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October 22, 2009 / dlitgroup

Blackboard Team Meeting – Oct. 22


Opening of Meeting

Present: Garry Brand, Eric Kunnen, Szymon Machajewski, Peggy Gorno

1) Disaster Recovery, Resilience, High Availability

– “How long can we be down.” Led to Business Continuity and High Availability discussion about Oracle RAC being more complex and more costly way to recover from a disaster.  A common viewpoint on the listserv’s is that it may be overkill as most institutions, even very large ones, don’t use RAC at this point in their production infrastructure configuration.

– “What is our risk now?” This discussion included recommendations to use Rman as a way to ensure we are getting proper backups.  We should also have a practice of trying to restore them to be sure they are good.  We haven’t completed a test “recovery” as of yet, and we should put into place a practice to ensure we can handle an emergency.  We are backing up nightly and have the ability to restore, but we really need to test our ability to recover and we need to replicate our database to a remote site and investigate Rman.  Dataguard allows us to replicate the database to a remote location.  This should also be part of our plan.  Dataguard could be set up to automatically fail over to the other database.  You could also use it for reporting so you don’t impact live server.

ACTION: A technical proposal will be written regarding disaster recovery and high availability.  We can make this public.

2) Security Patch

There are 2 patches, 1 for Transaction System.  This is a set of Oracle patches.  The other patch is related to the Learning System to close a security hole.

ACTION:  We plan to close the server down at 10PM for a 30 minute time period to apply the security patch and to move the collaboration server to one of our newer servers.  Szymon will be add a message to the server about the maintenance period.  Eric will post a note to the Bb portal.

3) Weekend Support

We seem to continuously have problems on Sunday’s.  Blackboard is a high priority system that requires 24×7 / 365 support. This is frustrating because many online courses end their week on Sunday.  The response time hasn’t been very prompt.  We should investigate why this happens on Sunday.  There seems to be a theme as the issues appear to be database related.  Are key IT staff being notified when problems are occurring with the server? Are we monitoring the system as we should be?  Can we monitor other aspects of the server to be proactive?  What is the problem resolution workflow?  Szymon should be included in the process.  So how do faculty/students best notify if there is an issue with the server on “off hours”? They contact the Help Desk.

ACTION: The suggestion is that Donovan and Darcy (or the manager on call) should call Peggy and Szymon to let them know if something that is happening with the server.  Can we shorten the communication stream and have the lead be Peggy and Szymon?  This is the most logical approach.  Peggy will be the point person for issues on the weekend along with Szymon while also providing support through the manager on call. So there are 2 streams of support, Eric and Garry will contact Peggy and Szymon if issues are noticed. Faculty at large will use the manager on call workflow along with contacting Eric or Garry as necessary.  There also seems to be a larger issue of support resources as more and more faculty and students are using Bb and with more to come as we work to bring about 25% of our courses online.  College technology resources need to be allocated.  Peggy will find out what research is being done for weekend support.  A proposal needs to be submitted for short term and long term support resources.  Peggy will also revisit the database support side and student/faculty side.  When we have a failure, we need to learn from it and work to ensure we can avoid it in the future.

Standing Agenda:

1. Project Updates

– NBC Content Pilot is continuing.  The system is working very well.  Instructors in the pilot are using timely and real world video in their courses and there has been a lot of satisfaction with this resource.
– WebEx Pilot for synchronous capabilities is beginning.  The Building Block was requested for WebEx.  It seems that the Building Block was originally written for Bb 7, and there is some concern about whether or not it works with Bb 8.
– Bb Support Materials have been updated by student workers.  We need to revise the support resources to make them easier to locate.

2. Current Issues

– Patch will be applied this Friday for a security issue on both the Transaction and Learning System.

3. Planning for Upgrades

ACTION: We need to get the servers ready for 9.1 to prepare for potential summer upgrade time frame.

4. Development and Customizations

– How do we become agile and how do we respond with customizations and new features.  What level of ownership and empowerment and trust do we have to enhance, make Bb more effective, and efficient?  How do we sustain a customization if the developer is no longer around? Well this may be a common fear, but realistically we can document and ensure sustainability.  We already have a large number customizations through Building Blocks and we also have an need to build on our expertise in this area.  Building Blocks provide a unique solution to adding features, functionality, and to enhance the efficiency and functionality of the system as they don’t effect the core code of the application.
– We have needs to enhance the photo roster, to build in text messaging for faculty absences, to create an early warning system (this is a CAP), and to create a student attendance system.


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