Fermilab computing takes on full slate of improvements for 2017

Jon Bakken

Most folks know that Core Computing Division (CCD) spends most of its time keeping its many services operating smoothly so our scientific and business colleagues can get their work done. However, another part of CCD’s strategic goals is to “transform and modernize scientific and business systems to improve our users’ experience, both at the lab and remotely.” Today, I want to discuss the latter and explain what CCD will be doing this year to benefit you.

  • We are transitioning our audio/web/video conferencing service from ReadyTalk to Zoom between Feb. 1 and March 17. Based on a pilot program, we believe Zoom will provide a more intuitive, user-friendly interface and reduce our overall conferencing service costs. A side benefit is that videoconferencing is included with Zoom — at no additional cost — something many have been asking for. Current ReadyTalk users will receive email in coming days with additional information.
  • We are preparing to deploy a new version of the Fermilab Time and Labor system in May. The new version will include a Kronos mobile app, available on Android and Apple devices, that has full functionality for entering and approving timecards.
  • With the Finance Section, we are developing a budget and planning tool to improve the efficiency of the budget planning process and provide processes for divisions and projects to negotiate resources.
  • We are performing a major hardware upgrade of the network-attached scientific storage to provide higher capacity and better performance for experiments. We are also modernizing the lab’s core network to support 100-Gb/s network connections. This means greater bandwidth for our intracampus users and for scientific networking.
  • We are working with Computer Security to deploy an intelligent firewall that will increase the lab’s computing security without hampering scientific productivity. This project will also consolidate many smaller firewalls, making operations more robust.
  • We are upgrading TeamCenter, NX CAD software and other related applications to support the engineering functions at the lab.
  • We are working with FESS to deploy a Self-Service Property Portal to automate many common property actions, something that will eventually eliminate the paper property forms.
  • We’ve deployed enterprise search capability across all documents located on the central web, as well as in DocDB, Indico and INSPIRE to make finding documents easier.
  • With the Travel Office, we recently deployed a new Travel Authorization and Expense Voucher app that streamlines travel approvals.
  • With WDRS, we’ve recently upgraded the job applicant tracking system. This new version presents the lab in a modern viewpoint, compared to the older archaic job applicant system.

Finally, we have two essential tasks ahead of us this year.

  • We will be working with Finance Section to deploy a new payroll system. Our current payroll system reaches end of life in January 2018, so there’s no room for error or delay in getting the new system in place — we all want to continue to be paid!
  • Our telephone system at the lab depends on a four-decade-old switch. AT&T has stated they will not renew our service contract for the old switch at the end of 2019.  We’ve been planning a replacement for two years and have investigated many options.  Starting now is imperative because we estimate it will take two years to complete this work.

As you can see, we’re plenty busy. At the same time, we’re confident that we can get these tasks accomplished and continue to improve our users’ experience.

PS: We, including me, need to try and stop saying “Dell” when we are referring to the Service Desk or Desktop Support teams.  Dell sold that portion of their business to NTT a while back, so try saying “NTT” – I know, it’s hard. I’m also happy to let you know that NTT also recently won the competitive bid for the next managed service contract.

Jon Bakken is the head of the Core Computing Division.