, and leave reporting. Dan also serves as NI&S' liaison to Virginia Tech's Office of Human Resources. HRS provides oversight to the department's Safety Officer, who is responsible for regulatory compliance, safety-related training, and assessment of workplace hazards.

Business Services - The Business Services group processes accounts payable (including telecommunication vendor billing) and accounts receivable, provides payroll support, and operates the Student Network Services office which provides support for students.

  • Accounts Receivable - processes monthly billings to departments, students, and others.  They are responsible for establishing requested services for customers and ensuring they are accurately billed for the services.  AR works closely with customers to provide information, as requested.  They work closely with University Design and Construction to provide In-Progress billings for capital projects, and are responsible for Revenue Management.
  • Accounts Payable - processes all payments, reimbursements, travel vouchers and purchasing card transactions for all NI&S departments in compliance with University, department, federal and state accounting and auditing policies and regulations. The Accounts Payable Department is responsible for reviewing all Atlas purchase order requests, ensuring appropriate documentation is completed, and obtaining administrative approval before submitting all orders through the proper university procurement channels. Invoices are reviewed and compared to approved orders and receiving reports (if required) before sending to the University Controller’s Office for payment.  Payments are posted in Atlas and monthly expense reconciliations are performed. Accounts Payable serves as the primary point of contact for significant efforts requiring interaction with Purchasing, the Controller's office, the Bursar's Office, the Virginia Tech Foundation, Sponsored Programs, Legal Counsel, and others on a variety of procurement issues/contracts.  Accounts Payable works closely with Accounts Receivable and Customer Support Services to ensure accurate customer telecommunications billing. Accounts Payable is also responsible for managing all maintenance contract and licensure renewals for CNS. The Accounts Payable Manager works closely with the NI&S Fiscal Director and Management team to provide expenditure tracking, budgetary, payroll, cellular ownership/usage and other reports as requested by the University Controller’s Office, Budget Office and others.

4Help IT Support - Directed by Joyce Landreth, 4Help IT Support is comprised of the Virginia Tech Operations Center (VTOC) and University Computing Support (UCS). 4HELP is a single point-of-contact for questions and issues relevant to centrally-provided computing and telecommunications services.

  • The Virginia Tech Operations Center (VTOC) is comprised of the Call Center, Network Operations, and the University Switchboard. The VTOC provides “24 x 7” support for all central information technology applications and services, including the voice and data network and campus television. The VTOC proactively monitors networks, systems, and services. The VTOC receives trouble calls and opens tickets to track and document the diagnosis, escalation, and resolution of reported problems.  The University Switchboard provides 24 x 7 support for callers seeking information about a University office or entity.  A key component of Virginia Tech's emergency communication system during campus emergencies, switchboard operators function as a critical channel of VT Alerts, the university's emergency information distribution and feedback system.
  • The University Computing Support (UCS) team consists of the Help Desk, Special Student Programs, the Content and Knowledge Management (CKM) group and NI&S Desktop and User Support.
  • Help Desk consultants resolve escalated problem tickets and serve as liaisons with other Virginia Tech information technology groups.
  • Special Student Programs provides support for New Student Orientation and includes the Get Connected Program to assist students with Information Technology each fall during move-in.
  • CKM publishes and manages documentation for university Information Technology products and services.   CKM also maintains, a one-stop computing resource site that describes many services and applications provided by Information Technology.
  • The NI&S Desktop and User Support team administers over 300 desktop systems, mobile computers, a classroom, and several Windows servers in support of NI&S staff.

Inventory Management - Led by Jerry Surface, Network Infrastructure and Services’ Warehouse is the central receiving point for the majority of the department’s inventory. Warehouse personnel ensure all items are received in an undamaged state, are properly recorded in the department's inventory management system, and are responsible for issuing material to fulfill work orders and projects. The group collaborates with the university Controller's Office to ensure any incoming inventory, classified as a university fixed asset, is promptly and accurately recorded in Banner. As of June 2015, the value of inventory at the warehouse site was approximately $5.5M. This figure is dynamic in nature as items are constantly being received and surplused. 

Process and Compliance Management - The Process and Compliance Management group reviews existing business processes, identifies areas for improvements, coordinates the implementation of improvements, and supports the development of new processes.

Infrastructure and Software Development

Infrastructure and Software Development (ISD) is led by Joe Hutson and includes Software Development, Infrastructure and Service Development, and Emerging Technologies groups. ISD is responsible for planning and designing Virginia Tech’s next-generation communications solutions.

Software Development. Led by Morgan Allen, Software Development develops and maintains information systems and software applications, as well as performing database administration for the NI&S organization. The group includes the following teams and functions:

  • Oracle Forms and PL/SQL Development – This group maintains and improves the organization’s legacy Enterprise Resource Planning system that supports internal administrative functions including accounting, billing, inventory, work order and call detail accounting. Additionally, the team provides integration support for new software development initiatives.
  • Java Development - The Java team builds and maintains software systems and Web applications to support all aspects of the Network Infrastructure and Services organization.  These applications support users throughout the university as well as guests and partners of the university. The focus of this team is to leverage modern development technologies and methodologies to replace legacy systems and deliver improved solutions. The team collaborates with the Chief Technology Architect and makes extensive use of “Agile” methodologies. The team also develops and maintains VT Alerts applications (the university's emergency information distribution and feedback system) and provides support for important development in other areas of the university.
  • Database and Security Administration - Oracle and PostgreSQL systems are managed by the Database Administration group. The team operates approximately 20 Oracle instances and 15+ PostgreSQL instances in support of Network Infrastructure and Services’ administrative systems.

Emerging Technologies - Emerging Technologies is comprised of a team of Network Infrastructure and Services engineers collaborating with Virginia Tech’s Chief Technology Architect to develop a strategic vision for the delivery of next-generation services and infrastructure for the university community. Team personnel conduct theoretical and practical research in network protocols, standards, services, methodologies, and best practices. The team acts as a liaison to research faculty defining advanced network and application requirements to meet their needs. Collaborating with the Research & Development group, the team is responsible for maintaining the primary architectural elements of the campus communications environment including:

  • Core Infrastructure - The core network infrastructure provides high performance and high availability communications services to all campus networks and communications services. In its central role, it interconnects all networks and services on campus.
  • Virtualization of Network Resources - The campus is composed of several networks that are implemented as a virtual partitioning of the infrastructure. As a key security concern, policy dictates how these networks can interact with each other.
  • Connectivity to Internet and Research and Education Networks - Connectivity to the outside world is through two independent, diverse, and fully redundant connections to level one communications points of presence. Policy drives traffic engineering toward multiple Internet and Research & Education service providers.
  • Research Computing and Data Center Connectivity - Research dissemination and academic/administrative computing require specialized communications capabilities. Research Computing utilizes the ASCED science DMZ facilities for data dissemination and remote collaboration. The data center supports the advanced communications needs of academic and administrative computing services.
  • Infrastructure Support to Unified Communications - The basis of the university’s successful Unified Communications service is a high availability and high performance network infrastructure. This infrastructure provides the necessary isolation, connectivity, and quality of service required.

