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11/05/2015

The IT Department: expert help when you need it

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It's hard to imagine a more exciting - or demanding - working environment than Inria for the team in the Lille - Nord Europe research centre's IT Department. These keen specialists help ensure that all of the IT resources necessary for the centre's day-to-day operation are available and working properly.

Key roles

The IT Department spends half of its time maintaining the centre's computers and servers. In practice, this means making sure that the Wi-Fi network, 60 physical servers and 70 virtual machines are operating correctly, managing purchases of new hardware, and supervising the integration of new computers into the computer cluster hosted by the centre - all essential tasks for keeping the centre running smoothly.

The department's second main role is to provide user support. The team handles a wide variety of requests to fix problems, from not only the research teams but also all the other support services. Whether it's a problem with a printer, a computer virus, difficulty with remote network access, or simply a need for more storage space, the IT Department is there to help!

The other main role of the department is to provide ad hoc support for the research teams - an advisory role that calls for a real understanding of researchers' sometimes complex requirements. After discussing the requirements in detail, the IT Department will be able to install adequate hardware and software, provide a server or even purchase the equipment that best meets the research teams' needs and budget.

The department has two server rooms and manages around 250 TB of data on five devices. Cross backups minimise the risk of data loss and bring the team great peace of mind.

Researchers don't ask questions for no reason: they need a precise answer. It's motivating for the whole team.

Providing free access to the computer cluster

"Especially since big data took off, research teams' need for parallel or intensive computational tools has simply exploded," explained Thierry Peltier, who is in charge of the IT department. "We provide them with a computer cluster specifically for this type of operation. We are also responsible for integrating the new machines purchased by the teams into the cluster. Although everyone will be able to use them, it's our job to make sure that the team that gives us a new machine has priority access to the computational nodes."

The IT Department team

The IT Department is a close-knit team of people who love their job and thrive in this exciting environment. In addition to the four engineers, the department head and the assistant, an apprentice joined the team in September 2014. The team has a range of skills, including IT security, computer cluster technology, and installing virtual servers and storage.

CV of the IT department

Keywords: IT Department Administration Department

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