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New tools from IT aim to help users track device inventory and plan updates

by Alexandra MacWade, assistant editor

Computer Monitors

Information Technology has unveiled two new tools—an inventory dashboard and a support matrix—to help users plan operating system upgrades and keep track of their computers and mobile devices. The tools are part of a larger initiative designed to help Rockefeller’s labs and departments thrive.

Anthony Carvalloza, who joined Rockefeller last June as chief information officer, says that IT launched the new initiatives in order to better help labs and administrative departments get the most out of their systems, enabling them to more easily see and plan for the replacement of obsolete equipment and out-of-date, unsupported operating systems that could pose a security risk. “IT is actively working to change the way we operate to more directly support our science,” Mr. Carvalloza says. “As part of that mission, we want to provide tools that will help labs and offices improve their day-to-day operations as well.”

An inventory dashboard

Many labs and departments at Rockefeller don’t have a good way to keep track of their computers and mobile devices, which in some large groups can number in the hundreds. To address this, IT has developed a web-based inventory tracking system that shows individual users, as well as their department heads or lab managers, a list of all computers and mobile devices they own, when they were purchased, and what version operating system they are running.

The information is displayed as a dashboard, allowing users to view key details, such as the computer’s primary user and location, at a glance. The tool gives users insight into their inventory, allowing them to simplify basic auditing and help budget for equipment and system upgrades. And if there’s interest, Mr. Carvalloza says it will be expanded to include lab equipment.

In a later rollout of the inventory dashboard, a feature will be added that lets investigators run compliance checks on their computers, which are often required before accessing protected datasets from sequencing repositories, such as those from the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s database of genotypes and phenotypes, known as dbGaP. This will let researchers perform their own checks, allowing them to expedite their requests for data.

The new tracking system will not only help labs and departments to manage their inventories, but also provide a decision-support tool for IT to mine the data. “It will help us to better design programs to fit what’s in the environment,” Mr. Carvalloza says.

The support matrix

To help users select an appropriate operating system—and one that will work within the university’s complex network environment—IT has created a web page that lists recommended operating systems as well as the status of new ones that are being tested. This so-called support matrix, which Mr. Carvalloza says brings transparency to the services that IT provides, will eventually include every application in use on campus and will be regularly updated. Although IT has long had a policy of phasing out support for older software, it had previously done so on an ad-hoc basis, as older products were replaced.

Now, official support end dates are also shown on the matrix, helping users plan for upgrades. In January, IT announced that it was gradually ending support for operating systems that have reached end of life. Mr. Carvalloza says this approach—phasing out support for older systems in favor of a compact set of services—will allow IT to provide a higher level of support for the systems that are most widely used.

“We believe that together, these tools will provide useful guidance to the Rockefeller community, and will help our scientists and administrative staff to make data-driven decisions about their technology plans, which is especially useful when planning next year’s budget,” Mr. Carvalloza says.