Computing and Network Services

Computing and network services are an integral part of the education and research missions of the University of Pittsburgh. Network Services, in conjunction with Computing Services and Systems Development, provides central services used by virtually every University student as well as by faculty and support staff.

Network Services has the challenge of providing the network infrastructure and telecommunications backbone for the ever-expanding uses of information technology at the University. Much more than simply connecting wires, this division is responsible for providing the infrastructure needed to support uses of information technology that constantly press the limits of available resources.

Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) is charged with building on this network infrastructure to provide such services as student computing lab facilities; residence hall networking support; training, consulting, and documentation; access to a wide variety of software programs and services; and a 24-hour, 7-day computing help desk.

Flexibility, in light of ever-changing service demands, is a critical requirement of both Network Services and CSSD. The following are descriptions of some of the major services that each division provides.


Network Services

The University's network, PittNet, connects thousands of computers, on all five University campuses, to the Internet. Along with direct network connections for office and residence hall computers, dial-up access is provided for computers that are used off campus. Ethernet technology is at the core of PittNet, enabling users to communicate with each other and with various University computer systems, regardless of the location of the devices they are using.

University timesharing services consist of UNIX, VMS, and MVS. A wide range of mainframe software applications including database management systems, graphical analysis programs, mathematical and statistical programs, simulation packages, and tape and file transfer utilities are supported by these systems.

Comprehensive telecommunications support is provided through more than 18,000 telephones at the Pittsburgh Campus alone, through approximately 250 "move and change" orders each month, and through service to the regional campuses. In addition to providing telephone services, Network Services provides telegraph, voice mail, telephone credit cards, paging support, large-group conference calls, and Ethernet port installations. Through an arrangement with AT&T, student telephone services are provided to Pittsburgh Campus students living on and off campus.


Computing Services and Systems Development

Universal Student Computing (USC) is a concept that guarantees access to information technology resources to all University students. Every student is provided with a University Computer Account. Computing resources and services are directly accessible via the six Pittsburgh Campus computing labs. The David Lawrence and Sutherland Hall computing labs are open on a 24-hour, 7-day schedule. Resources include more than 700 Macintosh, Windows NT and UNIX computers equipped with the most recent versions of several hundred software packages. Each lab features several media stations offering CD duplication, scanning, and image processing capability. Printing services include high-speed laser and color laser print capability.

Residence hall students are served by the ResNet program, which provides every residence hall room with one Ethernet network port per student. The program ensures that resident students, who own computers, have access to PittNet and the World Wide Web.

Recognizing that providing assistance and help resources is an important component of providing a comprehensive information technology infrastructure, CSSD provides the computing Help Desk, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By calling 412-624-HELP [4357] or by submitting a problem report online at http://technology.pitt.edu, the Help Desk offers troubleshooting and problem resolution, responds to system problems, and answers "how to" questions on a wide variety of computing services.

In addition to the Help Desk, documentation is available in print form and online through the Online Knowledgebase, a searchable database containing computer-related topics and problem resolution instructions. This interactive system helps users to identify the exact problem, its cause, and then provides detailed instructions on how to resolve the issue.

Students can sign up for free, instructor-led training classes provided by CSSD. These classes, ranging from beginner to advanced levels, cover topics including operating systems, software applications, e-mail, and the Internet. Additionally, self-paced, web-based tutorial programs are soon to be available to the entire University community. This is particularly important to users who cannot attend scheduled, instructor-led sessions.

On September 1, 1999, Sun Microsystems, Inc. authorized the University to operate the first Authorized Academic JavaTM Campus (AAJC) in the United States in which students may enroll in non-credit Java courses. In addition to the AAJC Java training, CSSD provides Microsoft training to prepare each student for certification as a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE).

Providing support for individual ownership of computers is a key CSSD goal. Students, faculty, and staff can purchase computers at educational discounts or negotiated price reductions through the e-Store, the University's web-based computer store. The e-Store is provided service through an agreement with NECX and offers 30,000 computer hardware, software and peripheral products from 1,200 manufacturers. Students, faculty, staff, and departments who need computer repair services can make arrangements with DecisionOne, Inc., which operates a computer hardware repair shop at the Pittsburgh Campus. DecisionOne provides warranty repair support for Apple, Gateway, and Dell computers.

Software represents a significant part of the total cost of computer ownership. Through various site licenses and volume discount programs, CSSD provides a wide range of software applications and utilities to students, faculty, staff, and departments. Through a new agreement with Microsoft, CSSD provides Microsoft applications and operating systems to students at no cost. Students receive all upgrades while they are enrolled at the University and may keep the software they have when they leave. In addition to Microsoft products, there are other mathematics, statistics, utility, and Internet software products which are provided free or at a greatly reduced cost.

Systems analysts provide support to University departments on a contract basis for consulting and evaluation services. Through the contract program, technical support professionals can be hired from one to five days per week to provide dedicated, high-level, on-site consulting. Through the Expert Partners program, departmental staff have convenient access to CSSD resources and liaison and training services. So equipped, the departmental staff analyst can provide continual, high-quality support and technical training within his or her own department that is coordinated with the overall direction of services distributed and maintained by Network Services and CSSD.



Network Services and CSSD report to the Office of the Provost. Two major committees, the Information Technology Steering Committee and the Senate Computer Usage Committee, advise the Provost on the activities of Network Services and CSSD.


Source: Network Services and Computing Services and Systems Development, September 1999.


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