IT strategy puts command back in control

IT strategy puts command back in control

BY DREW ROBB | SPECIAL TO GCN

The Army Materiel Command has seemed to be fighting a losing battle against systems problems brought about by its rapid growth.

AMC Logo
But a change in strategy'to install an enterprise architecture that would help anticipate problems and thereby make it easier to solve them'has turned the tide, said Donal Meynig, director of information management for the command's headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

'Enterprise management is a life-changing event for the organization,' Meynig said. 'It moved us from firefighting toward a planning-oriented approach to running the network.'

The command has about 58,000 employees at 285 locations in more than 40 states and 24 countries. It manages inventory worth more than $7 billion.

But with such a vast network to oversee, the 25 workers in the headquarters' network operations and service center found themselves operating mainly in crisis mode. More than 90 percent of their time was spent on operational matters, with more than 30 percent on putting out fires, Meynig said.

Despite little time for planning, Meynig initiated a program to keep ahead of systems problems.

The command installed two Compaq 8500 four-cluster servers and upgraded more than 1,000 desktop PCs. It added an internal fiber optic network to bring one 1-Gbps connectivity to each desktop PC and installed an external T3 pipe.

To manage operations, the command purchased Unicenter and Advanced Help Desk from Computer Associates International Inc.

But finding the right hardware and software was only half the battle as AMC tried to dig itself out from under 500 calls a month. Meynig thought resolving the traffic bottleneck at the help desk was crucial.

To break the grip of immediate emergencies, he hired two senior planners to work exclusively on the implementation of Unicenter and Advanced Help Desk.

'While we are still at the early stages, the momentum is now there to push it all the way,' Meynig said. 'We are building the backbone to bring IT operations to a new level.'

Armed with its new tools and a standardized service center methodology, the command's IT staff can deal with more than 80 percent of help desk calls within the first 10 minutes of the initial call, Meynig said. Using Computer Associates' Remote Control Option, operators can control and fix PCs remotely. Technicians can install programs remotely using the Software Delivery Option.

When the command installed Microsoft Office on 1,500 PCs at its headquarters, for instance, it took eight staff members 10 weeks to finish the task. Now, one worker can complete a similar project in a few days.

'Changing software and dealing with user bugs becomes routine, freeing up a lot more time to improve the network,' Meynig said.

AMC has been able to evaluate and deploy technologies such as clustered servers to improve efficiency and reliability. One Compaq 8500 4-cluster server is already online running Microsoft Exchange and Windows 2000.

'We are a four-star command with a clientele that demands reliability and uptime,' said Meynig. 'We migrated to clustered servers to drive uptime even higher, as well as provide failover and storage improvements.'

One of the command's next tasks is a move to Outlook 2000. Most desktop PCs have been upgraded to 900-MHz or faster Pentium III processors and 128M of RAM.

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