Network Security - Led by Phil Benchoff, Network Security registers and manages Internet protocol (IP) addresses and administers other activities critical to network security. The Network Security staff provides consulting and engineering assistance in the areas of networking, security, and systems administration, as well as support for special applications. Network Registry services provided include: 

  • IP Address Assignment - Every host (computer) in the Internet has an IP address. This unit manages the IP addresses assigned to Virginia Tech.
  • IP Domain Name Service (DNS) - DNS associates host names with IP addresses.
  • Network Time Protocol Distribution (NTP) - NTP is used to distribute accurate time to all systems on the network, a critical service supporting network security and physical safety and security.
  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Service - DHCP automatically configures network connections for registered hosts allowing those hosts to be moved among networks without manual reconfiguration by a system administrator.
  • Design and Development - The Design and Development group develops systems and tools for efficient, effective, address registration and management.

Wide Area Networking (WAN) - The WAN group, led by John Lawson, provides network administration and problem resolution support for broadband services that support communities throughout the Commonwealth, and high performance networks which support the unique needs of universities and researchers in Virginia and throughout the region.  Their responsibilities include coordination with network service providers and collaboration with partners in regional, national and international networks to support research in Virginia.

Research and Development (R&D) - Led by Steven Lee, R&D engineers collaborate with other NI&S engineering staff to identify new technologies and tools to support the evolving networking needs of the university, including knowledge transfer and development of references for training of NI&S troubleshooting staff. Near-term, new and upgraded services are being identified to address the increasing demand for converged technologies and to facilitate implementation of distributed applications, mobile wireless networking, and pervasive computing. As required, R&D develops customized solutions to support unique research, academic, residential, and administrative requirements, and provides technical support to the Virginia Tech community to ensure all network services and applications function optimally.

R&D consults with industry and user groups on multimedia and next generation applications, and promotes the use of information technology within the university and research community.

Business Intelligence

Morgan Allen’s Business Intelligence team provides solutions for data analyses to support strategic planning, project planning, project analysis and organizational monitoring and analysis.  The team manages and develops Jaspersoft intelligence reports and online analytical processing (OLAP) solutions.

Client Services/Special Projects & Initiatives

Richard Hach is the Director of the Client Services organization within Network Infrastructure and Services. This unit supports Network Infrastructure and Services’ Business Operations, and supervises Administrative Support and Communications, Customer Support Services, Service Management, Project Management and Student Network Services. His duties include the implementation of special projects and initiatives, the development of relationships with other government agencies and vendors, long-term planning, evaluation of new technologies and services, network design assistance, cost analysis, contract negotiation, customer communication, and problem resolution. Richard is also the program director of NetworkVirginia. In addition, he represents the university at meetings of outside organizations including EDUCAUSE, the Advanced Core Technologies Initiative (ACTI) Communication Collaboration and Mobility (CCM) Working Group (a working group of the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research), The Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), and serves on the QUILT Inc. Board of Directors.

NI&S Brand Development and Implementation.  Following the initial orientation to the NI&S Brand effort, work continued to reinforce brand behavior and roll-out coaching material to NI&S. Ongoing work was conducted with managers, supervisors and staff to reinforce brand behavior, and identify and measure results in performance planning. Coaching material was developed and distributed June 2015.   A second longitudinal customer survey will be developed and distribution is currently planned for January 2016.

Business Operations. As the Director of Business Operations, Roy Smith plans, directs, and oversees the day-to-day operational activities of Customer Support Services, Service Management, Administrative Support and Communications, and Project Management.

Administrative Support and Communications. The Public Relations team provides administrative support to NI&S and facilitates strategic communication between NI&S, and the university community.  The team is also directly involved in the internal communication process. Jeff Kidd is the Public Relations Manager for NI&S.  This area also includes reception services, web design and development, and documentation support. Internet-based copyright infringement notifications received by the university are also promptly processed in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Customer Support Services. The Customer Support Services (CSS) team facilitates and fulfills customer requests for telecommunications equipment and services. Bill Blevins is the Senior Communications Account Manager. CSS provides consulting and planning assistance for major telecommunications projects, including the infrastructure planning for new building construction.

Project Management. Virginia Tech Information Technology was granted project management authority under the provisions of the Higher Education Restructuring Act.  Henry Floyd, a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP), is the IT Project Administrator for NI&S.

Quality Assurance

The Quality Assurance office, directed by Kimberley Homer and staffed by interns Kyle Redican, Sam Kilgus and Joel Lasher, focused on changes to embedded processes so that improvements could be made without disrupting ongoing operations.  Activities developed this year:

  • Coordinated with the Logistics manager to streamline procedures to surplus equipment saving labor and warehouse space
  • With the Logistics manager, identified process bottlenecks for delivery of materials to Field Engineering staff; Logistics now offers field delivery of material.
  • Simplified the process for requesting and receiving 12’ Avaya telephone handset cords.
  • Analyzed and charted the NI&S Atlas work order system, and identified some queues that could be run in tandem or eliminated, allowing for faster billing.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) director Kimberley Homer and staff from Desktop Support, Field Engineering, and Network Engineering piloted a Data Plan Reimbursement that supported the use of secure personal mobile devices in the field, ahead of the Controller’s Office approval for such a plan.
  • In collaboration with Business Operations, Customer Support, and Applications Engineering, removed the requirement that all students log in to the Customer Online Access portal (COLA) to order the wireless and VPN service for which they were already paying, and set up an opt-out process for students who don’t want it.
  • QA interns Joel Lasher, Sam Kilgus, and Kyle Redican developed procedures to test and verify that wireless installations met or exceeded design standards.  Joel, Sam, and Kyle developed a process using an Android app, CAD drawings, and RF heat maps to assess each wireless access point installation in the Residential Network Upgrade project, and then stored the test results on a Google Drive.  Kyle was also able to render Wi-Fi coverage maps for outdoor wireless installations.
  • Converted the SAMS (Scheduling and Announcement of Maintenance Subcommittee) Exchange meeting invitation to a Google Calendar and Google Group so that routine and unplanned maintenance could be communicated more effectively, and coordinated with the Call Center, so they would also be aware of maintenance events.
  • Analyzed email account entitlement with regards to affiliation and started a communication and de-provisioning process.  Many university business process dependencies on email came to light as a result of this effort, which has been referred to the Communications and Collaboration Technology Steering Committee for further study.

