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The Departmental Support Group: SLAC's Desktop IT Core

The ITDS team. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

SLAC's IT Departmental Support group—the team responsible for all IT Departmental Tier-1 computing support (desktops/laptops, printers, instrumentation, PC applications, etc.)—is leading the way at the laboratory when it comes to modernization of management systems. The group is the first in IT to fully adopt the "Centrally Managed, Field Deployed" or CMFD model of operating, a change that laboratory leaders see as a positive step for some elements of SLAC mission support.

The recent change centralizes the management of the ITDS Team into a single group of technical personnel, and promises to streamline how they support the lab. This support model includes a variety of "front line" computing services such as acquisition of new hardware, maintenance and problem resolution, as well as a variety of special services. Under the new arrangement, computer support personnel will, in most cases, continue supporting the same users that they have in the past, but will now report to a central manager who will oversee them as a group.

In contrast to the old system, in which separate departments oftentimes employed their own computer support staff, centralizing this service has many advantages. For example, ITDS technical personnel will now have a much deeper group knowledge base to draw from when dealing with complex support issues, as well as a more reliable mechanism for backup when it's time for vacation, training or personal leave.

"Whether it's configuring or repairing a personal computer, supporting an important conference in Kavli, testing a new application in HR, or performing weekend office moves for 30 employees, these individuals can be found performing critical services literally in every corner of the lab," said Norm Ringgold, Head of IT Operations and Infrastructure. "The administrative centralization of this field support organization has allowed the team to take on these roles more efficiently, as a coordinated unit."

"It has been a pleasure to walk around the laboratory and get off-hand compliments about this group," said Sandy Merola, SLAC's Chief Operating Officer. "Yes, laboratory management provided the support model but it is the local leadership and performance of individuals in ITDS that are improving desktop support at SLAC."

Services such as computing support and development are ideal for the CMFD model, according to Ringgold, where centralized oversight holds the potential for dramatic improvements in efficiency. One such improvement already in the works will cut the time it takes to configure and customize new computers or apply security patches. Users will likely see improvements in computing performance as well, as continual refinements in best practices for configuring new systems are standardized across the lab. Assimilation into the larger IT organization should also greatly benefit the ITDS employees themselves, through access to proper tools, training, and development of a clear IT career path.

Ringgold says lab employees who need IT support services should continue to engage IT using the methods they are familiar with for now, whether that be through help System ticket, Email, or direct contact with their local support person.

"Bringing the IT Departmental Support CMFD initiative to completion has facilitated the creation of a re-energized and more unified team," said Hector Prado, head of the new IT Departmental Support group, and who Ringgold credits for much of the success of the effort to move to the new management model. "I am also extremely optimistic about the great future ahead of us while taking a small step towards the 'One Lab' concept championed by our Director, Persis Drell."

In the photo:

Front row from left to right: Nick Arias, Sheldon Ryan, Blake Flaherty, Agustin Burgos, Steve Khamis, Justus Freeman

Back Row From left to right: Chico Vazquez, Dave Leung, Joel Barragan, Dave Marcello, Rafael Gomez, John Domingo, Wayne Yu, Ambrose Chu, Hector Prado, Norm Ringgold, Tyler Adams, Jim Knopf, Kamil Etem

Absent: Leo Campos, Ken Zhou, David Jackson, Raymond Lo, Tala Pierre, Angela Espiritu and Rich Malec

—Brad Plummer
SLAC Today, April 21, 2011