Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spending money

Today we spent more money in one day than I've ever seen done here. Why? Well substantiated rumor had it that the Governor had a spending freeze directive on her desk. Unlike last year's freeze, this one would be the sort passed down during the 2001-02 recession; nothing gets spent without OFM approval. Veterans of that era noted that such approval took a really long time, and only sometimes came. Office scuttle-butt was mum on whether or not consumable purchases like backup tapes would be covered.

We cut purchase orders today and rushed them through Purchasing. A Purchasing who was immensely snowed under, as can be well expected. I think final signatures get signed tomorrow.

What are we getting? Three big things:
  1. A new LTO4 tape library. I try not to gush lovingly at the thought, but keep in mind I've been dealing with SDLT320 and old tapes. I'm trying not to let all that space go to my head. 2 drives, 40-50 slots, fibre attached. Made of love. No gushing, no gushing...
  2. Fast, cheap storage. Our EVA6100 is just too expensive to keep feeding. So we're getting 8TB of 15K fast storage. We needs it, precious.
  3. Really cheap storage. Since the storage area networking options all came in above our stated price-point, we're ending up with direct-attached. Depending on how we slice it, between 30-35TB of it. Probably software ISCSI and all the faults inherent in the setup. We still need to dicker over software.
But... that's all we're getting for the next 15 months at least. Now when vendors cold call me I can say quite truthfully, "No money, talk to me in July 2011."

The last thing we have is an email archiving system. We already know what we want, but we're waiting on determination of whether or not we can spend that already ear-marked money.

Unfortunately, I'll be finding out a week from Monday. I'll be out of the office all next week. Bad timing for it, but can't be avoided.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Budget crisis: a new bill

House Bill 3178 (read it here) was submitted Monday and sent to committee. My boss has been asked to provide opinion on some amendments the committee is considering, so we know this bill is under active consideration. This is something of a big deal. And this is why...

(4) For the 2009-2011 biennium, the following limitations are established upon information technology procurement:
(a) State agencies are not permitted to purchase or implement new information technology projects without securing prior authorization from the office of financial management. The office of financial management may only approve information technology projects that contribute towards an enterprise strategy or meet a critical, localized need of the requesting agency.
(b) State agencies are not permitted to purchase servers, virtualization, data storage, or related software through their operational funds or through a separate information technology budget item without securing prior authorization from the office of financial management. The office of financial management shall grant approval only if the purchase is consistent with the state's overall migration strategy to the state data center and critical to the operation of the agency.
(c) State agencies are not permitted to upgrade existing software without securing prior approval from the office of financial management. In reviewing requests from state agencies to upgrade software, the office of financial management shall grant approval only if the agency can demonstrate that upgrade of the software is critical to the operation of the agency.

In case your eyes glazed over at that, here are the bullet points:
  • No software upgrades without approval from Olympia (what about service-packs? Is that an 'upgrade'?).
  • No server or storage purchases without approval from Olympia.
  • The State will be greatly incentivising (stick-style) usage of the State's central storage services.
Holy kill-joy, Batman! If everything we here in Technical Services has to spend has to be approved by Office of Financial Management in Olympia, things'll get real slow. But there is more. Several new sections too big to quote here go into detail about other things:
  • A centralized State PC Replacement process with, "at a minimum, a replacement cycle of at least five years," with a master contract containing no more than three providers of PCs with no more than four models on each contract. Which means no more than 12 PC models available at any given time.
  • All mobile phone contracts are to be centralized in OFM. Presumably this includes things like Blackberry Enterprise Server, though that's not stated in the bill yet.
  • The State shall develop a comprehensive data retention policy. That's OK, we probably need one anyway.
  • Establish a centralized tiered storage service for use by State agencies, and all storage purchases have to be approved by OFM.
  • Establish technology project standards for all K-12 school districts, mandated and overseen by OFM.
Apparently the plan is to centralize everything in order to leverage scale for cost savings. Or something. What is not yet clear is just how permissive OFM will be on those items that require approval from OFM.

