Sparks fly at Huachuca tech center
A welder affixes water pipes for a new environmental system during the ongoing lab renovation project at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - Thirteen years after moving into its current building, the Technology Integration Center (TIC) needed to reorganize its labs into one centralized lab area for testing across the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command.

There was a drastic change in network devices, testing requirements, test equipment, and customer expectations since the TIC first opened. In response to these events, TIC leadership decided it was time to reorganize the group of engineers who conduct network system and device evaluations.

"Looking towards the future, the TIC needed to enhance our capabilities," said TIC Senior Engineer Arlie Barber. This reorganization includes three components: the business, physical, and organizational models.

Of these three components, the physical infrastructure upgrade is the most costly. It is also the key to success in the other two areas. The physical upgrade addresses four areas: testing efficiency, test personnel, environmental safety and cooling & power.

Historically, the TIC labs were each constructed to support an individual team or project. "After a few years, we figured out that we did not build our labs the right way. We built the labs to support the organizational structure, which wasn't the most efficient way to build those labs," said Bill Beech, TIC Network Optimization Subject Matter Expert. "This is our chance to do it right."

Over time, building individual labs led to inefficiencies and poor resource utilization. The TIC evaluated usage on one piece of test equipment valued at approximately $500,000 and found that the equipment had only 14 percent utilization during 2007. In addition, 20 common LandWarNet services were replicated across three different labs in the TIC. It took 27 servers total to provide all of those services to the labs.

To address these inefficiencies, the TIC is consolidating its labs into a 2,500 square foot raised floor lab. This allows testers to share resources across projects, eliminating redundant equipment, and reducing yearly maintenance costs.

Consolidating the LandWarNet servers alone will save the TIC approximately $60,000 in equipment and labor costs per year. They are also using virtualization on both servers and desktops to further consolidate equipment.

"I'm a huge supporter of virtualization," said Beech. "Virtualization is going to save the TIC money on equipment and also reduce our power and space requirements."

Another area the TIC is addressing is personnel safety and comfort for the engineers. When the TIC labs were initially established, testing personnel were located in the same rooms as devices under test. As the size and power of these devices grew over the years, larger fans were required. These larger fans resulted in an increased noise level within the labs.

While still within industry safety standards, this loud environment became increasingly uncomfortable for the workforce. To address this, the new TIC lab is a "dark" lab. All equipment is completely isolated from the workforce and testing is done remotely from other rooms within the TIC. The only time workers enter the "dark" lab is to conduct initial setup and cabling or to troubleshoot a physical problem.

This dark lab concept also provides more efficient power and cooling to the TIC.

By isolating the equipment in one room, the TIC can now isolate that equipment's cooling needs from the centralized building heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC).

The TIC is also replacing two aging 30-ton HVAC units with two 40 ton units, with room for a third unit if needed in the future. These HVAC changes will significantly reduce the strain placed on the building's HVAC system.

This dark lab also allows the TIC to place the majority of its high amperage power circuits in one room, while at the same time upgrading circuits to handle the higher power requirements of today's network equipment.
Barber said, "They've done similar upgrades before, but on a much smaller scale.

"This is the first time we have ever addressed overhauling the entire TIC mission capabilities," said Barber.

(This article appeared in Spectra, the magazine of the CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. To access the full issue in PDF format, 3.2 megabytes, click on the link appearing in the Aca,!A"Related LinksAca,!A? box at the start of the article.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16