Campus renames expanded central Active Directory/Exchange service; it is now uConnect

The central Active Directory and Exchange service has added important new features, including improved Blackberry support and communication options, to its core integrated email and calendaring services.

To recognize the improvements, the service also has a new name: UC Davis uConnect. It had been known as Xeda.

UConnect, which substantially reduced its rates in July, offers subscribers a wide range of tools that make it easier to collaborate online. The newest features include:

  • Unified Communications, which includes instant messaging, audio/video conferencing, and computer-to-computer phone calls, all on secure connections.
  • Blackberry Express server, which supports uConnect on Blackberries at a reduced cost--a one-time $70 fee, and the $10-to-$15 monthly Blackberry Enterprise Services fee charged by a user's cellphone carrier, are no longer needed.

More improvements are in the works, including SharePoint, a set of software tools developed by Microsoft that help people work together over the web.

Partnership for a common system

The service is also benefiting from a partnership between the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) and Information and Educational Technology (IET) to make sure that uConnect, as it expands, addresses the needs of campus administrative and academic units--with special attention to faculty.

Neal Van Alfen, CA&ES dean, and Pete Siegel, vice provost for IET and chief information officer for UC Davis, announced Sept. 20 that their departments had formed a partnership concerning the centrally m anaged Active Directory and Exchange service.

Many academic departments already run their own versions of Exchange and Active Directory, but using a common system will cut overhead costs and simplify web-based collaboration among faculty. As a result, campus academic representatives had begun to look into using a shared system.

In late July, the Deans' Technology Council (DTC) sent Van Alfen and Siegel a list of common requirements that one central system would need. Based on those requirements, Van Alfen and Siegel "asked a small task force of technical leads from CA&ES, IET, and ARM [Administrative and Resource Management] to advise us." Their report confirmed that the existing centrally managed service provided the foundation necessary to offer the features identified by the DTC.

In their message, Van Alfen and Siegel thanked several people for their work in this area, especially Adam Getchell, CA&ES director of information technology, and his team; the DTC's leadership; and "the excellent work" of the task force--Lowell Valliant of ARM, Tom Pomroy of CA&ES, and uConnect Services Manager Paul Singh of IET.

Van Alfen and Siegel said a well-designed, campuswide Active Directory and Exchange service will be an increasingly important part of the enabling technologies that will help the campus operate more efficiently, and therefore provide better support for the campus mission.

About 3,500 employees in various campus units use uConnect, up from 3,000 at the start of summer. The service anticipates serving 8,000 to 9,000 subscribers within about six months, as more units join.

What is now uConnect was established in 2005 through a collaboration between IET and the Office of Administration, now part of ARM. It is based on a centrally maintained Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory service, whose features provide email, calendaring, electronic fax, support for mobile devices, and a range of communication and collaboration tools. Several administrative units have used Xeda, now uConnect, for years.

Please direct questions or comments to Paul Singh at (530) 752-8809, or email uconnect@ucdavis.edu.