Peace Corps dumps Macs for PCs running NT

Peace Corps dumps Macs for PCs running NT

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

The Peace Corps last month signed up to use the General Services Administration's Seat Management Program.

As part of the effort, the agency will shift from Apple Macintoshes to PCs running Microsoft Windows NT, Peace Corps chief information officer Doug Greene said.

The agency last month set a five-year, $16.9 million contract with Federal Data Corp. of Bethesda, Md. The task order covers the agency's domestic operations, including its Washington headquarters and 11 regional offices, encompassing about 885 PCs and 115 peripherals.

The agency is meeting with FDC about the transition, which it expects to complete by August. Once satisfied with PC operations at U.S. sites, Greene said, the corps would consider expanding seat management overseas.

'The major selling point was the move from Mac to Wintel,' Greene said.

The Peace Corps decided to move to PCs running NT to increase interoperability and improve support, especially overseas, he said. Another factor was a growing shortage of information technology workers, Greene said.

'That's the other big reason: Network staff availability has been a real problem for us,' he said. 'About half of our network help desk staff has been contracted out,' and it has been difficult to fill the openings.

Singular focus

The move to a single contractor will let the agency focus on its mission without being encumbered by running PCs, he said.

'Seat management will allow the agency to concentrate resources on mission-critical activities,' he said.

The Peace Corps' headquarters recently moved into a new building with modern wiring, routers, switches and hubs, he said.

The next goal is to standardize across the agency, Greene said. The agency has 15 software configurations and eight operating systems, which makes the help desk's work more difficult.

Most employees will run NT and Microsoft Office 98. There will be some specialized configurations for specific workers, such as software developers, Greene said.

Another goal is to treat the agency's PC operations as a service, in much the same way the agency handles its telephone service, Greene said.

The Peace Corps conducted a total cost of ownership study with Harris Technical Services Corp. of Alexandria, Va. But Greene said cost savings are not the driving factor behind the shift. Under the FDC contract, the corps will pay just less than $4,000 per seat, he said.

'We anticipate that the indirect costs will go down,' he said. An example would be the productivity time lost when one staff member helps another fix a PC.

Greene said he is hesitant to say seat management definitely would reduce total costs. The agency will conduct another TCO study one year after implementation.

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