We will be keeping a close eye on this bill, yes sir.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Budget plans

Washington State has a $2.6 Billion deficit for this year. In fact, the finance people point out that if something isn't done the WA treasury will run dry some time in September and we'll have to rely on short-term loans. As this is not good, the Legislature is attempting to come up with some way to fill the hole.

As far as WWU is concerned, we know we'll be passed some kind of cut. We don't know the size, nor do we know what other strings may be attached to the money we do get. So we're planning for various sizes of cuts.

One thing that is definitely getting bandied about is the idea of 'sweeping' unused funds at end-of-year in order to reduce the deficits. As anyone who has ever worked in a department subject to a budget knows, the idea of having your money taken away from you for being good with your money runs counter to every bureaucratic instinct. I have yet to meet the IT department that considers themselves fully funded. My old job did that; our Fiscal year ended 12/15, which meant that we bought a lot of stuff in October and November with the funds we'd otherwise have to give back (a.k.a. "Christmas in October"). Since WWU's fiscal year starts 7/1, this means that April and May will become 'use it or lose it' time.

Sweeping funds is a great way to reduce fiscal efficiency.

In the end, what this means is that the money tree is actually producing at the moment. We have a couple of crying needs that may actually get addressed this year. It's enough to completely fix our backup environment, OR do some other things. We still have to dicker over what exactly we'll fix. The backup environment needs to be made better at least somewhat, that much I know. We have a raft of servers that fall off of cheap maintenance in May (i.e. they turn 5). We have a need for storage that costs under $5/GB but is still fast enough for 'online' storage (i.e. not SATA). As always, the needs are many, and the resources few.

At least we HAVE resources at the moment. It's a bad sign when you have to commiserate with your end-users over not being able to do cool stuff, or tell researchers they can't do that particular research since we have no where to store their data. Baaaaaad. We haven't quite gotten there yet, but we can see it from where we are.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Visual evidence of budget cuts

Want evidence?
Two calendars
The 2008 calendar you see on that wall is a gorgeous 4 color CMYK print. It is put out by Western's Imaging and Graphic Services department as a form of internal advertisement.

The 2009 calendar you see on that wall is a fairly simple 2-color process. 2-color requires less resources to produce. You get your budget savings wherever you can.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Budget realities, 2010 version

Well, the Governor just presented her budget proposal for the coming year. And it's not good. WWU's budget is slated for a further 6.2% whack of state-funds. We survived last year in large part due to the traditional budgetary techiniques of cost shifting, reserve funds, and one-time funds. Those are pretty much gone now, so this will come out of bone.

Dire? Yes.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Not done yet

We just received another email from President Shepard. He has been informed by the governor that the state revenue forecast for 2009-11 is being revised downwards again, and to expect reductions at some point. No specifics were given, but they'll come later.

Ah, nuts.

At least they're predicting that we've hit the troff. That's something anyway.

But still, this'll result in more layoffs. Ick.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Budget, conflicting info

Apparently President Shepard heard different things than I did in the news. I'm going to trust him more than us. In his words:
This morning, the Senate announced a budget that proposes a cut of $513,000,000 for public higher education. For our institution, that would be a reduction of 25% in our 2009-10 budget.
Which is much higher than the 14% I mentioned earlier today. He also confirmed the tuition cap is kept. He did not reveal if WWU is getting it's student FTE count cut. As with all such things, we still need to hear from the House, and the two bills need to get reconciled.

Still, 25% is a major blow.


Budget non-rumors

The Senate Democrats had a presentation today where they went over budget items. In one of the documents they released:
  • Held tuition increases at current-law rate.
  • Cut all of higher education by 14 percent.
  • WHO’S AFFECTED: 10,500 fewer students will attend college
14% is a heck of a lot better than the 25-30% rumored earlier. The student FTE reduction will hit the UofWA harder than it will us, but each lost student is its own reduction in state funds. Of course, the House version may be very different. What we don't yet know is if there is any WWU-specific legislation in this proposal. Plus, both bills have to be reconciled before it is signed by the Governor.

