Operations and Applications Technology Committee
Meeting Minutes
May 15, 1997

Members present: Thomas Butler, David Karstens, Vincent Pizzurro (chair), Jose Montero, Steven Sachs, Jane Townend
Also present: Janet Zilczer
Absent: George Bergeman, Eugene Brown, Jose Chavez, Carmen Goodman, Carmen Medina, Martin Olson, Daniel Riley, Deborah Rodgers, John Sartorius, David Williams, Jeff Williamson

1. There were no comments or questions on the minutes of the last meeting, which had been distributed in April.

2. Infrastructure upgrades

Mr. Pizzurro announced that the cabling contractors are working toward a July 15, 1997, completion date, although at least one (FOSI, Fiber Optic Systems, Inc.) has indicated that 24-hour per day, 7-day per week access would be required to insure the target date is met. FOSI is currently working at Manassas and will also be assigned to Alexandria. TICC (Tricomm International Cabling Corp.) is working at Woodbridge, and EDS (Eastern Data Systems) is finishing the Shuler Building, Annandale, and starting at Loudoun. All three contractors will likely be used to complete Annandale. Work schedules and facilities-related factors may add to costs (e.g., extending work schedules beyond normal business hours or the recent necessity to double cable requirements at Shuler so cable could be routed without going through asbestos-containing ceilings). At the same time, the upcoming Summer sessions may help ease access to many rooms, and reduce the conflict between class requirements and noisy construction-related disruptions. Building coordinators should help alert faculty to possible room changes and other accommodations as the cabling work proceeds into the Summer.

3. Orders/installations

Dr. Sachs announced that 600 Gateway computers have now been received. Delivery of the last 217 was deferred until June, because there was not enough room in the warehouse. Distribution to the campuses is proceeding, with the exception of Alexandria, where the recent electrical fire necessitated some delay. Orders and deliveries of those computers to be paid from next year's funds will be undertaken in June and July. Upgrades of selected 486s are scheduled to take place in the same timeframe. If all goes well, these additional summertime deliveries and installations should dovetail well with the completion of the bulk of the cabling, although there may not yet be sufficient power in some locations to run all the new equipment.

Mr. Pizzurro noted that this committee started its deliberations earlier this year by considering what alternatives existed for ordering equipment, both generic and name-brand. Given the sizable quantity of Gateway computers that have now been ordered and received, and the difficulty the College has had in documenting repair histories and equipment-related problems, he distributed a comparison sheet that records the component and warranty features and costs for the newly-acquired Gateways and the comparable models of formerly-purchased WINs. Dr. Sachs suggested that software features/costs could also be added to this list. (Such an updated list is included, Attachment 1.) Mr. Pizzurro added that this type of comparison should serve not only as a record of the buying decisions made this year, but as a reference for keeping performance records and making comparative analyses in the future. Dr. Butler noted that the additional cost for the Gateways amounted to a few hundred dollars per machine, and that IT staff now present on the campuses should make it easier for the College to document their performance histories.

4. Selection process for new IT positions

Interview and Selection Committees for the classified positions have completed the initial round of hiring actions. All but one of the former microcomputer repair staff have been hired/transferred into new IT positions. A number of the former Information Resource Associates have been promoted into the IT Manager positions. A total of four classified positions remain to be filled (or back-filled).

The recruitment process for the faculty positions is proceeding. Interviews for at least one of the two positions will take place in June.

5. Microcomputer repair outsourcing

The transfer of microcomputer repair technicians into IT Manager/Specialist positions effectively ends the centralized hardware support role formerly provided through CIS. Mr. Pizzurro noted, however, that the campuses could still use those individuals to assist in that function, at least temporarily, if they so wished. Dr. Sachs added that the purchase of equipment with extended warranties, plus the likelihood that a great number of spare 486s will become available, makes the lack of an in-house repair crew far less critical than would have been the case some years ago. In response to a question from Mr. Karstens, Mr. Pizzurro explained that, before disbanding, the micro repair staff used the bulk of remaining, usable spare components to build 486 machines which were distributed proportionally to the campuses.

