Army Corps of Engineers keeps tabs on data use

The Army Corps of Engineers bills its districts for their CPU connect time and disk
activity on data center servers.

“We’ve got some big applications,” said Sanda Smith, an Army computer
specialist who maintains the resource utilization software.

The corps customized a commercial accounting utility that prompts district employees
for their district billing codes when they log on to the data center’s Sun
Microsystems Inc. servers, which run SunSoft Solaris 2.51.

The C utility, Unisol JobAcct, is one of several components in the layered charge-back
application. Unisol JobAcct from UniSolutions Associates Inc. of Dana Point, Calif.,
captures and processes CPU, disk-access and connect-time data from the Unix System V
facilities in Solaris 2.51.

Additional Awk and Unix shell scripts reformat the JobAcct delimited flat file for
uploading to an Oracle7 Release 7.3.3 database, which in turn feeds data to the
charge-back and billing application on a 10-year-old Cyber 962 mainframe from Control Data
Systems Inc. of Minneapolis.

When maintenance changes have to be made, “it gets messy,” Smith said.

The corps is testing an Oracle database accounting option for JobAcct 3.0 before
bringing the new software online. It has database triggers to account for Oracle database
activity by user, group, project billing code, cost center or, in the case of the Army
corps, by district billing code.

The master JobAcct software, housed on a Sun Microsystems Inc. server at the
corps’ Portand, Ore., data center, processes accounting data from collector versions
of the JobAcct utility.

Financial management employees use the Telnet protocol over the corps’ T1 and T3
backbone network to access Unix servers at the Portland and Vicksburg, Miss., data

“We assess different rates based on the size of the machine,” Smith said.
Users are charged more for CPU cycles on Sun Ultra 6000 servers than for time on Ultra
3000 and 2000 servers.

The corps breaks even by using proportional charge-back, Smith said. Other data centers
have similar utilities for actual cost accounting and charge-back that lets them operate
with a small profit margin, she said.

As far back as Smith can remember, the Army corps has done job accounting and
charge-back in some form. When the financial management applications ran on proprietary
mainframes, resource accounting was more sophisticated than today under Unix, she said.

“When you go to Unix you give up some things,” Smith said.

The old Cyber machines had better facilities for collecting system resource data, she
said, because “they did more logging.”

Smith said she used to see full-length commands that users executed on the Cyber,
whereas Unix logs only the first eight characters of whatever commands users enter.

But Unix, she said, “has a lot more stuff built into it.”  

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