Still, it is nice to see a number significantly lower than the one we'd been expecting. Here is to hoping it stays low.

Update. The President speaks.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Budget rumors

The President sent out an email updating us on the budget problems. He expects the Legislature to announce the nearly final budget by the end of the week. If I'm remembering my legislative process right, both houses have to reconcile in time to send the bill to the Governor around the 22nd of April. In the words of the email,
We have no inside information. And, for months, each day has brought a different rumor. But, the conversations the last few days that we have all been having -- faculty, staff, unions, university leadership -- are coalescing.
He made a speech recently where he talked about what he has been hearing. Those remarks are posted, and on page 6 is the good stuff. The current 'possibly real' rumor is a state-funds cut of 25-30%, which contrasts with the 20% cut (IIRC) that was in the Governor's proposed budget back in December. It also seems that the Legislature is not allowing us to exceed the 7% maximum tuition hike. What this means for us remains to be seen, and we still have to wait until official word.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Budgetary efficiency

As I've mentioned, there is a major budget shortfall coming real soon. In the past two weeks various entities have gone before the Board of Trustees discussing the effects of budget cuts on their units. The documents submitted can be found here. The Vice Provost of Information and Telecommunication, my grand-boss, also had a presentation. Which you can view here. The especially nosy can even listen to the presentation here, the 12:45 file and starts about a minute-plus in.

There were some interesting bits in the presentation:
"In 2007, our central IT staff (excluding SciTech & Secretarial) totaled 73 persons. The average for our peer group (with greater than 10,000 student FTE) was 81 people. While a difference of 8 FTE may not seem great, it has a significant impact on our ability to support our users. This is compounded if we consider that student FTE grew a cumulative 16% in the past decade; faculty and staff FTE grew at a cumulative 14% while ITS staff declined 3% "
So, our supported environment grew, and we lost people. Right. Moving on...
"Similarly the budget numbers reveal the same trend. Western's 2007 operating budget for ITS was 6.65 million. The average for our peer institutions (with greater than 10,000 student FTE) was 8.17 million. Total budgets including recharge and student technology fees were 7.8 million for Western and 10.3 million for our peer group."
And we're under-resourced compared to our peer institutions. Right.

This can be spun a couple of ways. The spin being given right now, when we're being faced with a major budget cut, is that we're already running a very efficient operation, and cutting now would seriously affect provided services. A couple years ago when times were more flush, the spin was that we're under resourced compared to our peer institutions, and this is harming service robustness.

Both, as it happens, are true. We are running a very lean organization that gets a lot done for the dollars being spent on it. At the same time, the very same shoe-string attitude has overlooked certain business continuity concerns that worry those of us who will have to rebuild everything in the case of a major disaster. Like the facilities budget, we also run a 'deferred maintenance' list of things we'd like to fix now but aren't critical enough to warrant emergency spending. Since every dollar is a dear dollar, major purchases such as disk arrays or tape libraries have to last a long, long time. We still have some HP ML530 servers in service, and that is a 9 year old server (old enough that HP lists Banyan Vines drivers for the server).

This is continually vexing to vendors who cold-call me. Even in more flush times, anything that costs more than $3000 required pushing to get, and anything that cost over $20,000 was pretty much out of the question. Storage arrays that even on academic discount cost north of $80,000 require exceptional financing and can take several years to get approved. In budget constrained times such as these, anything that costs over $1000 has to go before a budget review process.

It is continually aggravating to work in an organization as under resourced as we are. Our disaster recovery infrastructure is questionable, and business-continuity is a luxury we just plain can't afford. Two years ago there was a push for some business continuity, but it ran smack into the shoe-string. The MSA1500 that I've railed about so long was purchased as a BC device, but it is fundamentally unsuited to the task. Getting data onto it was a mish-mash of open source and hand-coded rigging. We've since abandoned that approach as it looks like 2012 may be the earliest we can afford to think about it again.

As a co-worker once ranted, "They expect enterprise level service for a small-business budget."

