Email problems will get an outside look

Pete Siegel, chief information officer for UC Davis, has formed an independent group to review what caused the severe service disruptions that affected thousands of the campus's 52,000 email accounts in mid-September.

Led by Dean Enrique Lavernia of the College of Engineering, the group will include faculty and campus technical staff. They will work with Information and Educational Technology to understand what happened, and to recommend adjustments, as needed, to the way IET monitors and responds to events involving email.

The story of what went wrong is complex. Earlier this year the campus started using a new back-end email architecture, Cyrus, that improved email performance. It has been used by dozens of universities and has a reputation for stability. But a conflict emerged in late summer between Cyrus and the campus operating system that runs it, causing thousands of email clients intermittently to lose access to their messages for much of Sept. 10 through 14, the last week of Summer Session II.

Service was restored at the end of most days, but would get disrupted again the next day as workday demand resumed.

The campus Data Center worked with experts from Cyrus, Sun Microsystems, and other universities to find out what went wrong and fully restore service. System administrators added more servers and moved email accounts to the new machines, to spread the accounts over more servers. That got email running reliably again. No messages were lost, and the service was stable the following week.

Administrators continue to work on solving the underlying problem, and are closely monitoring the system. One long-term solution might have the side effect of downloading duplicate copies of existing emails for some clients. IET will notify them in advance.

The review group will report its conclusions directly back to Siegel, who is also the vice provost for IET. The group's assignment and findings will be posted here.

For updates or to read more, visit TechNews, IET's campus tech news and information service. To report problems or get assistance with email, contact the IT Express help desk at (530) 754-HELP (4357).