A More Mobile Future

OIT is working to modernize UCI’s legacy work approach by not only adapting to the work environment necessitated during the pandemic, but also looking beyond the immediate to understand how lasting changes to workplace flexibility can empower the workforce long term. Outside circumstances may have initially been the driving force for remote work, but innovative strategies to provide more work/life balance, modernized workspaces and adaptable work options will benefit employees in a multitude of ways long after the pandemic subsides.

The Future of Work at UCI

The day of the desktop computer looks to be vanishing rapidly, as the University moves toward a more flexible work future, allowing employees to work in physically dynamic environments. Sitting or standing, at home or scattered into modern working pods on campus — versatility is the new normal. OIT is planning the initial pilot for a hybrid work program and policy, while also investigating the strategic enabling technology that is needed to support it in the long-term. As part of this hybrid workforce model, existing workspaces will be modernized, systems strengthened, and remote access made easier and more secure.

Allowing UCI employees to work remotely or semi-remotely strengthens our standing as an innovative institution by redefining work/life balance, reducing the scope of office space needed, and using remaining spaces for dynamic collaboration spaces. The 6th floor of Science Library is being transformed into such a space, with height-adjustable desks, huddle spaces and common areas for team work. A specific focus will be put on creating an equitable experience for all employees by using technology to enable a seamless transition between on-campus and off-campus work. Huddle spaces will be equipped with large monitors and webcams that allow remote workers to feel present and seen, and additional technologies will be explored for whiteboard products that allow for real-time digital collaboration.

Softphone technology provided by Mitel’s Micollab will allow UCI to rely less on landlines, reducing costs by minimizing dependence on telecom-related infrastructure and support located on campus. Doing so will also bolster remote work environments by providing enterprise phone system functionality via computers and smartphones from wherever employees are working.

Delivering on a Cloud-Forward Strategy

The University needs a modern infrastructure to support our business critical applications — a secure environment for applications that live in our data centers today. This is what cloud storage provides. The ‘Cloud’ is not just a fad or a buzzword. It has real implications that allow our technology to be more stable, resilient, more agile.

A ‘cloud-forward’ approach means that OIT will first and primarily consider a cloud storage solution for new IT investments. A central part of this strategy is OIT’s Cloud Data Center 2.0, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). As the equipment ages out, we move applications to the cloud. This helps us get off the cycle of replacement. For applications that aren’t cloud-ready, they may move to a data center off-site, which opens capacity of on-campus data centers to use for innovation and experimentation.

An additional benefit of moving storage into the cloud is the ability to move toward a self-service model of cloud storage. This will allow IT units, academic schools and researchers to spin up their own cloud environment that fits the University’s guidelines established to protect data.

As a result of a cloud-forward strategy, applications support teams will be empowered to do more and better testing, experimentation, and innovation. They can make changes and upgrades faster and smoother for their client, and grow capacity more easily.

Making Room for Transformative Tech

As OIT expands its capacity to build and implement transformative technology across our units, our teams are focused on sunsetting the technologies that are aging, obsolete, or represent security vulnerabilities. In addition, the proliferation of systems doesn’t allow us to innovate and experiment to create new things. We need to limit the number of systems to speed up new development. True digital transformation requires technology to be loosely coupled, easily replaced (by being delivered in the cloud) and rapidly iterating. It allows us to solve business problems more rapidly, and create solutions in a more innovative way. These projects — like consolidating databases — aren’t highly visible, but they’re crucial to make room for new and innovative technology projects. They reduce support costs and licensing, introduce more reliability and eliminate the risk of a hardware failure. Moving over to the cloud and sharing commodities across applications saves money, time, space, resources — all at a premium on UCI's growing campus.

The multi-year project underway to move from Oracle to MySQL means cost savings in more ways than one. Oracle is an expensive database product that is restrictive and requires highly specialized skill sets to maintain. By moving to more nimble and secure cloud solutions, we are reducing risks, increasing efficiency and making room for more applications to be supported.

Moving Campus Web Single Sign on from Legacy WebAuth to Shibboleth is key to meeting industry standards for the many vendor applications that UCI supports. Our current home grown solution is expensive and time-intensive to implement with vendors. Moving to Shibboleth for single sign-on reduces testing requirements and improves security for the many vendor applications UCI uses every day.

Protecting Our Institutional Data