You'd think this would be the gold plated opening for open source software. It hasn't been. Our problem isn't so much software as it is hardware. If we can GET the hardware for business continuity, it'll probably be open source software that actually handles the data replication. Replacing Blackboard with Moodle will require new hardware, since we will have to dual-stack for two years in order to handle grade challenges for classes taught on Blackboard. Moodle would also require an additional FTE due to the amount of customizations required to make it as Blackboard-like as possible. And these are only two examples.

It was very encouraging to see that the top level of our organization (that Vice Provost) is very aware of the problem.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Budget crunch, the first laws

The first law relating to the Washington State budget crunch was signed last week. For a synopsis provided by the Professional Services Organization here at WWU (the unit I belong to, what with me being a salaried, exempt employee) can be found here.

There are a number of things in there:
  • Pay freeze for non-classified positions (non-union) in the 2007-2011 time-frame. All things considered, I wasn't expecting to get one until 2012 anyway. At least it isn't a pay cut!
  • Formalizing the hiring freeze with a few exceptions. Academic Affairs, the group Tech Services belongs to, is part of the exemption. So if my office mate dies in a horrible car accident, we can (theoretically) replace him before 2012. However, HR positions are NOT covered.
  • A ban on equipment purchases exceeding $5000. There is an exception process requiring proof of emergency. This will be interesting to see work out, as a bunch of our stuff turns 5 years old next May, and that'll mean greatly increased support-contract costs. We'll be able to make the case that replacing the old crap with new stuff will save money in the 1-3 year range, but the costs will be over the cut-off. That'll be a fun fight.
  • Formalizing the out-of-state travel ban.
More when it comes out.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Budget jockying

Today in the Seattle PI was this headline:

UW may face hundreds of job cuts

In short, the University of Washington may have to lay off quite a bit of staff if the budget rumors going around are true. Rumors that say that the higher-ed budget cut would be 50% above what has already been proposed.

As it happens, this is in line with an email that President Shepard sent last week. The higher-eds have dispatched lists of what they'll have to cut if the higher cut targets are passed. And they're doing their best to scare people. I don't know exactly what was in our package, but it was grim. On purpose.

Monday, the same day the above news was released, WWU announced the creation of an Outplacement Center in HR. This is to assist those staff that are given a layoff to find new jobs. I checked, and for Salaried Exempt Professionals like myself, they are required to give me either a sliding scale of warning (based on years of service, in my case 5 months notice) or a check equivalent to the same amount of salary. So if there are layoffs in the non-Union ranks, these people will need the Outplacement Center.

This is a tacit admission that our budget woes are deeply unlikely to be addressed without a reduction in force of some kind.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Legislation-watch begins

Today is the first day of the Washington State legislative session. 105 days for a budget bill to be passed and presented to the governor. You can bet that this will be closely watched by us.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The advantages of unions

As I've mentioned before, we have a very major budget crunch facing the State of Washington. As WWU gets a good chunk of its funding from the State, this affects us as well. We've been told to expect an overall general fund budget shortfall of around 13% if I'm remembering right. This is a lot.

A week or so ago the Governor released her budget that she'll be submitting to the Legislature. It is guaranteed that there will be differences (and very likely major differences) between what she submits and what she'll ultimately sign. This budget does not include any new taxes.

As a brief aside, Washington has a referendum process where citizen-proposed initiatives can be put before the people for vote. In the past, any new taxes passed by the Legislature have almost always been thrown in front of the Initiative bus and run over. The State, therefore, is very gun-shy about tax increases. It is not surprising that the Governor is passing onto the Legislature the responsibility of suggesting that perhaps raising revenue is a way to get out of this mess.

However, the budget proposal does not include funding for contracted pay increases for certain unionized worker classes. Unsurprisingly, the unions are starting to sue for breach-of-contract. It's a bit puzzling that they're doing it now, when the proposal is just a proposal and no power beyond the power of suggestion, but they're doing it anyway.

