Oxford Materials IT Committee Meeting

A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 8th February 2011 in the HR Meeting Room.


  • 1 Apologies for absence and Membership of the Committee
  • 2 Matters oustanding from the previous meeting
  • 3 Matters for discussion (attached)
  • 4 Head of IT report (attached)
  • 5 Finances (PJW)
  • 6 AOB
  • 7 Date and time of next meeting: Tuesday 17th May 2011 at 11am in PR meeting Room *note change of location*.


See minutes below.


Long term planning of migration to VOIP across whole university.


The report below summarises activities since the last meeting of ITC, as categorised by topic. The report is intended for record rather than for discussion at ITC meeting although queries may arise.

Admin Network Some admin users migrated to Outlook (Alana, Alison, Marion). The departmental email archive server was reconfigured to run under Zimbra to enable nested-folders and migrated to virtualised hardware.

Teaching Laboratory Several problems with the hardware in the teaching laboratory have been resolved. Micros5 was replaced. The mono printer is now functioning correctly. Paula’s PC was reinstalled.

Lecture theatres / meeting rooms All rooms checked several times and various minor repairs undertaken.

Digital Print-room No significant changes. Periodically there are printing problems which are resolved – usually specific documents getting stuck in the print spooling system. (e.g. 1.3Gb printjob etc.)

Library One computer in the library was replaced with trickle-down (in order to repair Micros5 in the teachinglab).

MML All members of the MML have now left Banbury Road and are located in the Rex Richards building. The older desktop computers (13) were setup in the committee room for 2 weeks for the Modelling Option course. A tender process has been started for another HPC cluster for JRY and FG.

EM After the departure of Tracey Finn, the general purpose computers in the EM IT lab have received some basic maintenance but remain in need of an upgrade. IT staff are supporting the EM equipment upon request.

QIPIRC - The QIPIRC grant finished and GADB’s PA departed. The website www.qipirc.org remains but is not actively updated.

MFFP Department branded memory sticks for conference delegates were investigated in detail but the cost of CD duplication is much less (CD’s: 50p each BrandedUSBsticks: £5 each).

WebsiteAll 10 CMSmadesimple websites upgraded 1.9.1 and then 1.9.3.

Publications Researches in Progress 2010 document has been completed.

Network All the Begbroke VOIP phones were migrated from Siemens to Cisco and all handsets replaced (at Telecoms expense). Broken handsets were also replaced and some numbers were reallocated. The new VOIP system runs on physically separate infrastructure so there is no mixing of voice and data network traffic.

Security No significant issues. KS has implemented a snort intrusion detection system on the main network feed of the department behind the firewall.

Disposal – the disposal scheduled for before Christmas still needs to happen (urgently due to space limitations!)

Software Origin license server migrated from OSC to Chemistry and origin 8.1 is now supported but newest version 8.5 is still not supported. Mathematica 8.0 has been released.

Disaster Recovery and Backup - Rex Richards server room now has UPS backup. A temperature monitoring and alert system for the server rooms is being developed.

New Device registrations - October 29; November 23; December 11; January 15.


A meeting of the Department of Materials IT Committee was held at 11am on Tuesday 8th February 2011 in the HR Meeting Room. The following people attended: APD, PJW, AMC, KS, JDM, RT, SCB, SS, GM.

1. Apologies for Absence and Membership of the Committee

Simon Benjamin apologised for thinking the meeting started at midday.

Sheena Shah was welcomed, having taken over from Paul Kamenski as chair of JCCG. The website committee membership details have been updated accordingly.

2. Matters arising from the minutes

a) IT disaster recovery plans (Minute 2a)
There is still a need for disaster recovery documentation to ensure that there is adequate provision and there is a clear structure for achieving efficient disaster recovery and ensuring business continuity. After discussion of the reason for this action it was agreed that as a starting point IT staff would prepare documentation outlining the local IT servers and services so that in the event of all IT staff being unavailable an external IT professional would be able to understand the Department’s IT infrastructure.

Action: PJW

b) Podcasting (Minute 2c)
No progress since last meeting however SCB agreed to help PJW finalise one or two example video and/or audio podcasts which would then be presented to DMAC as proof of concept in order to get a decision on whether 1) academics would be willing commit to generating an on-going regular series of podcasts publicising the activities of the department or whether 2) the example podcasts should just be uploaded and not pursued further or whether 3) the podcasts should not be made public at all. SCB circulated the web address of John Morton’s entanglement video, professionally produced by collaborators in Japan. SCB to contact Katie Moore and talk to Peter Robinson again. PJW to show SCB the existing schools liaison audio material which could be used to start a series of audio podcasts if DMAC so wish.

Action: PJW/SCB

The video library has been converted to digital format and is available on a portable external hard drive. An undergraduate student spent 7.5hrs linking the video files to the catalogue document. The catalogue still needs checking/updating and the 20 missing programs locating/converting.

Action: PJW

c) PC maintenance – OUCS computer hardware breakdown service (Minute 2d)
CA and PJW have started a review of the warranty status of department-owned equipment in order assess the extent of our liability and hence be able to calculate the potential cost of wide-spread use of the scheme. This task is continuing.

Action: PJW/CA

APD noted that the original motivation for this task was to gather data to inform a decision about the cost effectiveness of in-house repair versus external repair routes (warranty or otherwise). Or to put it another way, should departmental man-power be better utilised supporting and developing core services rather than mending broken hardware. Therefore it is important that the system for recording time/task (which was implemented last year for personal hardware) is extended to cover departmental hardware too.


d) IT strategic plan (Minute 2f)
Because the intended consultation upon a Department IT Strategic Plan did not happen last summer, it was agreed to reschedule the consultation for around Easter 2011. Input will be sought from a wide range of Department users (e.g. postgraduates, fellows and senior staff) and groups (EM, MML etc.). PJW failed to circulate the draft IT Strategic Plan document prior to this meeting. APD and PJW will generate a draft discussion document and circulate it around the committee before scheduling wider consultation meeting(s) after the end of term.