In the future, the repair function will be campus-based rather than centralized, and may be outsourced, at the discretion of the campuses and as the circumstances warrant. Dr. Zilczer distributed and reviewed a summary of the responses received to the RFI (Request for Information) on repair services (Attachment 2). (Complete copies of all responses will also be distributed, one to each Provost and College Dean, at tomorrow's ITC meeting.) As noted, most services of interest can be obtained, with costs varying depending on types of service, response time, etc. These responses were solicited to provide current information to the campuses and College staff, but it is anticipated that decision-making on how best to obtain repairs in the future will remain flexible. A single College-wide mandatory contract is not contemplated at this time. Financing for repairs remains to be determined, as well. Dr. Sachs noted that it may well be campus-based also. Mr. Pizzurro and Dr. Zilczer noted that there has been no College-funded microcomputer repair budget for years, but that the central CIS budget has been tapped, as appropriate, for this purpose. The changes underway in College and VCCS IT organizations may well consume such funds, however; as VCCS-funded positions are recalled to concentrate on "Utility" functions, remaining College CIS budgets will be needed to hire replacement staff to support centralized College IT functions.

6. VCCS/Utility developments

Mr. Pizzurro reported that VCCS Data Center consolidation is proceeding, although the Eastern and Western centers will remain operational into next fiscal year. The Northern region has acquired the additional disk storage (DASD, Direct Access Storage Devices) necessary to transfer FRS (the Financial Records System) to Northern from the Host site, which is also scheduled to be closed. The test phase for the transferred system is due to begin next week. Responses to the RFP for the new mainframe server system are currently being evaluated. If that process remains on-track, a new, consolidated Central regional center could become operational, as scheduled, this summer. Dean Baker is working on a Memorandum of Understanding to govern the relationship between the Utility and the College, and she is also planning a new "replacement-CIS" staff to assume responsibility for centralized support functions that are not part of the Utility.

Mr. Karstens asked what the status and support mechanisms were for the VCCS-wide WAN (Wide Area Network), in view of these changes. Mr. Pizzurro explained that the ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) network is now the VCCS WAN or backbone, and that all nodes are installed and functional, at present. Support is another matter, in that the consortium of telephone companies, led by Bell Atlantic, plus the long-distance carrier, Sprint, are the principal service-providers for this network. The contract and central oversight were initially provided by Virginia Tech. All other Virginia entities may purchase services from the contract, for a cost of $5000 per site per month. The difficulty is that support and trouble management procedures remain poorly defined.

Mr. Pizzurro noted that much of the recent IT-related activity at the College and System level has been concentrated heavily on administrative functions and organizations. Questions remain to be answered on when and how all these changes will have an academic impact. How have recent IT initiatives changed the teaching and learning processes? Dr. Sachs and Dr. Montero echoed these thoughts. Dr. Sachs indicated that equipping the faculty with computers was intended as one means of reaching them and involving them in the process of change. Dr. Montero added that even when faculty have computers on their desks, the changes will not be felt until the technology is brought directly into the classroom, and that is the hard part of this whole process.

7. Future committee structure/roles

Given the organizational changes inherent in the restructuring of the VCCS Utility and NVCC's CIS department, the OATC committee, itself, may undergo some revision or refocussing in the coming year. The chairmanship will rotate to Dr. Sachs, and, as Utility staff, Mr. Pizzurro will no longer attend next year's meetings. The director of the newly reconstituted CIS organization will take his seat, unless the ITC and OATC committees undergo a reorganization, as well. (Dr. Sachs indicated it is possible that the ITC will function with task forces, instead. Time limitations, at least this year, did not permit issues to bubble up through the OATC to the ITC, as originally anticipated.)

Dr. Sachs expects the continued PC roll-out, the training plan, and year-three IT planning to be on the agenda for next year. Once all the hardware/infrastructure needs have been addressed, there should be a shift to concentrating on business processes and policies and SIS-related matters.

