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ITS Franklin building opens new era for computing across campus

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From left, Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology John Oberlin, Dan Reed, vice chancellor for information technology and the University’s chief information officer, Chancellor James Moeser, Trustee Roger Perry, Student Body President Seth Dearmin and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction Bruce Runberg commemorate the ITS Franklin opening.

Renovation began at 440 W. Franklin St. in November 2004. One year later, the transformed space welcomed employees from Information Technology Services (ITS) as the first building dedicated to ITS at UNC.

Now known as ITS Franklin, the three-story facility features offices, conference rooms and modern workspaces for 200 employees. A state-of-the-art machine room comprises nearly 5,000 square feet — almost twice the size of any other campus facility, with nearly twice the capability. The $11.7 million project was paid for with bonds, overhead receipts and other University funds.

“This is a significant occasion for the campus community,” Chancellor James Moeser said during the Nov. 4 dedication ceremony. “As I talked about in the State of the University speech in September, Carolina must be engaged internationally as well as with the State of North Carolina in order to fulfill its mission of service to the state. Every effort we make in this regard is supported and enabled by campus technology. With the opening of this facility today, we are taking a step to ensure that that support will be the best it can possibly be.”

Since the University acquired the site at 440 W. Franklin St. in 1974, the building has housed information technology staff. At this facility, payroll checks and physicians’ bills are printed, grades are posted, and W2s are printed and inserted in envelopes for distribution.

“The computer rooms at ITS Franklin house the administrative computational heart of the Carolina campus,” Dan Reed, vice chancellor for information technology and the University’s chief information officer, said. “Computing services host student information systems, human resources systems and our financial records processing. Every class, every grade, every financial transaction on campus flows through this building.”

Before renovation, conditions were challenging for these vital functions in a dated environment, and other operations were scattered throughout buildings across campus. To bring functions under one roof, major upgrades included reconstruction of interior walls and finishes; building framework and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; refurbishment of exterior; and construction of entryways and an elevator.

“The new computer room also holds a new resource — the largest research computing system ever deployed on the Carolina campus,” Reed said. “This 1024 processor Dell cluster will aid biomedical researchers who are plumbing the genetic basis of disease, chemists who are designing new materials and marine scientists who are developing predictive models of severe storms. All of these activities will contribute directly to the economic vitality of North Carolina.”

During construction, many employees remained at 440 W. Franklin St. to carry on the necessary functions. Ray DeCristofaro, director for operations at ITS Franklin, led those efforts. The change from the former site was amazing, he said.

“For years and years, not only was the space lacking, but it was not the nicest facility to work in,” DeCristofaro said. “We have a state-of-the-art facility now. Along with that come state-of-the-art tools. I have been in this business for over 25 years and it is the nicest facility I have ever been associated with. I have never seen a computer room that is that state of the art. We will be able to give services to the campus much more efficiently because of this facility.”

The function of Carolina’s Information Technology Services is to support every academic and administrative endeavor on this campus by providing telecommunications, networking, application and computing services, Moeser said.

“Their efforts keep a constant invisible stream of data flowing around us and between us and the rest of the world,” he said. “It is essential to Carolina’s mission of research, teaching and service. To be a global university, Carolina must keep pace in this rapidly changing area.”

Employees relocating to the facility should be in by mid December. ITS Franklin is the first building completed as part of the University’s new technology services initiatives. In December 2006, this facility will be joined by ITS Manning, currently under construction on South Campus, which will provide a central location for campus IT-support professionals.

“Information technology is an enabler for Carolina’s mission to touch, enrich and engage the citizen’s of North Carolina and to ensure our success in the world of ideas,” Reed said. “The most powerful information technology is invisible, because it empowers without encumbering and enhances without drawing notice. We in ITS are committed to making Carolina a place where IT will always be an invisible, but powerful, catalyst for innovation for the citizens of North Carolina.”


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