Thursday, October 13, 2016

The website hosting team completed the scope of its project, having consolidated Drupal-hosted websites on campus onto a single platform, migrated over 650 sites to the cloud-hosting provider Acquia, and implemented a Drupal Digital Signage Service for campus-wide use.

The overall project was co-led by Mark Ahrens, senior application developer in ITS Enterprise Services, and Andy Jenkins, IT director of the Graduate College, and managed by Romy Bolton, a director in ITS Enterprise Services. Thirty IT professionals devoted 5,000 total hours to the highly collaborative project.

The growing adoption of Drupal on campus is resulting in cost savings, greater expertise, and sharing of custom-developed modules. The vast majority of campus units are now on the UI’s common content management system, with Tippie College of Business, College of Education, and UI healthcare (UI Hospitals and Clinics and the College of Medicine) having recently moved to Drupal.

Moving to Acquia—accomplished with intense effort over a one-month period—yields many benefits, like enhanced traffic management and security, and providing all UI Drupal websites Secure Sockets Layer—a guarantee of encryption. Acquia handles patching and server maintenance, saving significant staff time, and can instantly add hardware to avoid overwhelming websites at peak traffic times.

UI has already begun shutting down servers that previously hosted its websites on premises. About 80 servers, a combination of server clusters and virtual servers, will be decommissioned by the year’s end.

Digital signage, also described as electronic billboards, plays a critical role in displaying important information and announcements in buildings throughout the UI campus. Expanding use of Drupal to digital signs is saving time and money several ways, including convenience and ease of use.

Seventy units are now using the service for 260 signs. The team also discovered compute sticks as a better way to power the signs, and a trade-in program allowed units to exchange old computers for the sticks, which cost far less than a PC to buy and use a fraction of the power. The sticks also save in cabling costs because the units use wireless, and standardized hardware is easier for IT professionals to support.

Achievements of the project are detailed in the OneIT Year in Review: https://oneit.uiowa.edu/website-hosting-year-review-2016. Recommendations for further action include combining doc roots in conjunction with a move to Drupal 8, and ongoing enhancements to digital signage.

The team posted a closeout document to its project page, and four of 16 OneIT projects are now done: Application Portfolio Management, Website Hosting, Electronic File Storage, and Business Intelligence.

Project: 
Website Hosting