Acting as agents of innovation

The foundation that UAB IT has laid over the past six years — such as improving the network, strengthening high-performance computing, moving from scarcity of IT services to abundance — has been the foundation that enabled technology success at the University over the past year. Innovations born from our COVID year led to innovations that are leading us out of it. Totaled, UAB IT has produced more than 100 wins for campus in 2021, and we are looking forward to the collaborations that will bring more digital transformation in 2022.

Award highlights UAB innovation

For the first time, UAB in 2021 won the CIO 100 Award, an award given to innovative organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of strategic and operational excellence in IT. UAB was honored for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the GuideSafe™ exposure notification app; support for statewide testing; efforts to narrow the digital divide for students; and re-engineering classroom technology to support hybrid learning.

"These innovations brought UAB employees together to collaborate across disciplines to save lives, transform operations and help other organizations," said Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D., chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology. "We embraced that the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges. Our challenge was the breadth of different solutions needed to address these unprecedented challenges — not only for our campus but for our community and our state."

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TechnologyInnovationCenter2 AnnualReport21
TechnologyInnovationCenter2 AnnualReport21

2

number of higher education institutions honored in 2021 CIO 100 (UAB and University of Miami Health System)

19

number of collaboration spaces in the Technology Innovation Center

17,500

number square feet of office space in the Technology Innovation Center

New building focuses on collaboration, innovation

UAB's new Technology Innovation Center is the perfect facility to take UAB into the future — hosting unique collaboration spaces and cost-efficient power sources to protect the University's technology infrastructure. The TIC houses a state-of-the-art data center, the fastest university internet connectivity in the state, expandable technology infrastructure, and colocation for partners in distributed IT.

UAB has a rich tradition of pursuing and achieving ambitious goals, and nowhere is that more apparent in recent years than in IT, as we continually become faster, bigger, and better — driven by exceptional talent and top technology, including a supercomputer that is the fastest in the state and among the fastest in the Southeast," said UAB President Ray L. Watts. "The Technology Innovation Center further accelerates campus-wide collaboration and innovation, academic success, and groundbreaking discoveries, and makes UAB and the UA System more competitive than ever, as we continue growing a robust, technology-based economy for our region and state."

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Delighting our customers

As our chief information officer Dr. Curt Carver says, "the only verb that matters is delight." Delighting our customers and creating a competitive advantage for the University are paramount for UAB IT. Among our innovations over the past year are projects in which we have partnered with our customers and used that collaboration to build something better.

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B Well UAB app puts self-help tools in students', employees' hands

Collaboration at all levels was a hallmark of the B Well UAB app, a mental health app inspired by UAB students and developed by UAB employees. The app launched early in 2021 after a development sprint with partners from Student Affairs, Human Resources, UAB IT and students, and the team spent time throughout the year improving it based on recommendations from users. In April, a profile for employees was added to the app, with specific content geared toward staff.

"Everyone associated with the project understood the importance of this app," said Rebecca Kennedy, assistant vice president for student health and wellbeing. "They knew that this kind of tool could help to improve access to mental health resources not only for UAB students but also for university and hospital employees."

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Engineering students have all-access pass with UAB Anywhere

Students in the School of Engineering — and across campus — have access to the software they need, no matter what device they are using, thanks to the virtual solution UAB Anywhere.

UABAnywhere is a Citrix Cloud virtual desktop solution, allowing you to access a virtual user desktop in a virtual environment. That means when you don't have access to a classroom, lab or office computer, you can still connect to it from another machine and have access to the same software and programs.

"I think the partnership with UAB School of Engineering and UAB IT has benefited both of us with respect to information technology, but primarily providing our students with better remote capability to use the Engineering software we teach with," said Tommy Foley, director of information technology for the School of Engineering.

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TechnologyInnovationCenter2 AnnualReport21

3,076

number of downloads of the B Well UAB app

2,982

number of users who access UAB Anywhere

67,434

number of connections to UAB Anywhere between October and December 2021

Connecting our campus

Keeping UAB students, staff and faculty connected — no matter where they are — has been important even after our return to campus, and maintaining and improving our services and infrastructure are key to delighting our customers and improving our competitive advantage.