Strategic Initiatives

Strategic Initiatives (SI), directed by Jeff Crowder, directly supports Information Technology's executive administration in strategic programs and special projects with a goal of enhancing the quality and competitiveness of university research and instruction through advanced, broadband technology. SI programs include the following:

VT Technology Assets, LLC - The Virginia Tech Foundation (VTF) created VT Technology Assets, LLC (VT-TA), a wholly owned subsidiary, in 2011. The purpose of VT-TA is to hold strategic technology assets for the benefit of the university. VT-TA allows Virginia Tech to develop partnerships and expand the use of assets to increase their value to the university and to promote economic benefits for the commonwealth and the region. Assets currently held by VT-TA include over three thousand miles of fiber-optic cable leases, wireless spectrum licenses, software development licenses, a high performance regional network serving the National Capital Region, telepresence conferencing systems, and investment interests in related nonprofit corporations including the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance.  The Strategic Initiatives division manages the full portfolio under contract to the Virginia Tech Foundation.

Regional Fiber/Network - Virginia Tech leveraged federal funding through the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) to build an open access fiber optic network path spanning over 110 miles from Blacksburg to Bedford through several rural communities.  A high capacity network using Dense Mode Wave Division Multiplexing technology was constructed using the BTOP fiber to connect the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke to the main campus in Blacksburg with multiple 10Gbps wavelengths.   This network supports connectivity for the institute as well as a disaster recovery facility located at CRI.   Virginia Tech partnered with Radford University and other area BTOP projects to create a regional fiber ring which allows VT to provide network services to RU including access to Internet2.    Virginia Tech negotiated with Level3 Communications to use the BTOP fiber to locate a new Level3 On-Net node in Blacksburg to make Tier 1 internet access available for the first time in Blacksburg.   Network Infrastructure and Services continues to manage the BTOP grant on behalf of VT Technology Assets, LLC, a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation. 

Internet2 - Since 1998, Virginia Tech has provided high performance access to Internet2 for member universities and K-20 participants in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Individuals using the Virginia Tech network automatically connect to Internet2 resources. In 2015, Virginia Tech upgraded our university connection to Internet2 to 100Gbps.

Systems Support

E-Communications Services and Windows Administration Services Team (ECS-WAS) - Directed by William Dougherty and led by Ron Jarrell, the ECS-WAS team provides 99.97% or greater availability for all centralized messaging systems (email — including the VT Google email offering for all users—instant messaging/chat services, mobile messaging, USENET news) and operating system and hardware administration support for all non-UNIX-based centralized services. The team maintains the Virginia Tech UNIX/Linux mirror site. ECS-WAS staff respond to Internet abuse complaints, function as members of the Computer Incident Response Team, and provide e-discovery services in support of civil, criminal, and regulatory investigations. The ECS-WAS team is planning for a migration to Microsoft Office365 from legacy Microsoft applications and shared folder systems.

Storage Management Team (SMT) - Directed by William Dougherty and led by Wanda Baber, SMT provides self-managed storage and backup/archive facilities for 1500 client systems (99.95% up-time for the period). SMT administers storage that provides block-level Storage Area Network (SAN) for large, data-intensive applications (100% up-time) and file-level network-attached storage (NAS) devices (100% up-time for the period) for desktop/laptop users and departmental-level file-sharing.

SMT also administers the high-performance storage for research parallel applications (100% up-time), and an archival storage system (SGI DMF) deployed in FY 2012 to support research computing efforts (99.92% uptime for this period).  Both systems have since been expanded to other users. Additional storage systems were deployed to support the networked video surveillance camera systems data (100% uptime for this period).

Ninety-five percent of all usable storage serves academic and research purposes. SMT participates in e-discovery efforts as the bulk of the data collected and preserved resides on storage and backup/archive equipment administered by SMT staff. SMT also administers and provides user support for the university's LISTSERV system (99.98% up-time for the period due to aging hardware). 

UNIX Administration Services - Led by Tim Rhodes, the UNIX Administration Services team supports UNIX/Linux-based hardware and operating systems for Enterprise applications (such as Banner, Enterprise Data Warehouse and the Enterprise Directory) and Research Computing clusters.  Standardization across all systems enables a small team to provide 99.989% availability for over 420 enterprise systems and more than 700 research systems. 

The UNIX team provides systems administration support to twelve (12) groups within Virginia Tech Information Technology. The UNIX team also provides system and security administration for 130 systems directly supporting the telecommunications auxiliary work, including database, application and web servers, and network infrastructure systems that support all aspects of the organization and network.

E-Discovery and Data Center

E-Discovery Team - Led by William Dougherty, the E-Discovery group provides support to Virginia Tech's University Legal Counsel. The bulk of centrally managed information technology resources are administered by members of NI&S. University Counsel continues to provide funding for a dedicated full time position involved in collecting and preserving E-Discovery data. Lynn Donahue reports to Michael Moyer, the Data Center Manager, and meets regularly with the legal unit.

Data Center Management - Managed by Mike Moyer, the Data Center is located in the Andrews Information Systems Building (AISB) located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. Moyer is responsible for coordinating all cross-departmental research and project-related activity, including monitoring electrical power, environmental systems, and ensuring the availability of adequate physical space and network resources. The AISB Data Center's operations are coordinated with the auxiliary emergency center located in Cassell Coliseum. Mike coordinates with other university information technology units to ensure availability of needed telecommunications and storage network facilities, and prepares appropriate documentation, including project proposals and project management forms.