This can lead to an interesting possible side-effect in the next 2-4 years as this budget crisis unfolds. If the unionized workers get their contracted increases and us salaried professionals don't get our annual cost-of-living increase, we could (er, will) see cases where the promotion for a classified job into an unclassified job results in a pay-cut. In the last 2 years I had a sizable salary increase because the classified workers underneath me on the org-chart were given a sizable pay increase by the Legislature. I got the increase in order to prevent a salary inversion. If the classified workers get their contracted increases and we get the 0% us salaried folk are expecting, it could happen again; whether or not we'll get any money remains to be seen.

There is a down-side to unions, though. They negotiate anywhere from yearly to every four years depending on the union. A deal cut when revenue projections are still negative will have scanty to zero increases, which will still be in place should State revenue suddenly increase. In this way Union pay for public works is even more of a lagging indicator of economic woes than State budgets already are.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Budget 2009-11

Sounds like the last analysis, the $5.1Bn number did not include, "caseload analysis." Or, analyzing increased case-loads to state agencies due to really bad economy. It sounds like when that is factored in, the projected deficit is closer to $5.8Bn.

Why is Washington State racking up the deficits? It's simple, we're more vulnerable to economic downturns than other states. That's because Washington has no Income tax, so most of the income for the State government comes from Sales Taxes. Sales Taxes are different from Value Added Taxes in that the taxed entity is the terminal consumer rather than the whole supply chain as a whole, so it is your average citizen that bears the full responsibility for the 8.3% tax on that new car. Consumer spending is projected to drop way off, and that in turn creates a major budget shortfall for the State government.

The Washington State sales tax is 6.5%, but Counties and Cities can add to that. Here in Bellingham, the sales tax rate is 7.8%, and down in downtown Seattle the rate is 9.0%. Counties and Cities also earn income through Property Taxes, which are less vulnerable to declining economic times (i.e. dropping house prices) due to how the taxes are calculated.

Here's hoping that the projections have been overly pessimistic.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Budget numbers revised again

To $5.1Bn. That number includes the $4.6Bn for the next biennium, but the $0.5Bn deficit for THIS year. Joy.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The revised budget is out

As predicted, $4.6Bn instead of the $3.7 they were talking about earlier. What does that mean for me and Western? In the words of two of my bosses today:
For our state, revenues are currently projected to fall around 10% short of projected state expenditures. The magnitude of the shortfall is estimated to be about $4.6 billion. Since about half the state"s budget is protected from reductions through constitutional or other means, to make up the 10% shortfall would require an average of a 20% reduction in the rest of the state agency budgets. We are in that latter category of state agencies whose budgets, on average, would have to be reduced by 20%.

Just what does that mean for Western? The 20% reduction is in the 60% of our budget that comes from state support. So, it"s 12% of our operating budget.
So, expect a 12% cut to the budget. Right. Can't we just raise tuition?
If tuition were raised to the maximum currently allowed by law (7% per year) for resident undergraduates, the additional funds would reduce the magnitude of the cut to something in the neighborhood of 8.7% of our operating budget.
Still pretty hefty. However, the Legislature still has a full session to go over the budget, and it still has to be signed. Who knows what'll change between now and when Session ends. However, the prudent fiscal planner will be looking for cuts up to 12% of operating budget.

More close to home:
Second, [the President] has asked us to prepare scenarios about how we might respond to a 2%, 3.8%, and 5% permanent reduction for the next biennium.
So it isn't terribly likely that ITS, much less Technical Services, will be asked to whack 12% of operating budget. This is a good thing to this selfish person. 12% of operating budget for Tech Services would be people, since I'm pretty sure the sum total of our non-salary expenses is less than 10% of our budget. Whew.

Still, this is going to put a major lid on purchases for the next 3 years. Within that period our blade servers fall off warranty, which is going to incur certain replacement expenses (almost definitely for new ESX cluster nodes). On the other hand, it gives me a really good line to use for cold-calling vendors...

