USDA takes HR to new level

USDA takes HR to new level

USDA's Hans Heidenreich, left, and Don Whitcomb watch over CAMS'which runs on a 16-processor Unisys ES7000 server'from half a continent away.

Heidenreich and Whitcomb say CAMS handles data and transactions for 60,000 to 70,000 employees across the nation.

System will serve Agriculture offices in every county

About 40 percent of Agriculture Department employees nationwide now tap into human resources services remotely through the Combined Administrative Management System.

In the late 1990s, Agriculture officials began pushing for better collaboration among three county-based bureaus: the Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Natural Resources Conservation Service, CAMS project director Hans Heidenreich said.

CAMS, which runs on a capacious 16-CPU Unisys Enterprise Server ES7000, is an outgrowth of USDA's Common Computing Environment effort [GCN, Feb. 19, 2001, Page 16].

USDA's county-based agencies employ more than 40,000 full-time equivalents, many of them temporary or seasonal, so the CAMS employee database holds 60,000 to 70,000 separate names.

'There's probably at least one Agriculture employee in every county in the United States,' Heidenreich said.

USDA officials wanted to manage all the personnel requests and forms through CAMS via a departmental intranet. They also needed to put emergency contacts online, so managers could find them quickly in case of worker illnesses or injuries.

'In the old days, stuff like that was not done, or you had to go to the central office in your state,' Heidenreich said.

CAMS first used the client-server PeopleSoft 7 HRMS federal human resources management system from PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. After PeopleSoft 8 was reworked for the Web, Agriculture upgraded to it last June on the new, high-capacity server.

Before June, CAMS had resided on a six-processor Hewlett-Packard 9000 Unix server, said Don Whitcomb, the CAMS IT leader. The HP 9000 worked well at first, he said, but as more agencies were added, it ran out of capacity.

During calendar 2001, CAMS processed more than 212,000 human resources transactions, including 72,000 personnel actions.
With PeopleSoft 8.0, 'we expect that's going to go up dramatically,' Heidenreich said.

Double the data

Other USDA agencies and the Forest Service are considering using CAMS, he said. The addition of the Forest Service alone would nearly double the size of the CAMS database.

Besides capacity, USDA officials wanted their new server to have remote administration and expandability 'because we had maxed out the HP,' Heidenreich said.

Although he and Whitcomb work in Beltsville, Md., the ES7000 resides at USDA's National Information Technology Center in Kansas City, Mo. They also wanted the new server to run Microsoft Windows 2000, a requirement of the Common Computing Environment. A third requirement was a storage area network.

Whitcomb said USDA set up the ES7000 with three partitions under Win 2000 Advanced Server. One four-processor partition runs the WebLogic Web server from BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. An eight-processor partition handles the PeopleSoft 8 application server, and another four-processor partition powers an Oracle8i database server.

The 16 700-MHz Pentium III CPUs each have 1M of onboard cache, said Malcolm Black, vice president for technology with Unisys' federal group. The ES7000, the company's largest Intel-based enterprise server, can accommodate up to 32 32-bit or IA-64 processors of varying speeds.

CAMS data resides on a Hitachi Freedom Storage 9960 SAN from Hitachi Data Systems Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. The SAN has a total capacity of 37T but now holds only about 1.5T, said Greta Nash, chief of the Storage Management Branch at the USDA Kansas City facility.

The storage farm of 18G and 72G hard drives has Fibre Channel attachment to the ES7000, Nash said. Nash's staff is currently installing a Brocade fabric switch from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Carrying the load

Heidenreich said CAMS now is processing all the county-based agencies' personnel actions, position management, training administration and performance appraisals. It interacts with the Office Information Profile, a database of all USDA office locations. It transmits payroll data nightly to Agriculture's National Finance Center in New Orleans. Through a secure private network between Maryland and Missouri, Whitcomb can reboot a partition. 'We can watch it boot even at the BIOS level from over here,' he said.

The only thing Whitcomb cannot do from Maryland is insert a CD-ROM into a drive.

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