This being the last OATC meeting of this year, Mr. Pizzurro thanked all the members for their attendance and participation and thanked Dr. Zilczer for preparing the minutes and providing support to the committee. Dr. Sachs asked that his thanks be conveyed to Paul Parker for posting the minutes on the committee web page, and the members of the committee expressed their thanks to Mr. Pizzurro for his chairmanship this past year.

Minutes Prepared by: Janet Zilcher

(Attachment 1)

Feature Gateway WIN
Motherboard Intel ATX/MMX Intel ATX/MMX
Chip set VX 430HX
Memory 24 mb DIMM 32 MB SIMM
Cache 256 KB Pipeline burst 512 KB Pipeline burst
Power Supply 145 watt 200 watt
COM 2 port No Yes
Slots 3 32-bit PCI 3 32-bit PCI
2 16-bit ISA 2 16-bit ISA
Mouse Microsoft Intellimouse Microsoft
Keyboard OEM (very light) NMB
TR Netwk. card Olicom PCI Madge PCI or SMC ISA
Sound card SoundBlaster 16 Yamaha 16 (built-in)
Video card Matrox Cardex
CD-ROM 12x Toshiba 16x Goldstar
Hard drive Western Digital Western
Digital (Caviar 2.1 GB) (Caviar 2.1 GB)
Standard warranty 1 year on-site; years 2 & 3 limited/parts 18 mos. on-site;6 mos. depot
Enhanced warranty 3-year on-site 3-year on-site
Nature of on-site service 3rd party labor dispatched if 800 # phone tech. Support cannot resolve problem; Parts arrive separately, shipped UPS Local service rep. dispatched with parts
Operating System Windows 95 Windows 95
Applications Software Microsoft Office 95 Professional (pre-installed) None pre-installed, standard --Microsoft Office Professional would have to be licensed by NVCC for $35 ea. WIN could pre-install a disk image or NVCC would have to install
Cost (with std. Warranty) $2217 $1987 + 35 = $2022 (Add $35 for MS Office)
Extended warranty additional cost $ 99 $ 25
TOTAL COST (with 3 yr. on-site warranty) $2316 $2047

(Attachment 2)

1. Types of service potentially supplied:

Most respondents indicated they could provide any of the types of services listed in the RFI. Most also indicated actual pricing would vary by volume and negotiated terms/conditions. Sample prices, where given, were as follows:

Time-and-materials: $35/hour (DPS contract with Telos et al.) $45-$95/hour (typical range for straight repairs; low end=depot; high=on-site, normal business hours; cost also varies with response time) up to $145/hour for after-hours support and/or engineering/other specialties

Comprehensive maintenance coverage: $65/month/machine (typical figure; varies with configuration, company)

Data recovery: $175-$1450 (when addressed, this item tended to be quoted with fixed pricing dependent on drive size and level of restoration required)

2. Types and vintages of hardware serviced

Most firms will service a variety of brands and generic IBM compatibles. Fewer will service Apple Macintoshes. For any brand/generic, responses indicated parts availability (i.e., for older models) will determine which of older vintages will be accepted for service.

3. Response times

8 hours or next day = routine; 4 hours = emergency in most cases/responses

4. Availability of loaner equipment (and terms and conditions under which loaners are offered).

Some will supply, some won't; some specify original equipment must still be under warranty to obtain loaners

5. Handling of repair parts inventories

Vintage of machines will be a factor for service providers re: stocking of parts, in general. In terms of locations, some firms indicated a willingness to stock parts on customer premises

6. Customer service and/or customer facility preferences/options/practices:

Some firms offered to set up repair facilities on customer premises. Most firms had no geographic preference (i.e., they would be willing to serve any or all NVCC locations). Some offered limited no-charge phone support, but most indicated eventual charges for repeated "no problem found" types of calls. Most preferred a single or limited number of customer points of contact per location.

Distribution: OATC members (and others present)
ITC members
Dr. Ernst

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Last update: 5/22/97