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ARCCA: Supporting the Research Community

One of the key support activities provided by ARCCA staff is responding to the variety of support calls and queries raised by the user community. This is accomplished using the JIRA ticketing system to monitor support calls (hosted by INSRV). JIRA is a highly customisable and inexpensive system that never loses track of support requests. It works well as a help-desk and support ticket system because one can:

  • Customise JIRA according to existing support practices.
  • Easily keep track of tickets and people.
  • Use JIRA as both your support ticket and issue tracker.

Users currently use the mail address: arcca-help@cardiff.ac.uk to log a support call about all ARCCA activities, including both Merlin and Condor services.


The statistics presented in Figures 1 and 2 are indicative of the types and numbers of calls handled by ARCCA staff, but are not comprehensive, as a number of "1-on-1" queries are still received which do not get logged in JIRA.


 

User queries per month

User queries received by ARCCA during 2010.

Figure 1. User queries to ARCCA during 2010.

 

Figure 1 shows the number of support queries received during 2010, with an average of 40 calls per month. When combined with the information in Figure 2 below (the type of query) it shows, not surprisingly, that many of the questions are short term (less than 1 day to resolve) regarding e.g. account requests, installation of software, or "How do I" type questions. Recent service amendments have caused a slight increase in the "How do I" type questions and "Bug Reports". 

It should be noted when a user experiences a problem on Merlin or Condor this is currently captured under "Bug Report" or "Work Request" – a new category of call relating to "User Problem" will be introduced, which provides a more accurate reflection of the service call. Also, due to restrictions of call category, all project ID requests are captured under account requests. 

Many of the medium term (2-3 days to resolve) questions received during this reporting period, were more to do with the established Condor service, although there has been an increase in the number associated with additional functionality, and in-depth software installation requests for Merlin. 

There continues to be an increase in "How do I" style questions over the last couple of months, with users wanting to improve their usage of the technology – in particular modifying job submission scripts to improve efficiency. Holiday periods are reflected, with the number of calls falling in December and April.

 

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Types of query

 

Relative proportion of query types received by the ARCCA team.

Figure 2. Relative proportion of query types received by the ARCCA team.

There are still a small, but growing number of outstanding calls in the JIRA system, primarily focussed on the Merlin system. Many of these are more in-depth software requests which are being investigated. Any call which cannot be resolved is escalated to Bull, to utilise remaining fast-start credits. It should also be noted that a small number of calls remain open as these are awaiting user confirmation that the fault has been satisfactorily resolved.

 

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User Queries: Resource-based over last 12 months

JIRA summary of the user tickets received by the ARCCA team.

Figure 3. JIRA summary of the user tickets received by the ARCCA team.

 

The breakdown of support calls over the two main services provided by ARCCA – the Condor pool and Merlin cluster – is shown in figure 3, with Merlin accounting for ca. 64% of the queries, consistent with the size of the user communities, and the relative maturity of both services. The increase in Merlin support calls over the last quarter of 2010, is primarily due to the migration to project based accountancy, and associated queries.

 

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