Google to run Yale e-mail

The Horde e-mail server will soon be replaced by a new Google interface, custom-designed for Yale.

Information Technology Services administrators plan to join with Google Apps for Education to bring students, faculty and employees the Gmail e-mail service by the end of this month, said an undergraduate member of the Student Technology Collaborative who asked to remain anonymous because of ITS policy. The service, tentatively called “Bulldogs,” will also offer users a suite of tools for communication and collaboration — including Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google Docs. The new interface will look like the standard Gmail layout, but without advertisements, the student said.

The Gmail-based service will gradually replace the University’s current e-mail client, Horde, the student said. The incoming class of 2014 will be the first to go directly to the new Google system, and current freshmen and sophomores will have to make the switch. Upperclassmen will have the option of keeping Horde, but the University plans to phase out Horde by spring of next year, the student said.

Planning for “Bulldogs” did not include computer science faculty, computer science professor Michael Fischer said, adding that he and his colleagues have not yet discussed the transition with ITS administrators.

“It’s a complicated issue, and I’ve just learned about the plans for the switch myself,” Fischer said. “They’re certainly not finalized yet, and we’re going to be holding discussions over the next few days to work things out.”

The transition to Google Apps will also give users more storage capacity — 7.4 gigabytes — than the two gigabytes that the University’s Pantheon data storage system currently offers, the student said. Students and faculty will be able to upload any file smaller than one gigabyte to the Gmail server and share it with other users. With Pantheon, students can upload files of no more than 200 megabytes, or one-fifth of a gigabyte.

Another student tech, who also asked to remain anonymous, said switching data to Google Apps would save Yale 12 gigabytes of on-site storage per student, totalling tens of thousands of gigabytes’ worth of data.

“Now [Yale] can host it all off-site and allow Google to maintain it for them,” the second student said in an e-mail. “The extra space can be reallocated or shut down to save money.”

Yale’s in-house disc space will then be given to only faculty or graduate students who need large amounts of data storage for academic purposes, the first student said.

Another factor in the decision to make the switch, the student said, was Gmail’s user-friendly interface.

“Since settings for ‘Bulldogs’ will be identical to Gmail settings, e-mail forwarding and the use of e-mail clients (such as Thunderbird or Outlook) will be easy,” the second student said in an e-mail.

An ITS survey conducted in fall 2008 revealed that 20 percent of undergraduate and graduate students forwarded their mail to alternate e-mail providers such as Gmail and Yahoo.

Google Apps for Education currently provides e-mail services to more than 2,000 colleges and universities, including Brown, Northwestern, Cornell, Notre Dame and Georgetown, according to an August 2009 article in Time magazine. The free service, according to the article, has rapidly grown in popularity in an era of budget cuts, allowing administrators to cut storage costs while providing users with a simple and familiar interface and increased security.

Google Apps for Education spokeswoman Aviva Gilbert, Yale Director of Instructional Computing Edward Kairiss, Senior Director for Academic Media and Technology Charles Powell, Senior Director of ITS Infrastructure Services Joseph Paolillo, STC assistant manager Adam Bray, and four undergraduate members of the STC declined to comment for this article. Director of Information Technology Services Philip Long, STC manager Loriann Higashi and STC assistant manager Erin Scott were unavailable for comment. On Monday evening, in an e-mail obtained by the News, Higashi reminded STC employees not to talk to the press about technology issues.

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