Vanderbilt medical center

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Information Technology Services director Glen Miller and his team are working to eliminate barriers between the Medical Center and University computing networks.

ITS assures computing infrastructure

by Mary Beth Gardiner

As director of Vanderbilt’s Information Technology Services, Glen Miller sees his contribution to the Medical Center’s bioinformatics program as part and parcel of the ITS core mission: to support the computer infrastructure of the entire University.

ITS makes itself useful to the medical center in several ways, Miller says. Highest on the list of priorities is providing the best possible data network facilities between research partners and facilities within and outside of Vanderbilt.

“I think that working with Network Computing Services, which provides the network backbone in the Medical Center buildings, we are on a very sound path of building the Medical Center and the University networks as one network in structure,” he says. “We want to try to eliminate the barriers between the two and to make it easier for folks to cross disciplines in their research and to share resources. It’s taken a while, but I think that’s working well.”

In addition, the group is intent on providing scientific computing and storage facilities by nurturing collaborative initiatives among researchers. Staffers Mary Dietrich and Alan Tackett are working on finding new ways to fund expansion of VAMPIRE, the high-speed, multi-processor computing system housed at ITS. Dietrich is the ITS Academic Liaison and Tackett is director of VAMPIRE. Due to the “explosive” needs of researchers for storing things like MRI data, Miller says, the staff is working on ways to dramatically beef up storage capability, including the formation of coalitions for purchasing tape storage.

Miller believes ITS also serves the more general role of being an “aggregate point” for researchers with unmet needs. For example, the group is working on ways to improve online delivery and version tracking of software, including variations of the UNIX operating system.

The issues of concern with UNIX-type operating systems – including LINUX, which is used widely on campus – are those of security. According to Miller, users need to understand and protect themselves from the inherent security risks, and those risks vary as software is revised.

“It’s not necessarily that anyone else in the outside world wants access to their information,” he explains, “it’s just that Vanderbilt has this great big, fat pipeline to the Internet and when we have these powerful computers sitting here, it’s a wonderful target for people to take over some of that resource for their own purposes.”
For more information or to contact ITS, visit http://www.vanderbilt.edu/its/about.php.

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