Michigan agency migrates sans migraines

Michigan agency migrates sans migraines

'I spent a lot of time on the front end of this project getting different groups to work together,' Rusiecki said. 'That paid dividends'in the end, everybody was working toward the same goal.'

Stan Rusiecki of Michigan's Family Independence Agency saw a big task ahead of him in late 2000.

The agency's network of 289 Unix and Microsoft Windows NT servers, spread across 138 offices and serving about 13,000 employees in the state's 83 counties, needed to be modernized. As director of the Technical Services Division of the agency's Information Technology and Management office, Rusiecki carried out the project successfully over the following year by managing both the personnel and technical issues involved.

The agency's old fleet of servers was experiencing increasingly frequent hard-drive failures, Rusiecki said. Also, the five-year-old network was hosted on servers with 100-MHz processors, which Rusiecki planned to replace with 700-MHz servers.

An additional technical issue was whether the agency could dispense with the Unix servers it used in its distributed network to run an application called the Services Workers Support System. The application relied on a proprietary Unisys Corp. database called Mapper.

To eliminate the Unix servers, SWSS would have to be recompiled for Windows 2000, which could only be done if a proof-of-concept project showed that it would work.

'We expected to be able to reduce the number of servers,' Rusiecki said. 'What we didn't know for sure until we completed the proof-of-concept project was whether' the agency could eliminate its Unix environment.

Prepare technicians

With the help of Unisys, the agency determined that it could jettison the Unix servers.
Then, Rusiecki began paving the way for the agency's technicians to adopt Windows 2000. He began by making presentations at quarterly meetings.

The technicians looked forward to the greater processing power of the new servers, Rusiecki said, 'but they raised a concern from the support perspective: 'What do we have to do different to support these servers?' '

The technicians were concerned about losing functions they used on the old network, he said. To quell that worry, Rusiecki's team created a table that correlated old-network functions, such as adding users and changing passwords, to functions on the new network.

To prepare the technicians for their new equipment, Rusiecki's group created a user's guide with screen prints of icons and data elements to execute functions on the new network. The user's guide greatly reduced the technicians' anxieties, Rusiecki said.

'On the day we did the installation, the installers [from Unisys] worked with each technician,' he said. 'They made sure the technician did every function they would normally do with a server, and then signed off that they had completed that training.'

The training process took two or three hours per site.

When the process was complete, the Family Independence Agency had spent about $1.2 million and reduced its distributed server fleet from 105 Unix servers and 184 Windows NT servers to 150 Dell PowerEdge servers running Windows 2000.

'I spent a lot of time on the front end of this project getting different groups to work together,' Rusiecki said. 'That paid dividends'in the end, everybody was working toward the same goal.'

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