Help desk and consulting

CISL’s strategic commitment to providing robust, accessible, and innovative information services and tools to our customers includes end-to-end services for NCAR’s supercomputer users with 24x7 frontline user support, extensive online documentation, and consulting services for providing in-depth expertise. CISL’s User Services Section (USS) unites four functions – the CISL Help Desk, Consulting Services, Documentation, and Accounts and Allocations – to streamline and coordinate user-oriented procedures and support activities.

User support efforts in FY2015 by the Consulting Services Group (CSG) focused on helping the user community make full, efficient use of the Yellowstone system’s capabilities, and planning for its successor system at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC). During FY2015, CISL’s consulting staff provided expertise and one-on-one, customized service for special campaigns, including workshops and field campaigns, and benchmarking and testing in support of the NWSC-2 procurement effort.

CSG also provided staff expertise to a CISL-wide effort aimed at improving the performance of NCAR flagship models on Yellowstone with an eye toward preparing the models for future systems. These models included the Community Earth System Model (CESM), the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF), and Model Prediction Across Scales (MPAS). The Consulting Services Group also continued to support users of these models on the Yellowstone system and taught several training courses for users of CISL’s supercomputing and storage resources.

USS continued its ongoing dedication to providing up-to-date documentation that helps users compute efficiently on Yellowstone and other CISL-managed systems. USS staff created or updated more than 160 web pages in FY2015 to ensure the continued accuracy, relevance, and timeliness of CISL’s documentation and supporting video presentations. The website pages that support users’ computation and data management efforts received 127,000 unique page views in FY2015.

TurboVNC interface
This excerpt from a CISL documentation page describes one step in the process of running visualization applications in the Yellowstone environment. Documentation complements the services that CSG and Help Desk staff provide to the end-user community. Such documentation contributes to efficient use of scientists’ supercomputing and data storage allocations.

CISL tracks user support activity for this growing community using an ExtraView trouble ticket system. In FY2015, the ticket system recorded 10,843 tickets to the CISL Help Desk, a 12% decrease from the FY2014 total. The average number of log entries per ticket was 4.43, and communication with users was highest on complex cases. Of the total tickets submitted, the Help Desk team closed 2,608 tickets in an average of 3.57 days (median, 0.72 days), or 217 per month on average. In the same period, Consulting Services staff resolved 1,303 more complex requests with an average response time of 14.5 days (median, 5.0 days). An additional 535 user support tickets that were fielded related primarily to managing allocations and accounting, with an average response time of 5.6 days (median, 0.81 days).

This work supports CISL’s computing imperative to provide hardware cyberinfrastructure customized for the atmospheric and related sciences. This ongoing service for users is supported by NSF Core funds including CSL funding.