Research Computing infrastructure undergoes transformation

UAB IT has redesigned its research computing infrastructure to make it more robust and scalable, as well as more reliable, in response to an increase in demand for services. This comes after a $2 million investment that saw a 225 percent increase in the computing power of Cheaha, the state's fastest supercomputer.

"One driver for the Technology Innovation Center was to house UAB's high-performance computer, Cheaha," said Ralph Zottola, Ph.D., assistant vice president for Research Computing. "But we quickly realized that we needed a bigger house. The new facilities will be more reliable, thus increasing system availability for the research community."

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UABAnywhere AnnualReport21
UABAnywhere AnnualReport21

1,700

number of researchers registered for Research Computing resources

$213 million

amount in grants secured by Cheaha users in FY2021

1,373

number of servers, virtual servers, virtual desktops and physical hosts migrated into TIC data hall

Migrating data center, infrastructure a complex process

Moving people and furniture into the Technology Innovation Center is just one piece of the puzzle for the new building — moving the bulk of UAB's technology infrastructure into the facility has been a months-long project.

The delicate dance of moving equipment for a variety of services — servers, telecommunications and network lines and high-performance computing equipment — has been a well-orchestrated process to avoid downtime while making the moves securely.

In the end, housing equipment in the Technology Innovation Center — a state-of-the-art facility powered by in part by a cost-efficient Tesla Powerpack battery system — will reduce UAB's carbon footprint while also increasing system reliability, a feat for a University that already boasts an annual 99.9 percent system availability rate.

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Keeping our promises

Maintaining our agreements with customers, improving our level of service and securing your data helps us deliver the best customer experience for students, faculty and staff, and we looked for new ways to do that in 2021 — and look forward to new transformations in 2022.

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Classroom technology improvements continue

Even as students and faculty have largely returned to the physical classroom in 2021, UAB continues to upgrade and add new technology that will enable unique ways of teaching and learning now and in the future.

For Pete Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, continuing to use remote technology allows him to bring visitors to class — such as politicians connecting via Zoom — or to send his students into the field and then meet virtually. "In my data management class, I might send students to different parts of campus to collect primary data, such as tree types or number of squirrels. We could reconvene via Zoom, share our surroundings, and then have a discussion about our data collection approaches."

Throughout the past year, UAB IT, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and Facilities, has continued to update classrooms with new cameras, lecture capture technology, and updated equipment.

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Working together to secure our campus

Cyber attacks on our campus are an ongoing threat, but with new tools UAB can help combat them. UAB IT offers endpoint protection software on all UAB machines, which helps safeguard individual computers; extensive monitoring tools; firewall protections; and tools for our campus community. Keeper, a password manager, helps safeguard all of your passwords — not just your BlazerID — and a new PhishNotify button helps you report a phishing email with one click.

None of this would be possible without all of us working together — which an outside partner recognized when evaluating UAB's response to an attempted ransomware attack in January 2021, which was thwarted by UAB IT's team and tools.

"The positive working relationship between UAB IT and the other IT groups resulted in eradication and remediation actions that (we) would typically have expected to take weeks to accomplish, occurring in almost real time," read the report from Atlantic Data Forensics. "Several of the remediation steps taken would have been daunting at even ADF's most established and well-funded multi-national clients were performed at UAB without resistance and with a sense of teamwork that is uncommon in any industry."
TechnologyInnovationCenter2 AnnualReport21

133

Number of classrooms outfitted with new or refreshed technology in 2021

6.8 percent

Percentage of UAB students, faculty and staff who clicked on a simulated phishing email sent in November 2021

Serving campus with technology wins

UAB IT strives to reach at least 100 wins for campus every year — projects that improve the academic and work lives of students, faculty and staff in big and small ways. Our goal is to be agents of innovation to help empower our campus. To date, we have tallied nearly 750 wins in six years. Take a look at some of our projects from the past year below.

Let us know about your IT Wins! Fill out this form to submit your wins for 2022

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Reflecting back on our 2021 wins

A musical selection to take you back and make you dance — just in time for the holidays — and ready to energize you going into 2022!