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ITS advances cloud


During 2018-2019, ITS laid the foundation for further advancing to the cloud to better serve the needs of students, faculty, staff and researchers. The department’s cloud-focused work included:

Research Computing’s Jeff Roach helped Kathryn Gunn, a post-doctoral researcher within the School of Medicine, set up Google Cloud Platform accounts for Gunn’s research.
Research Computing’s Jeff Roach helped Kathryn Gunn, a post-doctoral researcher within the School of Medicine, set up Google Cloud Platform accounts for Gunn’s research

  • Launching ServiceNow, a cloud-hosted system that serves as the University’s new primary ticketing software
  • Establishing an ITS team to shepherd the organization’s cloud engineering and services
  • Joining other universities and corporations in a partnership to further cultivate the proper use of cloud computing technologies at Carolina
  • Providing training and professional development to staff, campus IT leaders and researchers
  • Assessing and preparing for a possible move from on-premise WordPress to cloud-hosted WordPress
  • Contributed to implementing the enterprise Tableau platform in Amazon Web Services
  • Supporting a growing stable of internal and researcher projects in the cloud. Research Computing now supports more than 30 projects across the three major cloud vendors: Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure
  • Completing the Secure Research Work space project, which can provide almost limitless capacity in a secure, private environment for teams to perform computational research on sensitive data in Microsoft Azure
  • Providing more than $50,000 to individual researchers and project teams in the form of cloud credits
  • Studying GPU computing, container technology and cloud computing through the purchase and creation of the DGX cluster for use by Research Computing and individually selected campus researchers
  • Working with Google to expand Research Computing’s Longleaf high-performance computing cluster. The idea is that when queues are long or a researcher needs more computing than Research Computing has on hand, Research Computing would create a relief valve that might move data and run those jobs in Google Cloud Platform.

In June 2018, ITS established “Think Cloud” as one of its strategic focus areas. As such, ITS determined it would always consider cloud; it would provide staff professional development to address emerging needs as more technology moves to the cloud; and it would make smart, informed decisions that support long-term sustainability and success — whether the choice was on-premise, a hybrid solution or the cloud.

Throughout 2018-2019, ITS demonstrated its commitment toward Think Cloud.

Launched ServiceNow

In July 2019, ITS launched a new help.unc.edu and the underlying system used for support, called ServiceNow. The new website and system enable users to find answers faster with better knowledge articles, track requests and support tickets and chat live with IT support staff.

As a cloud-based platform, ServiceNow offers several advantages for ITS and its customers. For ITS, it means that the department does not have to purchase, build or maintain the infrastructure to run the ServiceNow application.

“We get all the new enhancements that ServiceNow releases each time we upgrade,” said Brenda Carpen, Project Lead for ServiceNow and an ITS project manager. “All of this saves us time to focus on providing services and changes that are unique to our campus users.

Meanwhile, a cloud-based platform provides campus users with the ability to chat with the ServiceDesk, enter incidents, requests and search for knowledge articles from any device and from any place.

Established cloud team

In April 2019, ITS formed a cloud group to centrally facilitate safe and optimal implementations of University IT infrastructure, platforms and services in the public cloud — including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Informally known as the ITS cloud group, the unit is comprised of two groups: cloud engineering and cloud operations. Individuals from the Information Security Office and Research Computing work with the cloud group on a regular basis to provide critical input and guidance on security and customer requirements.

Joined cloud foundation

In Spring 2019, through ITS’ leadership, UNC-Chapel Hill became a founding member of the RHEDcloud Foundation, along with 14 other universities and corporations.

RHEDcloud Foundation stands for Research, Healthcare and Higher Education Cloud Foundation.

The nonprofit launched to kick off an open-source project for collaborating on cloud security requirements and implementations for Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Offered cloud training

With a desire to ensure that campus IT leaders will be prepared to participate in cloud-based technology, ITS held cloud essentials training for four days in June 2019 for ITS leaders and members of the Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC).

About 30 people from schools, departments and centers across campus attended. ITS offered this training to help IT leaders on campus gain a common level of cloud terminology as they consider cloud options that ITS can support.

ITS Research Computing, meanwhile, boosted cloud awareness through training. Research Computing and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise conducted a Machine Learning Day for the campus community in April 2019. Microsoft Azure sponsored the event.

Research Computing is planning similar events with Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services.

In additional professional development, in February 2019, ITS Communication Technologies brought together IT pros from campus, Triangle-area universities and elsewhere to talk to Internet2, a computer networking consortium, about its cloud strategy, offerings and plans.

Evaluating cloud-hosted WordPress

In late 2018, ITS Digital Services began assessing a move from on-premise WordPress to cloud-hosted WordPress.

The services that could transition to the cloud include web.unc.edu, sites.unc.edu and the University’s homepage (unc.edu). These WordPress services host thousands of individual WordPress sites. Currently, these services are hosted on campus and supported by ITS Middleware Services.


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