19. The Next Nexus

Nexus web banner

The Oxford Nexus Exchange service, with its 46,000 accounts, has a sister service, based on SharePoint. SharePoint should be available to all members of the University by Trinity Term of this year and should have already moved through some major improvements and upgrades by that time.

19.1. Collaborating on documents with Nexus

Oxford Nexus is largely known for its Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, including calendars, tasks, contacts, and much shared and devolved functionality. However, for much of 2010, we have been piloting a service to early adopters that arose from the need for collaborative work on documents. That collaborative work could encompass the drafting of research papers, committee activities and that for clubs and societies. The new service is about to be opened up, beyond its early adopters, to the whole of the University, and may include external collaborators.

The platform for early adopters was based on SharePoint 2007, but we have opted for an early upgrade to SharePoint 2010. Current users will be migrated to the 2010 service by the end of January. If all goes well, we anticipate that the SharePoint service will be available to any member of the University by Trinity Term 2011. SharePoint poses a real challenge to OUCS as it is not only a completely novel service, but it is a service that can be used so differently by different people that the model for supporting the application may call for far more of a ‘community-based’ approach.

19.2. Successful major migrations

Meanwhile the Nexus Team has been establishing the Microsoft Exchange service as the central ‘nexus’ of the University in terms of communication and working together. Two large migrations, one complete, one nearing completion, have been carried out recently. Former Lotus Notes users in University Administration Services and the ex-Groupwise users in Medical Sciences now find themselves with Nexus accounts and with the ability to schedule a meeting with nearly anyone across the University at the click of a mouse. Oxford Nexus seems never to stand still.

19.3. Updates, additional functionality and resilience

We are also working hard on moving our Microsoft Exchange infrastructure from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. You should notice a far more equitable experience across the major web browsers, especially Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Unfortunately for us, upgrading to Exchange 2010 brings with it a major move in terms of data storage. You may know that we have a two-site system whereby – in theory – a complete outage of OUCS should result in the service running from the second site at Begbroke (and vice versa of course). We are using two powerful Storage Area Networks to manage this. However, with Exchange 2010, we may Nexus need to move the 25 Terabytes or so of data to a different kind of storage, (wholly or partly, rapidly or gradually) and/or reconfigure our current storage. This could be somewhat of a headache as we shall aim – as always – for little or no interruption to your service.

19.4. Positive growth

Email seems to be ever more popular, leading to eye- watering growth in disk consumption. At the moment we are seeing our disk usage increase at a rate of 900 GB per month. We have also seen a 62% increase in size of the average mailbox since March 2010. Just over a half percent of Oxford Nexus users pay a premium charge for a larger mailbox yet, as in all things consumer, it would seem 70% of the data is owned by 20% of the users. The Nexus Team, as well as many in OUCS – particularly the Help Centre – is working tirelessly in order to cope with the enormous growth in demand. We also hope that our new service is found to be another invaluable tool in the electronic work environment at Oxford.

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