Network Infrastructure and Services Advisory Subcommittee

Chaired by the Executive Director and the NI&S Leadership team, this advisory group involves constituents in technology-related issues, discussions, and planning. The NI&S Advisory Committee has been charged “to provide advice and counsel that assists in guiding, supporting, and communicating Network Infrastructure and Services’ strategic aims at Virginia Tech.” Membership is drawn from academic, research, and administrative areas, and includes members of the student body, as well as alumni.

Over the last several years, NI&S acquired and deployed next-generation technologies to assist the university in reaching its strategic goals, including pursuing a top-30 research status, providing technology-enriched learning environments, and improving services available to the residential population. To those ends, the committee has and will continue to advise NI&S leadership as it integrates strategic directions for voice, data, and video; identifies and analyzes needs; and evaluates alternatives related to network infrastructure, computing systems, and services.


Network Operation and Management

F5 Application Load Balancing service – This new load balancing (ALB) Service was built to replace the dated Foundry/Brocade Server Iron Server Load Balancing (SLB) service. The ALB service provides a highly available, scalable, application-delivery mechanism to services in the AISB Data Center. The service is designed and configured to distribute high volumes of network demand for a particular service (e.g. across an array of physical or virtual machines. This server array functions as a single device, providing both high-capacity processing and service redundancy, while minimizing service latency and outages.  

Application Load Balancing services offered:

  • Preproduction/development - sandbox environment for testing of services before being placed in a production environment. 
  • Production - hardware-redundant environment for critical services
  • Full support for IPv4 and IPv6 services and improved management and monitoring capabilities for system administrators.

RLAN VPN - The Restricted/Limited Access Network (RLAN) provides additional layers of protection for network and computing environments used by employees who work with personally identifiable information. Growing use of the service requires a secure and reliable method of remote access. Network Infrastructure and Services collaborated with the university’s Information Technology Security Office to design and implement a secure virtual private network (VPN) service. The RLAN VPN ensures authorized remote users have secure access to specific resources on the restricted network. 

Border Network Address Translation - The continuing rapid growth of the volume of devices including laptops, mobile devices, and sensors connecting to Virginia Tech's network dramatically increased the demand for and use of very limited availability IPv4 private addresses (RFC-1918). To better address this need, internal private addressing uses Network Address Translation or NAT devices. Network Infrastructure and Services replaced and redesigned the existing NAT service to meet current and anticipated university demands for IPv4 addresses.  The new NAT design provides a 40X increase in bandwidth, improves upon the resiliency of the service and allows for the network to accommodate millions of devices.

eduroam @ National Capital Region campuses - Network Infrastructure and Services and the National Capital Region (NCR) Operations team collaborated to extend the Virginia Tech eduroam service to three NCR facilities:

  • College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ School of Public and International Affairs
  • Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center
  • Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington

eduroam is a federated, secure wireless network service that enables students, faculty, and staff to use their home institution’s Wi-Fi credentials to access the Internet at participating colleges, universities, and institutions throughout the world—without having to set up a guest account.

Capital and Renovation Projects

Field Engineering (FE) continued to collaboratively design, build, and maintain the physical infrastructure necessary to support the university’s network services. Working closely with the architects, engineers, and project managers of the University Design and Construction and University Planning offices during project development, Network Infrastructure Installation (NII) designed and installed telecommunications distribution systems that meet or exceed all industry standards in support of university operations.

In coordination with the University Building Official, FE ensured that new installations for Unified Communications (UC) building upgrades and routine orders were code-compliant. FE also coordinated its activities with Facilities Services and Housing & Residence Life to minimize disruption of university operations and planned its work schedules to avoid disturbing classroom and student life activities. Over the past year, telecommunications infrastructure was installed for the following new construction and major capital projects:

Indoor Athletic Training Facility - Wired and wireless network services were installed throughout this benchmark facility, which is 210 feet wide and 400 feet long with a top-of-the-line synthetic turf. The height from the playing surface to the bottom of the steel ceiling trusses is more than 86 feet at its apex, allowing plenty of room for punting and kicking. Three doors at separate locations lead out to observation decks to allow the video staff to film the outdoor portions of practice.

Marching Virginians Center - The Marching Virginians Center includes a lighted artificial turf practice field, a storage building, and an open air pavilion. The 4,300-square-foot building offers space for instrument storage and percussion practice, and an attached, 7,000-square-foot pavilion provides covered space for the full band to practice, rain or shine. Wireless access points installed throughout the pavilion offer network access and the practice field light poles have network pathway systems pre-installed for future outdoor wireless enhancements.  

Upper Quad Residential Facilities Phase I – Pearson Hall – The Corps of Cadets newest residence hall on the Upper Quad contains 234 dorm rooms with study and lounge spaces on each level. The 101,422-square-foot building has five above-ground floors, a basement, and a room for storing the corps' cannon, Skipper.  In-room cable TV, wired network access, and a wall-to-wall wireless network have been installed in the new Corps residence hall. A second Corps residence hall to replace Brodie Hall is scheduled to be completed in the next 12 to 18 months.

Dairy Science Complex – Kentland Farm - This new state-of-the-art complex features the latest in dairy science technology on a 35-acre site. Its creation ensures the long-term success of Virginia Tech’s award-winning dairy science program and contributes to the land-grant mission of the university.  Wired and wireless infrastructure throughout the facility allows for many network based systems to enhance the research needs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

McBryde Hall Auditorium - The McBryde Hall Auditorium, one of the most heavily used instructional auditoriums on campus, received a $2.8 million renovation to improve accessibility, technology, seating, and acoustical performance. FE’s installation of a robust, high-bandwidth wireless infrastructure and wireless access points ensures that all 540 seats have ready access to strong, secure wireless network services.

