Friday, January 04, 2013

[212] Nitti, Capone replace FRANK as MTSU academic computer servers

For release:  Dec. 21, 2012

News and Media Relations contact: Randy Weiler, 615-898-5616 or
MTSU Information Technology Division contact: Brian Holley, 615-898-2228 or 

MURFREESBORO — On Jan. 3, 2013, Nitti and Capone will replace FRANK as respective application and web servers at MTSU.

If you think there is a connection to “The Untouchables” and gangsters, it is in name only.

Information Technology Division project manager Brian Holley said “computer geeks” traditionally have a thing for naming systems and servers after classic and science fiction movies and television shows such as “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings.”

In this case, the names refer to notorious American gangsters Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti and Al Capone.

“Back in the day, from a security standpoint because of computer hackers, (system) names had no direct bearing on their function. They had generic names,” Holley said. “It’s a cultural thing that’s sort of going away, but operations folks carry on tradition.”

After nearly 20 years and parts of three decades of service, FRANK will retire as the academic server that has housed thousands of websites and hundreds of thousands of student and faculty accounts, Holley said.

“FRANK was the end-all, be-all for years,” added Jeff McMahan, ITD systems administrator. It housed email and websites for everybody, as well as applications. It did everything. was around in the ’90s when I was a student here.” He adds that it was a different hardware platform, and the name “FRANK has applied to different systems, the first appearing in 1993 and the latest taking up that name and its functions in 2006.”

McMahan said because of a growing university (enrollment increased from 21,163 in fall 2002 to 26,442 in fall 2011) and aging equipment, “it was time for it (FRANK) to go. Maintenance gets expensive the older they get. This has been a good system, with no issues per se.”

“We work hard to maximize the use of our resources,” Holley added. “We will run hardware as long as we can. Once it becomes cost prohibitive to maintain, that’s the time to change.”

Nitti and Capone — “young, strong and ready to carry on the traditions of outstanding service to the university for years to come,” Holley wrote in a campus-wide email — will shoulder the load. Both came onto the scene about a year ago.

Holley, McMahan, systems programmer Paul Collette and Dr. Albert Whittenberg, a director in Academic and Instructional Technology Services, oversaw the implementation of Nitti and Capone.

Collette began “working application by application,” McMahan said.

“And Albert has done the same thing with websites, working with faculty and staff to make sure there is no interruption,” Holley added. “Our long-term goal is getting all websites into OmniUpdate, the content management system used for websites.”

Holley said everything on the web is moving to OmniUpdate, which is overseen by Barbara Draude, ITD assistant vice president in the Faculty Instructional Technology Center.

Holley and McMahan said ITD personnel are striving to make this a seamless transition for the approximately 30,000 combined students, faculty, staff and administrators.

“The customer comes first,” Holley said. “We look to make this as painless as we can for customers. That’s why we’ve been working on this one project for over a year. … Hundreds of hours of work have gone into this. The easier it is for the customer, the more hours we have spent working on it.”

McMahan added that this is why we have been “migrating individually, not in mass, to help them be satisfied with their (computer’s) functionality.

An early December email informed all students and personnel of the looming changes, and that any departmental, group and individual websites that have not been actively updated for five years or more were not scheduled to be transferred. 

Departments and groups with questions should call Whittenberg at 615-898-5062 or email Individual website owners should call McMahan at 615-898-7737 or email with questions. 


Attached are high-resolution jpeg photos of Brian Holley, Jeff McMahan, Paul Collette and Dr. Albert Whittenberg, and an MTSU ITD logo.

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