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bad budget predictions

Quoth one news source:
Dunshee expects the state budget deficit will balloon to as much as $4.6 billion after next week’s revenue forecast.
You can guarantee that I'll be looking for next week's revenue forecast. $4.6 billion, for those keeping track, is a lot larger than the $2.7bn they were saying earlier. The measures I talked about earlier would have to be added to, if things really are as bad as that article lets on. The share of the $2.7bn WWU was allotted this year could be handled through use of reserve funds and other high finance things, or so said the President in September. A 70% larger deficit is another story, and that could lead to program cuts and/or lay-offs.

Lay-offs are a worry. I'm "professional" so there is no union behind me when the axe starts swinging, so positions like mine involve less paperwork and get more return in the case of termination. Unlike the Classified employees I don't have bump-back rights. In their case, if a, say, Fiscal Technician III gets terminated who previously held the title Fiscal Technician II, that FT-3 could bump-back into an FT-2. That bump-back is a displacement, so the FT-2 that got bumped would then exercise any bump-back rights she had, and on down the line until someone actually gets laid off. In my case, if they terminate me, I'm gone. Period. Much less paperwork.

But then, I don't know if that's how it works around here. The last really serious round of lay-offs was long enough ago that only two people in my department were around back then, and that's a lot of time for a management culture to change. However, if Technical Services gets handed an axe to apply to a position, my read of the lay of things is that I'm in the top 3. Also, we have no Classified employees in my department.

So, yeah. The budget forecast is something I'll really be paying attention to.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

More on the budget

The budget crunch I mentioned the other day has made the local paper. This is not that surprising, since we're one of the bigger employers in the area, and 20K students make a noticeable economic impact to the area.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Erm, about the budget

From an email sent to all points from the U President this afternoon:

In the OFM spreadsheets received today, we were stunned to find that targets had been set for higher education. Western, today, is now expected, from the sorts of measures outlined in the August 4 memorandum, to "save" $1,827,000 in the current fiscal year. (This major reduction applies across all budgets, including instructional budgets.)

Add that to the earlier number, and our total budget reduction is NOT the $176,000 representing 1% of non-instructional budgets. It is $2,003,682.


Further, we have been advised to expect these reductions to be permanent; that is, to also be a part of our 2009-11 budget.

Pardon me whilst I mutter things.

This means that it is nearly certain that we will NOT be getting any new hardware for the Novell cluster next summer. We'll have to do it on hardware we already own right now. This means I won't be able to partake of that lovely 64-bit goodness. Drat drat drat.

We're already under-funded for where we need to be, this won't help. Even with the storage arrays we just bought, in terms of total disk-space we've managed to fully commit all of it. There is no excess capacity. What's more, there is no easy way to ADD new capacity since any significant amounts will require purchasing new storage shelves.

In the intermediate term, this means that WWU will now descend into bureaucratic charge-back warfare. As service-providing departments like ours try to find ways to finance the needed growth, we'll start being hard-ass about charging for exceptional services. And they'll do it to us too. So if the College of Arts and Sciences comes to us and asks us for space to host 2TB of, say, NASA data, we'll have to bill them for it. And that cost will be a 'total cost' which will by necessity include the backup costs. In return, if we need 16 ethernet jacks added to the AC datacenter, Telecom may start billing us.

And I get a new boss Thursday. Happily, since there is overlap between outgoing and incoming they've been briefing a lot. This is to prepare the new guy for the challenges he'll face in his first few weeks flying solo. There may even be the odd phone-call for advice, we'll see.

Gonna get real interesting around here.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That darned budget

This is where I whine about not having enough money.

It has been a common complaint amongst my co-workers that WWU wants enterprise level service for a SOHO budget. Especially for the Win/Novell environments. Our Solaris stuff is tied in closely to our ERP product, SCT Banner, and that gets big budget every 5 years to replace. We really need the same kind of thing for the Win/Novell side of the house, such as this disk-array replacement project we're doing right now.