Telecommunications infrastructure work was also underway for the following capital projects:

  • Airport Hanger Replacement
  • New Classroom Building
  • Upper Quad Residential Facilities Improvement (Brodie Replacement)

University Planning Design and Construction scheduled the following projects to start within the next two years, requiring comprehensive telecommunications infrastructure design consultation for the telephone and computing network services:

  • Fire Alarm Systems & Access
  • Health Center Improvements at McComas Hall
  • Renovate, Renew Academic Buildings (Davidson, Sandy & Liberal Arts)
  • Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Data Center Expansion

New cable infrastructure was installed and the following buildings were migrated to Unified Communications Voice-over-Internet Protocol, digital, and analog services:

  • Burruss Hall
  • Owens Hall
  • Cheatham Hall
  • Patton Hall
  • Dietrick Hall
  • Price Hall
  • East Eggleston Hall
  • Robeson Hall
  • Femoyer Hall
  • Saunders Hall
  • Hillcrest Hall
  • Wallace Hall
  • Holden Hall
  • Whittemore Hall
  • Hutcheson Hall



Residential Network Upgrade (RNU) - The Field Engineering (FE) group assisted with the overall RNU project to design, procure, and install the technology assets required to provide comprehensive, high-performance, wired and wireless network service in Virginia Tech’s residence halls. FE led tasks included to following:

  • Wired - Prepare thirty-five of the campus residence hall’s cable plant for an upgraded wired access infrastructure which will, when combined with upgraded network electronics, provides students up to 1000 Mbps Ethernet service.
  • Wireless - Installation of over 1800 Wireless Access Point devices in thirty-four residence halls to provide wall-to-wall wireless services of up to 850 Mbps.
  • Emergency Phones - Installation of cable plant and devices to provide over two hundred emergency phones which allow for a direct line of communication to campus emergency dispatch.

Fiber upgrade for DSL Buildings - To support decommissioning of the legacy DSL (digital subscriber line) service in the fall of 2014, NI&S outside plant crews and network engineers collaboratively designed and installed new fiber optic cabling in twenty-two outlying campus buildings.  The new connectivity allows these buildings to connect to the campus network at the same network speeds as other university buildings.  

University Computing Support

Service Now - In September 2014, Virginia Tech Information Technology Support replaced their Helpdesk incident management system with ServiceNow, an enterprise-wide cloud-based Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) solution. Over the next several months, other IT units interested in developing an ITIL-based service strategy began using ServiceNow.

Service Catalog - New capabilities offered through the implementation of ServiceNow spawned interest across IT in the development an organization-wide service catalogue/service portfolio. A multi-pronged effort to conceptualize and populate an IT Portfolio/Service Catalog, using an ITIL based approach, was launched to begin efforts to develop an IT-wide portfolio of services. Led by Claire Gilbert, the Director for Strategy & Analysis for the Office of the Vice President for IT & CIO, a pilot group of four of IT’s largest groups– (Network Infrastructure and Services (NI&S), Enterprise Systems, Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies and Identity Management Services was initially established to begin work on the first Phase of the Service Catalog.  Project work was divided into three (3) specific tracks that focused on: 1) developing pilot documentation of these four units’ IT services, 2) designing the look and feel of the catalog and 3) implementing the Service Catalog.

The pilot group was later expanded to include all central IT units in order to provide an opportunity for all public facing services to be included in the first iteration of the Service Catalog.  UCS staff members (Kimberly Homer, Kevin Davis, Anne Sheppard and Graduate Assistant Allison Homer) participated as Project Team members in conjunction with other central IT staff members to work on Track 1 and Track 2 initiatives throughout the year. From December 2014 to May 2015, work completed on Track 1 included the development of a finely detailed “Master Matrix of Services” that included over 100 university information technology services and hundreds of subservices. The matrix provided a way for each service to be thoroughly documented so the project team could determine, along with the Service Owner, if the service should be included in the Service Catalog. Work on Track 1 also included consultation with a peer university with a fully established Service Catalog to obtain advice on the creation and implementation of Virginia Tech’s Service Catalog.

Work on Track 2 focused on the design of the Service Catalog and was completed during the same time frame. Track 2 included significant research in order to reach the goal of creating a highly accessible and aesthetically pleasing catalog. A Categorization Study of over fifty university service catalogs was completed to better understand how other universities identified service categories. A statistical analysis was then completed on the Categorization Study to determine the mean, median, mode, maximum, and minimum number of categories used. Next, Service Catalog benchmarking was completed by analyzing nearly 100 service catalogs based on ITIL recommendations and usability guidelines. Project team members analyzed the benchmarking and key design recommendations and preferences were discussed in detail. Key recommendations were then captured and summarized to inform the development, design and implementation of the Service Catalog. The culmination of this work was the successful launch of the first iteration of Virginia Tech’s Service Catalog.

BigFix/Patch Management for Departmental IT and RLAN _- The Information Technology Security Office (ITSO) and University Computing Support (UCS) staff collaborated to support a system capable of patching desktop operating systems and third-party software on machines in both the Restricted-Limited Access Network (RLAN) and traditional department network environments. Since implementation of IBM’s Endpoint Manager (BigFix), there are more than 3300 machines in over 16 departments benefiting from the solution.

IBM’s Endpoint Manager (BigFix) has functioned as a cost-effective solution that is scalable in Virginia Tech’s environment. It allows departments to control their own patching, with little required maintenance. System and performance milestones for the period: 

  • Virtual Server is performing nearly at capacity
  • Plans are being implemented to obtain a new physical server 
  • Client licenses quickly consumed all initially procured licenses; a survey of enrolled departments and other departments interested in enrolling indicates a potential of 3,500 to 4000 potential new clients
  • Restricted Limited Access Network machines are performing well
  • To address compromised systems on campus, several analyses were combined into one Windows analysis to check for multiple potential attach vectors
  • Analyses are being developed to check for similar vectors for Linux and Mac operating systems.

ACC Computer Ordering/Delivery improvements - Over 300 computers were successfully purchased then distributed to eligible E&G funded employees throughout the university community. The process of scanning machines was streamlined this year to help automate and make the issuing process more efficient.

Fall Move-In Computing Support - As students moved in and started their first week of classes for the fall 2014 semester, the 4Help Helpdesk and the Get Connected Program collaboratively provided convenient walk-in computing support at the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 4Help consultants and Get Connected staff, along with full-time University Computing Support (UCS) staff, provided phone and email support to nearly 1400 students, as well as in-person support for approximately 1100 cases. To encourage students to set up their own devices, 4Help developed a “Computing 101” website, where students choose their major and operating system. The site then generated a sequence of instructions specifically tailored to assist students with setting up their devices. A Parallels virtual machine was created to quickly address needs for using Windows on a Mac and, building on the successful results of last year, 4Help-led Boot Camp sessions. In the technical support room, relevant videos from our HokieHowTo channel ( were played on a loop to encourage people in our waiting area to attempt to resolve their device issues.

