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Grouper Scales Group Management at Duke U

April, 2010

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Solution Summary

Duke University used Grouper to implement a comprehensive group management system that supports over 250,000 groups and 1.7 million group membership entries—based on data from Duke's ERP system. Besides gaining access to a variety of applications, users can also view their memberships and control collaborations from the departmental level.

Duke University and Grouper logos Collaborators

  • Duke University

Products & Services

Community Resources

Funding Sources

  • Internet2
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. OCI-0330626, OCI-0721896, and OCI-1032468
  • Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) (UK)
  • University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, University of Washington, University of Memphis, University of Bristol (UK)

Duke University uses groups to authorize access to applications that are used extensively by faculty and students. This collaborative environment includes services such as Apple’s iTunes U, Duke’s calendaring system, and their portal. A direct feed from PeopleSoft provides the instructor and student information to a central repository to maintain the course groups, which are, in turn, provisioned to the above applications.

The Problem

Duke University’s academic departments also wanted to maintain their own group information or add other members, such as teaching assistants, to the centrally provisioned course groups. They asked for more control over managing their project- and local-based groups, used for authorizing access to departmental resources. However, as the number of groups grew, so did the difficulty in maintaining them. Keeping the membership rosters consistent across multiple services was quite a challenge.

Duke set forth to find a consolidated way to manage the large numbers of class-, department- and project- based groups. Duke needed to provide an interface for academic-support staff to create and manage department group information.

The Solution

After assessing the Identity Management infrastructure, with the assistance of key campus stakeholders, Duke’s IT staff determined that Grouper, developed by the Internet2 Middleware Initiative, would best meet their need for unified group management. Grouper provided a mechanism for managing groups with memberships determined by data in the ERP system, those maintained by academic-support staff, or a hybrid of the two.

Since 2006, Duke has used Grouper to populate course memberships through feeds from PeopleSoft and then used the information to provision applications. After Grouper was deployed to manage these institutional groups, the next phase was to implement distributed management of the department groups. This step required providing training for department staff on the use of the Grouper Toolkit, establishing policies and procedures for group stewardship, and putting the technology infrastructure in place.

The Result

“Grouper has made a tremendous difference in our ability to support both departmental needs and central services, while simultaneously creating a more integrated and robust authorization and collaboration infrastructure.”

—Tracy Futhey, CIO, Duke

Grouper has helped Duke implement a comprehensive group management system and scale their infrastructure to support over 250,000 course, dynamic and local groups. The system supports over 1.7 million group membership entries used to control access to and enhance interaction with various applications, including Confluence, Jabber, Lectopia, Sympa, and online personal and shared storage using WebFiles. Individuals can also view their memberships and enjoy departmental control of this important collaboration function and the accuracy that comes with it.

“Grouper has made a tremendous difference in our ability to support both departmental needs and central services, while simultaneously creating a more integrated and robust authorization and collaboration infrastructure.,” said Tracy Futhey, CIO at Duke. “In addition, Duke staff have been active in the ongoing Grouper development effort, using their experience running Grouper in a large-scale production environment to help shape the future of the product.”