Action: PJW/APD

e) Server Infrastructure upgrade (Minute 3b)
A proposal for an extraordinary expenditure of up to £14k in order to purchase a Storage Area Network was presented to DC in October and approved. The SAN has been purchased. APD asked about status and schedule for implementation of virtualized servers. AMC reported that the SAN still requires further resilience/reliability testing. AMC is aiming to migrate from Materials0 around Easter.

f) Software (Minute 4a)
PJW emailed users to notify them that new versions of Microsoft office are available from IT staff and reminded users about the software advice webpage.

g) Computer provision (Minute 4b)
PJW discussed with AOT the process of getting new students up and running with suitable IT equipment. AOT noted that it does not seem appropriate to require the new students to open the discussion about IT equipment prior to arrival. It should be the supervisor that plans the requirements for their new student. AOT advised that PJW should prompt supervisors at the end of July to place orders in advance of the new term and repeat the prompt in mid September after the Part 2 students have started. Desktops are standard stock items, but laptops tend to be uniquely specified and can take up to 1 month to procure. Sheena Shah was asked to report back to JCCG who initially raised the issue.

Action: SS

h) Printing (Minute 6a)
Papercut-mf has been identified as a suitable print and photocopier charging system. The software has demonstrated. SHA is obtaining quotes for modification of the photocopiers to operate the new system.

Action: PJW/SHA

3 Matters for Discussion

a) Long-term planning of migration to VOIP across whole university
PJW reported that at MPLS ICT Panel there had been a presentation from the new Head of Networks and Communications at OUCS about the forth-coming end-of-support of the analogue phone system in 2018.

The University is intending to move fully across to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) within 7-10 years. Current costs are £75/number for migration and £75-150/handset plus any costs for additional network wiring infrastructure (but not switching). As shown in the table below this corresponds to a total cost of £27-42k depending on which handset. Therefore ITC recommends that the Department Committee add a line to the department budget to cover this cost, spread over future years.

PJW noted that IT will factor-in the additional cabling requirements when specifying new wiring installations. AMC noted that it seems unusual that this university-wide project is not being funded centrally. PJW reported that the MPLS ICT panel are gathering information about likely costs in order to respond to telecoms with suggestions.

Action: PJW

Estimated cost of changing all Materials phones to VOIP
BuildingUEDcodePhonesMigration Costs (£75/number)
BR110 39 £2,925
HB154 32 £2,400
HR179 44 £3,300
PR195 24 £1,800
RR271 13 Already VOIP
ETB276 38 £2,850
BB317 38 Already VOIP
Migration Costs (no handsets)£13,275
Total cost including handsetsBudget for £27-40k

4. Head of IT Report

A written report was circulated with the agenda. (see above)

5. IT/AV Expenditure

PJW reported that, according to the financial breakdown from Tim McAree, the IT expenditure is currently on budget.

KS noted his lack of expenditure, which was welcomed by APD. However PJW re-iterated that the financial constraints this year are likely to be building up problems for future years. (e.g. lack of renewal of network equipment, teaching laboratory equipment etc.)

6. AOB - none

a) Meeting efficiency
JDM commented that by having “Matters Arising” as item 2 on the agenda, there was too much repetition of previous meetings before the main body of the “Matters for discussion” under item 3. APD suggested that matters arising should remain as item 2 however a system of marking items with a “*” as being not for discussion (similar to DMAC agenda) will be trialled at the next meeting.

Action: PJW

b) MPLS ICT Panel matters for information
PJW reported that the Origin site-license is due for renewal in August 2011. Previously paid centrally by OSC, the costs are likely to fall to licensed departments which equates to about £5k contribution towards 3year license.

PJW reported that he is to take over from Prof. Mike Giles as the MPLS representative on the Software Licensing Group (SLG). http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sls/background.xml

PJW reported that the timetabling software being used by Earth Sciences and Engineering seems to be performing well. Given the current vacancy of Deputy Administrator (Academic) PJW noted it is unlikely that Materials will consider implementing this until Sept 2012.

c) OUCS News matters for information
PJW noted that OUCS have just taken ownership of the new Shared Data Centre.

PJW noted that the next phase of Nexus is about to happen later this term with the release of Sharepoint in which provides tools and share document areas for collaborations and committees. http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nexus/sharepoint/

PJW noted the release of a Research Data Management website to help researchers comply with external grant-specific requirements (e.g. EU) for sharing and dissemination of data. http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/rdm

APD noted that the first phase of the Human Resources Information System (HRIS), e-recruitment, is being rolled out before Easter. HRIS will replace Opendoor.

e) Email quotas
JDM queried the need for a departmental email archive server, since Nexus should be able to provide this function. KS noted that provision of quotas over 3Gb is costed at £18/Gb/yr therefore scaling this across multiple users with 10Gb each quickly makes the departmental provision more cost effective as well as providing additional flexibility of a locally managed service. JDM requested that PJW contact Nexus to ask about the longer term pricing strategy and quotas and pass-on our opinion that it should be providing much larger quotas uncharged for those that need it.

Action: PJW

7. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Tuesday 17th May 2011 at 11am in PR meeting room (Phronisterion)

The meeting closed at 12.30pm