Get Connected Program - In addition to collaborating with the 4Help Helpdesk, individual Get Connected (GC) staff were assigned and dispatched to specific residence hall quads to troubleshoot, set up, and configure new residence hall students’ computers, mobile devices, and routers during move-in. Since routers were permitted to be used in residence hall rooms, a generic router setup video was created in preparation for Get Connected. In 2014, the top three issues that GC staff resolved were routers, printers, and connections to the university’s wireless network. GC staff handled 158 router setups, 108 printer setups, and configuration of wireless connections in 77 cases. In addition to these major issues, staff assisted with installing Microsoft Office on Mac and Windows computers, connecting devices to the Ethernet, setting up televisions, assisting with installs of the student software bundles, and setting up Parallels (adding a Windows operating system to a Mac). Staff also marketed 4Help staff services by, leaving business cards with 4Help’s phone number and website with every student they worked with. In addition, they hung door hangtags on each resident’s door directing users to computing self-help resources, as well as informing residents of other ways to get assistance. During the four days of move-in and while assisting the Corps of Cadets, 29 GC staff provided in-person computing assistance to 504 students in the residence halls.

Gobblerfest - In a third year of collaboration, ITSO and 4Help operated a booth at Gobblerfest (a festival to welcome students, staff, faculty, and community members in the early fall) to market 4Help’s services and share information about how to stay safe on the Internet. Topics included recognizing and avoiding phishing attempts, never sharing one’s password, and using social media thoughtfully. As in years past, large crowds of students are engaged by playing a game of Plinko or spinning a wheel to win prizes. Representatives from ITSO and 4Help distributed informational material and talked with students about computing security. Plinko and spin the wheel contain game inserts for cases when the student loses the game—typically along the lines of “Got phished, try again!” or “Downloaded malware, spin again,” which encourages contextual conversation with the student about what it means to be phished or to download malware. Promotional items directed students to ITSO’s security awareness website ( to learn more about securing their computer and staying safe on the Internet.

Goobler Fest4Help also marketed their Twitter account, @4HelpTweets at Gobblerfest. In an effort to heighten interest and increase participation, followers were provided with computing tips and information about computing services, as well as opportunities to retweet important IT information for a chance to win prizes.

Cyber Security Promotion and Staff Appreciation Day 2015 - Cyber security safety was promoted during October, Cyber Security Awareness Month, with a crossword puzzle that contained many questions and answers on the topic of computer security. Students submitted their completed crosswords to our Twitter account and, if the crossword was correct, the students were entered into a random drawing for a prize. In completing the puzzle, participants learned about smart security practices.

On May 20, 2015, 4Help and ITSO staff teamed up again to provide Cyber Security information as a part of two games for Staff Appreciation Day. As with Gobblerfest, the games drew large crowds and invited discussion about being secure on the Internet and not being fooled by phishing emails. Prizes that were distributed directed staff both to security and technical support resources.

4HelpTweets - In its third year, the @4HelpTweets Twitter account grew from 600 to 1000 followers after being advertised at New Student Orientation, as well as being retweeted by other major Virginia Tech Twitter accounts. Originally intended to reach incoming freshmen, the account continues its momentum in gaining followers from departments, student organizations, and members of the IT community. 4Help staff use the account to tweet and retweet IT-related events as well as university-specific information, especially in conjunction with @VT_NIS (our department’s account). Information about computing at Virginia Tech or interesting technological information is shared with the campus community when pertinent, though the account tweets on a weekly basis. Users’ questions are responded to via Twitter and are often relayed by other university Twitter accounts. 4HelpTweets continues to award prizes for retweeting pertinent IT information, especially during the week of move-in and Gobblerfest. 

Wintermester - During December 2014, Virginia Tech held the second year of a special academic Winter Session between the fall and spring terms. Referred to as Wintermester, the session is designed to augment students’ progress toward fulfilling their degree requirements and also provides participants with the opportunity to get ahead in coursework, fulfill a course requirement or explore a new area of interest. Visiting students were able to experience Virginia Tech scholarly offerings in an abbreviated time-period.  Close to 2000 students took part in studies of 128 courses offered in four settings:

  • Virtual – 100% online.
  • Blended – Combination of online and in classroom.
  • Winter Experience – Study abroad courses are offered internationally and domestically. 
  • On-campus – Course offered on the Blacksburg campus.

University Computing Support and the Virginia Tech Operations Center (VTOC) made special provisions during a period the university is otherwise shut down to provide increased consulting support and services in collaboration with our IT service partners (e.g. Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies). Participating students, faculty and staff benefited from a comprehensive list of additional support measures and exclusive escalation paths which enabled customer support representatives and Information Technology consultants to promptly transfer problem report tickets to the appropriate service partner.

Diversity Allies - NI&S employees are committed to practicing Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community—creating an environment that fosters a diverse and inclusive community and supports mutual respect and understanding of all individuals. Several staff members completed courses offered by the university’s Diversity Development Institute. These courses allowed attendees to explore differing attitudes, to use and advance inclusive language and behavior, and to gain a better understanding of the complexities of identity. University Computing Support staff member Amanda Cooper and VTOC Supervisor Brian D. Jones received their Diversity Ally Certificates. UCS staff members Anne Sheppard and Joyce Landreth earned their Diversity Advocate Certificates.

Web Software Development

Network Management Application -   The Network Management Application (NMA) was developed to provide capabilities for viewing building nomenclature, network data traffic and to assess the status of network devices and device classes. The NMA’s improved accuracy and efficiency increased productivity of NI&S’s network engineers. The application is used primarily by Converged Network Operations, Research & Development, and Virginia Tech Operations Center teams.

Customer OnLine Access & Guest web portals - Web Software Development group moved the Customer OnLine Access and guest portals off old servers and onto new equipment, while maintaining existing applications and applying software patches and updates. As a result, systems availability met or exceeded objectives.

ATLAS Support for Residential Network Upgrade

During summer 2015, a large-scale project brought comprehensive, high-performance, Ethernet, wireless network coverage and special Emergency Phones to Virginia Tech’s residence halls.

Network Infrastructure and Services’ ATLAS system team provided critical data analysis, application development and modification, and extensive order-processing automation behind-the-scenes to ensure these important upgrades for all residence halls were completed during the summer months.

Bringing wireless coverage to the residence halls included the design, planning, and installation of approximately 1,800 wireless access points (WAPs) in 34 residential buildings on campus, along with the upgrade of all Ethernet access switches that furnish power and connections to Virginia Tech’s computing network.

The wireless network upgrade used technology designed to support speeds up to 850Mbps in all residence hall rooms along with a single, wired, 1 Gbps Ethernet connection per room.  Lounges and many other public areas with seating also now have wireless coverage.  