The new EVAs are being paid for by Student Tech Fee, and not out of a general budget request. This is not how these devices should be funded, since the scope of this array is much wider than just student-related features. Unfortunately, STF is the only way we could get them funded, and we desperately need the new arrays. Without the new arrays, student service would be significantly impacted over the next fiscal year.

The problem is that the EVA3000 contains between 40-45% directly student-related storage. The other 55-60% is Fac/Staff storage. And yet, the EVA3000 was paid for by STF funds in 2003. Huh.

The summer of 2007 saw a Banner Upgrade Project, when the servers that support SCT Banner were upgraded. This was a quarter million dollar project and it happens every 5 years. They also got a disk-array upgrade to a pair of StorageTek (SUN, remember) arrays, DR replicated between our building and the DR site in Bond Hall. I believe they're using Solaris-level replication rather than Array-level replication.

The disk-array upgrade we're doing now got through the President's office just before the boom went down on big expensive purchases. It languished in the Purchasing department due to summer-vacation related under-staffing. I hate to think how late it would have gone had it been subjected to the added paperwork we now have to go through for any purchase over $1000. Under no circumstances could we have done it before Fall quarter. Which would have been bad, since we were too short to deal with the expected growth of storage for Fall quarter.

Now that we're going deep into the land of VMWare ESX, centralized storage-arrays are line of business. Without the STF funded arrays, we'd be stuck with "Departmental" and "Entry-level" arrays such as the much maligned MSA1500, or building our own iSCSI SAN from component parts (a DL385, with 2x 4-channel SmartArray controller cards, 8x MSA70 drive enclosures, running NetWare or Linux as an iSCSI target, with bonded GigE ports for throughput). Which would blow chunks. As it is, we're still stuck using SATA drives for certain 'online' uses, such as a pair of volumes on our NetWare cluster that are low usage but big consumers of space. Such systems are not designed for the workloads we'd have to subject them to, and are very poor performers when doing things like LUN expansions.

The EVA is exactly what we need to do what we're already doing for high-availability computing, yet is always treated as an exceptional budget request when it comes time to do anything big with it. Since these things are hella expensive, the budgetary powers-that-be balk at approving them and like to defer them for a year or two. We asked for a replacement EVA in time for last year's academic year, but the general-budget request got denied. For this year we went, IIRC, both with general-fund and STF proposals. The general fund got denied, but STF approved it. This needs to change.

By October, every person between and Governor Gregoir will be new. My boss is retiring in October. My grandboss was replaced last year, my great grand boss also has been replaced in the last year, and the University President stepped down on September 1st. Perhaps the new people will have a broader perspective on things and might permit the budget priorities to be realigned to the point that our disk-arrays are classified as the critical line-of-business investments they are.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Budget crunch update

The University President has just sent out an email describing what the university plans on doing in light of the Governor's memo. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot in there.
  • There WILL be a hiring freeze.... and this will manifest by having newly vacant positions have to go before a Provost/Vice-Provost review before being filled.
  • Salary increases will still be given per negotiated contracts.... for classified people, which I'm not. We don't know what us Professional types will get. And won't know until the State passes the next budget during the coming winter.
  • Out of state Travel WILL be restricted.... and this will manifest by having travel requests go before a Provost/Vice-Provost review before being approved. Like they always do.
Almost all of this comes down to, "we'll be looking even harder at expense requests, so be careful." We really won't know how bad it'll get until the Legislature convenes and starts working on bills. They open, if I remember right, just after the new year.

So, I may yet get to BrainShare 2009, but it may require my boss to talk a lot faster than normal. We just won't know until we get a feeling for how much pressure the Provosts and Vice-Provosts are under to contain costs.

On the plus side, the SAN upgrade is pretty clearly critical to the function of this university, so that'll get approved. Or there will be riots in the halls outside my office.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hiring (and travel) freeze, part 2

A longer article on the freeze.

In short, since WWU is not directly under the Governor, our President will have to announce any freezes. Which hasn't happened yet. On the other hand, we have a new President starting real soon. So. This will be interesting. I may get to BrainShare-09 yet, but I'm not counting on it.

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