Following last Saturday’s extended Blackboard outage, CCIT proudly proclaimed that they had reached a pivotal point in their existence: a running track record of less than 99 percent uptime, when all systems were taken into account, for servers directly under their control. This momentous event, said CCIT co-director Fred Robinson, “Hasn’t happened since we switched to outsourced e-mail a year ago. We feel that the resurrection of our 9×2 initiative is a good step toward keeping CCIT relevant in the days to come.”
When pressed to describe what exactly the 9×2 initiative was, Robinson stated, “These days the reliability of hardware has taken all the humanity out of computing. We believe that the instant-gratification culture of reliable technology is detrimental to society, whether the resulting addiction is to WoW or checking Blackboard to see whether your professor has uploaded lecture notes for the class that happened yesterday.” Robinson continued, “The 9×2 initiative, pioneered during AC&N days… before the time of current freshmen and sophomores… seeks to make sure vital electronic systems on-campus have sufficient downtime over the course of a month that students will do something else with their lives. That or direct their frustration at electronic systems rather than an overly difficult, or deficient, LAIS or Calculus 3 professor. Whatever works.”
The name for the initiative comes from CCIT’s goal to maintain, at most, 99% uptime for all systems on campus for which they have control. That translates to between 7.2 and 7.44 hours of downtime per month, preferably on weekends, when students do a surprising amount of their homework. February, despite being a shorter month, gets a benchmark equal to September: 7.2 hours of downtime or bust. “So far, we’re meeting our goals,” explained CCIT minion-in-chief Bill Konig, citing outages in Blackboard, Trailhead, and upcoming scheduled maintenance during inopportune times for the Exchange-based mail system used for faculty and campus staff. “Students are not the only target audience for 9×2,” Konig clarified.
In the past, CCIT has collaborated with Facilities Management to induce downtime in such systems as the Blackboard-powered key card system, using pre-alpha firmware upgrades to, innocently enough, reduce the system to total inoperability. “We found that, while effective, the card system shutdown also prevented us from doing our work, so we’re trying to keep that from happening,” Robinson said, declining to mention the manner, or usefulness, of work that CCIT would otherwise be performing during those times.
One item of note is that, via redundant servers and a distributed architecture, including load-sharing with other universities, the Physics department has been able to keep telecom-grade uptime statistics on their LON-CAPA system, though at times the system has been slow due to processing test scores or frantic Physics II students trying to answer “0” for remaining homework problems five minutes before the section closes. “CCIT has their goals, we have ours,” explained Physics Department IT head Charles Rok. “We think that keeping our systems online is in the best interest of our students; having scheduled maintenance at 3 AM would disrupt the work flow of our juniors and seniors.” Department head Jim Furlong was unavailable for comment due to an SCP (Society of Creepy Physicists) meeting in Denver.
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