Customer Support Services

Account Representatives with Customer Support Services (CSS) worked as advisors with major departments, including but not limited to the College of Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and collaborated successfully on their communications projects.

During the report period, building infrastructure updates continued, re-cabling active services to meet the Unified Communications standard.  More than 3,100 orders were written to install voice-over-IP equipment for customers in nine buildings. 

  • Pamplin Hall
  • Burruss Hall
  • Southgate Center
  • Wallace Hall
  • New Hall West
  • Ambler Johnston
  • Roanoke Street Partnership
  • Building 1861
  • Graduate Life Center

Customer Support Services provided customer engagement, internal support and customer work order support for the following projects:

  • Indoor Athletics Training Facility
  • Marching Virginians Pavilion
  • New Classroom Building
  • Pearson Hall
  • Residential Network Upgrade Wireless Access
  • Residential Network Upgrade Wired Access
  • Residential Network Upgrade Aggregation Network
  • Cheatham Computer Re-cable
  • Campus Cameras 2015
  • South Recreation Fields
  • Equine Medical Center Network Upgrade

Developing and Evaluating Emerging Technologies

Following are summaries of key projects under review.

MARIA 100G - Accelerating Science for All Virginia Universities - The reliable, predictable, and rapid dissemination of scientific data from its source, to innovators, scientists, and collaborators, is a challenge the “Campus Cyberinfrastructure-Network Infrastructure and Engineering” program seeks to address. Without world-class network infrastructure, the ability of institutions to conduct world-class research is hindered.

MARIA 100G addresses a known bottleneck in the NatCap network aggregation facility operated by Virginia Tech on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance research and education community in Virginia. The aggregation link to the Internet2 national research network is being upgraded from a 2x5 gigabit per second capacity to a 100 gigabit per second capacity, which paves the way for the unimpeded exchange of dramatically growing data sets in the course of scientific discovery. Hardware has been purchased, installed, and configured.  

Towards a Session Layer for the TCP/IP Protocol Suite - Contemporary applications demand greater functionality from the network than was required when the TCP/IP protocol suite was developed. This ongoing study is based on the premise it is not only possible to extend TCP/IP to achieve the necessary functionality, but also highly desirable as a means of easing the transition to the new functionality.

This year’s investigations have focused on developing a notion of a communication context and have looked at the benefit of applications having a "context manager." In particular, work has focused on supporting virtual machine migration across wide-area networks and on the performance improvement that comes from segmenting an end-to-end connection to allow TCP's control algorithms to work more quickly. The studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the approach by deploying new functionality without sacrificing backwards compatibility.

The Quilt - The Quilt continues to provide a dynamic forum where leaders from throughout the advanced research and education network community build on the intellectual capital and best practices of network service providers worldwide. As a founding member of The Quilt, Virginia Tech represents the Commonwealth via NetworkVirginia, the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA), Inc., and the Mid-Atlantic Research and Education Exchange (MREX) programs. The university realizes deep volume discounts from the national aggregation of Internet capacity using Quilt contracts for commodity Internet service.


Engineering Operations


FY 10-11

FY 11-12

FY 12-13

FY 13-14

FY 14-15

Campus buildings w/ wireless network svc.






Deployed wireless access points






Wireless network subscribers






Figure #1 – Wireless Network Subscribers and Coverage

Network Engineering continues to improve and expand wireless local area network (WLAN) coverage. In FY 2014-2015, the total number of deployed wireless access points, again, increased considerably, as locations with large numbers of users and high demand for the service were accommodated.


Academic Year

Peak # Simultaneous Devices

Total # of Unique Devices

Terabytes of Traffic

























Growth Rate Since 2010





Figure #2 – Wireless network users’ simultaneous logins, unique device logins, and bandwidth consumed.


Figure #3 – Wireless users on April 15, 2015

Trend analysis of a typical day shows heavy utilization of the service, peaking at over 23,000 users during the middle of the academic day. This usage represents a 30 percent increase over a typical day in 2014. Small dips throughout the day coincide with breaks between classroom periods. This pattern suggests that portable and mobile devices are heavily utilized by the student population during lecture and lab periods on a typical day when classes are in session.


Figure #4 – Aggregate bandwidth on April 15, 2015

The aggregate bandwidth on the university’s wireless network is depicted over a 24-hour time period. Bits per second out represents the amount of bandwidth that the wireless users consumed (downloaded); Bits per second in represents the amount of bandwidth generated by the wireless users (uploaded).  The amount of traffic uploaded by wireless users increased 12% from last year’s average.  The average amount of traffic downloaded increased by 31%. Note that the heaviest use is during the late afternoon and into the early evening.



Systems Support

Figure #5 – Network Storage (Terabytes)

The SAN and Network-Attached Storage (NAS) support Network Infrastructure & Services’ Virtualization, Unified Communications project, Enterprise Systems Database and Application projects, the safety and security camera project, System Development and Administration projects and Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies projects.

The NAS also provides file level storage to support faculty/staff personal and departmental shares.

Figure #6 – Network backup/archive storage (Terabytes)

This graph illustrates the amount of data stored on the centrally managed backup service (disks and tapes). The total data storage on the centrally managed backup service (disk and tapes) for FY 14-15 dropped to 800TB due to departments’ increasing use of cloud-based back up services.


Figure #7 – Document Migration Facility (Terabytes)

Virginia Tech in research data analysis and storage systems support the university’s data intensive science programs, especially those at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, as well as the university's Advanced Research Computing environments. These systems include a research data archive based on SGI's Data Migration Facility (DMF) with several petabytes of capacity.

The research data archive continues to allow Virginia Tech's scientific data assets to be maintained throughout the anticipated research lifecycle, potentially over decades of continued scientific research, and is anticipated to scale to over ten petabytes in the foreseeable future. The DMF service requirements from the non-research community continue to grow.


Virginia Tech Operations Center

Figure #8 – VTOC Tickets (Incidents) by Configuration Item

In fiscal year 2014-2015, the Virginia Tech Operations Center (VTOC) replaced its Remedy ticketing system with the ServiceNow platform. This resulted in major differences in the way data is stored and handled regarding “incidents” (previously “tickets”). It has rendered the Remedy data and the ServiceNow data incomparable. However, the switch has made it possible to gather more detailed data than was available in the Remedy ticketing system.

