History of Information Technology at UTHSC-H
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, (UTHSC-H), was created by the U. T. System Board of Regents and supported by the Texas Legislature in 1972. Until the late 1970’s, UT-H relied largely on MD Anderson Cancer Center for information technology support with some local IT capability within the UT-H schools themselves.
In the late 1970’s, a small central information technology support group (later becoming Information Services) was formed under Administration and Finance to support financial, human resource and student information systems for the campus. Central IT operated an IBM mainframe located on the 12th floor of the Houston Main Building (HMB) where the group was located. All processes were run in ‘batch mode’ overnight with all data entry performed by IT data entry personnel.
In 1980, IT began implementing ‘on-line’ systems beginning with The University Financial Information System (TUFIMS) which was first used in September 1982. The Budget, Payroll, Personnel System (BPPS) was implemented in January 1989 followed by the Student Information System (SIS) in 1992 – 1993. These three systems provided the core of administrative processing for the university. They were also all mainframe based utilizing an extensive proprietary IBM network based on ‘dumb’ terminals.
In the early 1980’s, UT-H began deploying an extensive network of IBM 5520’s to provide word processing and document sharing capabilities to the campus. These were networked into the IBM network to provide interoperability between the devices.
Also in the early 1980’s, personal computers began appearing on campus. Over the following 10 years, they were attached to the IBM network on campus for use as mainframe terminals, 5520 terminals and standalone PC’s.
In the late 1980’s, the university acquired a broadband cable from UT/TV and launched the campus-wide Ethernet. As more and more devices became Ethernet capable, IT attached the Ethernet to the mainframe. By the early 1990’s, dumb terminals, the IBM proprietary network and the IBM 5520’s had been replaced with a campus Ethernet and PC’s. This has since evolved into the uth.tmc.edu network that links the UT-H campus together and to the world.
In 1987, UT-H assumed control of the campus telephone service from MD Anderson although it still contracted with MD Anderson for the majority of its service. Costs were reduced through the acquisition of departmental ‘key systems’. By 1995, the capabilities of key systems were being exceeded so the campus decided to install and operate its own telephone equipment. UT-H subsequently selected a system of networked switches from Fujitsu Business Communication Systems (FBCS). The systems were installed over the next 18 months and are still in place today. Since FBCS is no longer in business, UT-H is evaluating the course forward as the campus expands and new voice capabilities are required.
In 1990, the university formed the Office of Academic Computing (OAC) under the Executive Vice President for Research and Academic Affairs to coordinate the application of information technology to research and learning. Until 1990, academic computing was the domain of schools and departments but lacked a coordinated focus that was becoming necessary in the networked world where ‘technology islands’ were increasingly isolated. Mini computers (servers) had been widely deployed within the schools and departments to provide the computing power required. Additional resources were available from UT System’s Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and MD Anderson. The role of the OAC was to coordinate academic technology across the campus and to seek out and promote promising new technologies.
By the mid 1990’s several schools and departments had their own information technology staff to support server and desktop technology within their areas. Most schools offered IT support centrally from an organization within the dean’s office. The Medical School had most of its IT support concentrated in the departments. Servers sprouted up around the campus in everything from closets to environmentally controlled data centers.
The central IT providers, Information Services and OAC, were also adding servers and services on what seemed like a weekly basis. By the late 1990’s and early 2000’s servers were beginning to collect in environmentally controlled computer rooms in the Medical School, HMB, SPH and HCPC. UT-H began upgrading rooms to meet growing requirements and more server and operating system support was being provided centrally by either the schools, OAC or Information Services.
In the late 1990’s, the Dental Branch decided to join forces with Information Services desktop and server support group for service. At approximately the same time, the data processing department within Physicians Billing Services (PBS) merged with Information Services. Information Services began supporting the IDX billing system and supporting desktops for PBS. The School of Nursing joined forces with Information Services’ desktop and server support group in 2004 when they moved into their new building.
As networking became the most critical function of information technology in the 1990’s, Information Services, OAC and the Medical School emerged as the major providers of campus-wide network services. By late 2003, all three had merged into one unit, Network Operations, within Information Services. Network Operations now provides all campus-wide network services.
In the mid to late 1990’s, UT-H recognized that its mainframe based administrative systems (TUFIMS, BPPS and SIS) were approaching technological and functional obsolescence. The magnitude of the effort delayed the replacement project until after the legacy systems were converted to handle the Y2K problem. The PeopleSoft Human Resource Management System (HRMS) and Financial Management System (FMS) were selected to replace BPPS and TUFIMS. Oracle/IBM AIX was selected as the platform of choice. It was determined that SIS should be converted to a DB2/IBM AIX platform due to the magnitude of the effort to select and implement another vendor’s system. The conversion is on schedule to be completed in December 2006. At that time, the mainframe will be decommissioned and all servers will be operating on some version of Unix or Windows.
Between 2003 and 2005, information technology service providers across campus were consolidated into one group led by the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The process began with the appointment of a director of clinical computing to coordinate and facilitate the application of technology in a clinical setting across campus. The director of clinical computing reported to the Executive Vice President for Clinical Affairs. About the same, the Medical School established a single IT support group in the dean’s office, MSIT, under the part time direction of the Assistant Vice President for Academic Computing. In 2004, Clinical Computing, OAC and Information Services were merged into a single central IT service provider called Information Technology led by the Vice President for Information Technology and CIO. The school IT service providers all have a ‘dotted line’ reporting responsibility to the CIO.