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Thursday February 15, 2001

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Computer room keeps UA services running

By Ayse Guner

Arizona Daily Wildcat

While workers in the CCIT switch room run the UA's telecommunications behind the scenes, the machinery room is where services for the campus community originate.

Also called the computer room, this is where the administrative computer systems are maintained.

An IBM 9672 is used for administrative systems, which in turn provide student systems.

Student systems include registration, bursars, financial aid, admissions, student link, telephone billing system and financial record system.

"Computers here (are) the interface between the administration system that has data on it and oversee the operations, making sure hardware is running and software is functioning," said Laura Roth-Shepherd, a senior computer operations support specialist.

About 100 servers unite in this room, although the numbers change constantly depending on how CCIT personnel allocate system resources, Roth-Shepherd said.

Some of the servers include W3 - the server for campus Web pages - U-Cluster, the e-mail system, Meeting Maker - which electronically schedules meetings - SABIO, the payroll system, UA Information, and Lulu, or the purchasing server.

"Amazingly, all those are able to talk to each other similarly, but with different dialects," she said.

About 900 gigabytes of data can be backed up on a standard, weekend full back-up, she added.

There is also a supercomputer in the room - a giant computer with 48 gigabytes of memory and 104 processors - which is worth nearly $4 million. Supercomputers are used for simulations, large numerical calculations and for scientific research such as math, physics, hydrology, optics and water research.

Another component in the room is the printing, both for administration and for students. The prints include reports for financial aid to paychecks.

The new U-Cluster hardware, which is in the developing stages, will be a more robust replacement for the existing U-Cluster, Roth-Shepherd said.

Another ongoing project is the Cosmos Project, which will replace the Student Information System.

Cosmos will be a Web-based application, unlike the old interactive system, prohibiting the use of Social Security numbers as student identification numbers.

"We are getting ready for U-Cluster migration," Roth-Shepherd said. "We are moving toward current technology."

Roth-Shepherd has been working at CCIT for 24 years, and admits that keeping up with fast-paced, developing technology can be hard.

"It is such a dynamic environment that it is a challenge to try to keep up," she said. "No one person can keep up with everything. That is impossible."

As she recalls the old days, where every process used to be manual, she said the future will be a "whirlwind."

"The amount of information will get so intense that we won't be able to absorb anymore," she added.