Technology Refresh Program Launches Phase II

By Brian O’Shea, Staff Writer; photo by Richard Frederickson; Staff Photographer
See caption for details.

PC Prep staff members, Data Management Services, Inc. From left: Baz Hyder (team lead), Will Andrews, Erin Shamley, and Waseem Khan.

The Technology Refresh Program (TRP) is an NCI-funded initiative designed to promote efficient spending on computer equipment by providing staff members with access to the latest technology to meet their computing needs, said Kyle Miller, IT coordinator, Computer and Statistical Services (C&SS), NCI at Frederick.

The top three goals of TRP are to:

  • Promote efficient spending by following the one-computer-per-user policy when possible;
  • Provide staff members with access to the latest technology that meets or exceeds their computing needs by supplying new computers every three years; and
  • Reduce customer loss of productivity by minimizing downtime between system swaps, new computer acquisitions, and system repairs.

The program officially launched for NCI at Frederick in September 2014. Some aspects of the program were limited, as the sole focus for the first year was primarily to replace computers using Windows XP operating systems, Miller said. He added that there are three phases to TRP.

Phase I: XP Remediation Project, Fiscal Year 2015

Phase I involved replacing any XP computer that was subject to the “HHS End-of-Life Operating Systems, Software and Applications Policy.” In short, this policy places restrictions on what equipment can be placed on the NIH network based on the equipment’s ability to adhere to the applicable policies that govern it. As such, Phase I only applied to computers that resided directly on the NIH network and not to computers running outside of the network or within a scientific VLAN.

Phase I was also a pilot phase for other aspects of the program, which will be implemented in Phase II, Miller said. Some of these aspects include a new inventory management system that will alert TRP staff when inventory counts for certain computers, monitors, and accessories need to be replenished; a program where qualifying new full-time employees are provided with computers through TRP, and TRP computers from exiting employees are collected and recycled back into the program; and a program that grants employees an early replacement computer if their primary computer fails and is out of warranty.

Phase II: Legacy Mac Remediation Project and Legacy Windows 7 Phase, Fiscal Year 2016

Phase II was launched October 1, 2015 (fiscal year 2016), with a deadline for completion scheduled for September 30, 2016, Miller said. It will target Mac-based computers that are running Mac operating system version 10.6.8 or older, and computers older than five years that are running Mac operating system version 10.7.x.

Phase II will also target computers older than five years that are running Windows 7. For Windows-based computers in Phase II, the TRP policy of one-computer-per-user will be followed. For example, if a user has a desktop and laptop that are both running Windows 7, and both are five years or older, only one of the systems will be replaced. In this situation, C&SS urges NCI at Frederick staff members to combine the two into one laptop workstation. If they prefer to work with two computers, only one will be replaced. Staff members will need to elect one of their computers as a primary and one as a secondary, and only the primary computer will be replaced.

Phase III: Program Transition Phase (Mac and Windows Systems), Fiscal Year 2017

Phase III will target all Mac and Windows systems that are three years or older. The replacements will follow the one-computer-per-user policy, and secondary or shared computers will not be replaced. Again, some shared workstations may be eligible for replacement, and their eligibility will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Phase III is called a transition phase. During this phase, C&SS will be transitioning out of a phase-by-phase project and evolving the program into what will become part of C&SS’ daily normal operations, Miller said.

“Although this is already a daily operation now, the intention is that by the time Phase III is completed, we [will] no longer [be] looking at the program as a phase-by-phase project, and [will] have a reliable inventory system and scheduling system in place that it just ties into C&SS’ daily operations,” he said.

Donna Coakley, programmer/analyst III, Applied and Developmental Research Directorate, is involved in requesting and implementing dozens of TRP computers for the Biological Testing Branch (BTB) staff and laboratories. She also recently replaced her own laptop through TRP.

“This program has been a godsend, particularly when all of the laboratory XP systems had to be replaced,” Coakley said. “The cost to the individual programs would have been substantial. Also, if you had to order a new computer to replace a system that is malfunctioning, it would take much longer than the turnaround time for ordering an individual replacement.”

 “Even though some people are initially skeptical about replacing their workstations with a laptop/docking station configuration, it is working extremely well both in the office and in the labs,” she said.

Norene O’Sullivan, biologist, Basic Research Laboratory, said that several of her department’s computers needed to be replaced through TRP. The computers were having connectivity issues (internet/servers/databases), which resulted in employees having to restart their computers multiple times a day. The replacement process began in April and was completed in July.

Of the computers being updated in her department, O’Sullivan’s was upgraded ahead of the cycled schedule time for her program. This gave staff members an opportunity to test the Windows 7 platform with their servers, colony database, and software packages.

“I don’t recall there being any outstanding issues with the refresh process for most of our computers,” she said. O’Sullivan added that after her computer was replaced, her new computer improved her ability to perform her job-related duties.

“I appreciate the focus and dedication provided by the DMS [Data Management Services] team throughout the process,” she said.

The NCI-funded TRP is managed by C&SS for NCI at Frederick and by the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT) for the rest of NCI. C&SS and CBIIT collaboratively manage the efforts together.

For more information about TRP, visit NCI at Frederick’s TRP page.