Computing and Information Services

Information technology has changed how all members of the University community learn, teach, and work. The principal goal of Computing and Information Services (CIS) is to provide computing, information and telecommunications services to meet the technology needs of all students, faculty, and staff. These services make different sources of information available, from a local database to an international data network.

The scope of CIS services goes beyond a personal computer (PC) or a telephone sitting on a desk. CIS network services reach thousands of desktop PCs across five campuses and offer access to the global network of networks known as the Internet. In addition, many more PCs from desktops at home reach out to the world via CIS dial-up services. The backbone of CIS-distributed computing services is PittNet, a network based on Ethernet technology that serves the diverse communications needs of the University community. Encompassing the entire University, PittNet enables users to communicate with each other and with various CIS systems, regardless of location or what device they are using. CIS also maintains the University's World Wide Web service that showcases the University to the international community via the Internet and serves the University community through the PittHome on-line information service (

Directly accessible computing services are available at seven public computing labs on the Pittsburgh Campus. More than 620 personal computers and workstations allow access to a variety of software packages, laser printers, and access to the Internet. Software access is made available through PittNet so that the most complete library of software is available to every lab PC. Some of the labs double as classrooms that faculty may reserve to provide students with hands-on computing experience. The Technology Evaluation and Consulting Lab contains specialized equipment for high-end graphic imaging and production. The Adaptive Computing Training Lab offers a number of technology-based learning aids and specialized instructors for students with physical and learning disabilities. Extensive documentation is available on-line and in the computing labs.

In addition to providing a uniform software desktop for each computing lab PC, CIS also offers network-based software serving other PCs across the five campuses. This ensures subscribers of the latest versions of popular software without having to worry about upgrades or licensing fees.

Questions about what desktop equipment and software to buy can be answered at the Personal Computer Support and Service Center (the PC Center). The PC Center offers members of the University community the opportunity to purchase Apple, Gateway, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard computing equipment, software, and accessories at substantial discounts. The PC Center also offers factory-authorized repair and maintenance contracts for equipment purchases.

The PC Center is just one element of a wide range of CIS support services for University students, faculty, and staff. The CIS Help Desk support staff can assist computer users of all different skill levels with equipment and software recommendations, software consulting, troubleshooting, and training. CIS analysts are available for office automation, hardware maintenance, consulting, and evaluation services, as well as on-site technical support contracts.

CIS support projects run the gamut from a single machine setup to the design of complex information systems and the development of crucial administrative applications. CIS also provides dedicated, on-site PC and network support for departments with their own local area network.

CIS Timesharing services are housed at the RIDC facility in O'Hara Township. The most utilized of these services is the UNIX Timesharing Service, which consists of multiple Sun SPARCServer 10 processors. The VMS Timesharing Service consists of two Alpha 3000 processors as well as a VAX 6420. Each of these systems supports a wide range of mainframe software applications, including database management systems, graphic analysis programs, mathematical and statistical program libraries, simulation packages, tape utilities, file transfer utilities, text processors, and Sun-based client server systems for PRISM and future administrative systems. Currently, an IBM 3090-400J mainframe provides for other University administrative information needs, including ISIS, the University-wide Integrated Student Information System. The IBM processor also runs the University Libraries' NOTIS software system that includes the on-line catalog, PittCat.

CIS Telecommunications staff operate and maintain more than 18,000 telephones at the Pittsburgh Campus alone, process approximately 250 "move and change" orders per month, and also provide service to regional campuses. Through the Student Telephone Service operations, Telecommunications provides services to students residing at the Pittsburgh and Bradford Campuses. Other tele-communications services include voice mail, telegraph services, and telephone credit cards.

CIS reports to the Office of the Provost. Four major committees, the Information Technology Steering Committee, the Executive Committee for Academic Computing, The PC Center Advisory Committee, and the Senate Computer Usage Committee, along with several associated working groups, oversee the activities and services of CIS. As of the end of fiscal year 1997, CIS staff numbered more than 260 full-time and more than 115 part-time employees. Administrative offices are in six locations: five located on the Pittsburgh Campus and one at the off-campus RIDC Industrial Park. Data communications between the RIDC facility and the Pittsburgh Campus is transmitted via the University's high-speed microwave link.

Source: Computing and Information Services, September 1997.

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Office of Institutional Research
University of Pittsburgh Fact Book, 1997