Princeton is a research university, and computers are essential tools for most or all of the research programs on campus. The University's research productivity depends on these computers, and considerable effort and expense is involved in their purchase and operation. This subcommittee was convened by Provost Ostriker to examine ``central support for research computing at Princeton", and to report to the Faculty Committee on Computing and the Library.
The campus network, and connections to outside networks, are crucial elements of the physical infrastructure for computing. Princeton's campus network is generally perceived as well-run, although the subcommittee did hear of some recent interruptions in network access which severely affected some researchers. While we offer no specific recommendations regarding network operations, we stress that a reliable high-bandwidth network is vital for both education and research at Princeton.
Computers require support, and providing highly skilled software support is costly. In some cases the cost is figured in salaries for professional systems administrators; in other cases the cost may be in time diverted from research. Our subcommittee focussed on issues related to computer software where we believe that steps can be taken which can both save money and enhance the effectiveness of research computing.
A number of different operating systems are used for research computing at Princeton, including Unix/Linux, Windows/NT, Macintosh, and DEC/VMS. Unix/Linux is the most widely-used operating system for research computing, and our subcommittee therefore focussed its attention on support for computing on Unix/Linux platforms.