The quantity for each of several categories of problem tickets or Incidents tracked during the period is illustrated as a “configuration item” in ServiceNow.” The number of tickets received for a variety of configuration items is displayed above.


Figure #9 - Total VTOC Calls with Incidents Reported and Resolved

Calls received by the Virginia Tech Operations Center (VTOC) are contrasted with the number of Tickets or Incidents logged, along with the number of Incidents resolved by VTOC consultants.

VTOC technicians receive questions and problem reports or incidents from constituents, then provide information and technical assistance. Tickets or Incidents are created, then resolved if at all possible. If the problems cannot be resolved due to a need for additional data or a higher level of technical expertise, the incidents are escalated to University Computing Support or other appropriate unit.

The multi-year trend of a decrease in Total calls received and the number of problem reports entered and resolved continued.

University Computing Support

Figure #10 - Help Desk incidents by Configuration Item

In fiscal year 2014-2015, University Computing Support replaced its Remedy ticketing system with the ServiceNow platform. This resulted in major differences in the way data is stored and handled regarding “incidents” (previously “tickets”). It has rendered the Remedy data and the ServiceNow data incomparable. However, the switch has made it possible to gather more granular data than was available in the Remedy ticketing system.

During the year, the Help Desk handled approximately 6441 incidents. These incidents, tracked as Configuration Items, are broken down above. The Help Desk worked mostly on incidents related to Virginia Tech’s new learning management system, Scholar, followed by providing General Information, then VT Google Apps Mail support. General Information consisted mostly of referrals (such as to vendors for hardware problems or non-ServiceNow partners) and answers to business or procedural questions. VT Google Apps Mail is the third most common Configuration Item due to emails being blocked, deliveries being delayed, or email clients (such as Outlook) encountering problems. Much time is spent on email-related issues because email is a vital business function used daily by faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Much of the university community prefers to use an email client instead of the web interface, which tends to yield more inquiries due to caching of information on the client, software problems, password changes while the client is running, and other dependencies which web-based email interfaces tend to avoid. This is the reason that the Help Desk encourages the use of the web interface for emails. The email inquiries also correlate with the high numbers for the Exchange, Outlook, and Mail Blocks Configuration Items.


Figure #11 - Incidents per Assignment Group

In ServiceNow, the Help Desk works with many other groups to address user issues. The number of incidents assigned to each of these partners or groups is shown above. Most of the incidents in partners’ queues (except the Call Center and ABUSE) are first received at the Help Desk, then escalated. Consequently, the numbers for most of the assignment groups above were initially in the Help Desk queue and then transferred.

The numbers above represent the incidents assigned to a specific partnering group, but Desktop Support handles both tier 1 (Help Desk) and tier 2 (Desktop Support) incidents. Factoring those in, Desktop Support handled 392 incidents combined. Another part of the Desktop Support function is IT support for NI&S, and this group worked on 288 incidents.

The full titles for abbreviated group names in the graph:


NOC – Network Operations Center

IMS – Identity Management Services

CCS – Collaborative Computing Solutions

NIS – Network Infrastructure and Services

TLOS – Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies

ITSO – Information Technology Security Office


The Other category above consists of thirteen groups assigned fewer than 200 incidents each with the number of incidents in parentheses:

Electronic Communications Services (192)

Online Learning and Collaboration Services (185)

Desktop Support (141)

Converged Network Operations - Voice (135)

Converged Network Operations - Network (86)

Software Assistance & Education Center (49)

Systems Support (33)

Storage Management Team (31)

Secure Information Exchange Services (29)

Web Services and Development (17)

Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (5)

KnowledgeBase Administrators (3)

NWV-Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance, Inc. (1)


University Computing Support, along with Information Technology Acquisitions, provided walk-in support on Torgersen Bridge through the Software Assistance & Education Center from the beginning of the fall 2014 semester. In November, due to water damage to Torgersen Bridge, the Software Assistance & Education Center program was discontinued. From that point, walk-ins were served at the University Computing Support mall location. A search was quickly initiated to find a new space for providing on-campus walk-in support.


Figure #12 – Most-viewed HokieHowTo self-service videos


University Computing Support (UCS) continued to develop its self-service support model so that resourceful users can independently find answers to frequently-asked questions or obtain assistance with many computer tasks day or night.


One of UCS’s most effective self-service resources is the HokieHowTo YouTube channel. The channel ( has grown as the UCS Knowledge Base group continues to add new videos, and apply updates to existing videos.


The three most-viewed videos were Installing Junos Pulse VPN on Windows 8, Sharing an Exchange Calendar in Outlook, and the Basic Phone Guide for the Avaya 9611G phones. A tally of total minutes watched and a total of discrete views of these and other most-viewed videos are depicted above.


The HokieHowTo channel had 21,294 views—an increase of 16% compared to fiscal year 2013-2014. This coincided with an increase in watch time, resulting in 23,546 minutes of video watched—a 12% increase from the previous fiscal year.


Business Operations

Figure #13 - Services Activity

The graph illustrates, by fiscal year, the number of active services currently billed to customers, alongside the number of service activations, deactivations, and changes for each year.

Active Services. The deactivation of ROLM legacy voice and data services, along with activation of Unified Communications voice and data services and Remote Access-VPN services resulted in a net decrease in currently active services.

Service activations, deactivations, and services changes. The number of service activations, deactivations, and changes represents the volume of customers’ requests during the year to move, add, or change NI&S services. These changes are often a result of departmental moves to new or renovated office space and the resulting domino effect when another department relocates to the space previously vacated. The decrease in service activations, deactivations, and changes in FY 2015 as compared to FY 2014 is attributed to the net of the deactivation of the ROLM legacy voice and data services and the activation of the Unified Communications voice and data services.

Administrative Support and Communications


Figure #14 – Internet Copyright Infringement Complaints (ICIC)

The volume of cases received during fiscal year 2014-2015 increased (+14%) compared to the prior year.

Irdeto continues to be the major source of Internet copyright infringement allegations (433 cases/58% of total) directed to Virginia Tech.

The Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG), LLC, is another significant source. The CEG, which “offers” to preempt legal action by settling out of court for a sum less than a “probable” court assessment, continued to increase their generation of cases, accounting for a 13% gain in cases this year. CEG cases differ from the typical infringement complaint, which complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, by threatening court action before allowing the implicated party to curtail uploading of copyrighted files.