State computers to get emergency expansion

Nevada government's two primary computers are so overloaded they need an emergency $2.2 million expansion to prevent "melt down," according to the acting head of the Department of Information Technology.

Terry Savage told the Legislature's Genesis subcommittee Thursday his predecessors dramatically underestimated the computing power needed by DMV's new Genesis system, the new state budget system, taxation and other agencies.

But, he said, "the 800-pound gorilla is NOMADS." That is the controversial unified state-county welfare computer that has now cost more than $125 million.

As a result, Gov. Kenny Guinn was forced to declare an emergency so he could immediately pump money into expanding the R25 and R36 mainframe computers that handle the bulk of state computer work.

"The R36 is on the verge of melting down," Savage told lawmakers. "And the R25 is seriously nearing capacity and will start developing problems within the next few weeks."

He told them the state needs to do the expansions not Sept. 12 when the Interim Finance Committee meets but "yesterday at two o'clock."

Subcommittee member Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, pointed out that lawmakers were told at their June meeting the existing computers could handle the load through the 2001 Legislature.

"Now, a month later, it's a crisis," she said.

"That forecast, at best, had a dim relationship to reality," said Savage, who has been acting director of the information department for less than a month.

In fact, as of July actual system use was nearly 30 percent higher than projected and budgeted for. Genesis usage was 40 percent high and NOMADS use of the system more than double what was projected. In fact, every agency was above projected computer use.

He said he has completely changed how the department makes computer needs forecasts so that the situation doesn't happen again.

Fortunately, he said, the state has the money to pay for the upgrades due to an accounting error that caused the department to overcharge user agencies over the past year.

Savage said that billing process, which he said has been described "in words ranging from strange to bizarre," is also being fixed.

It will cost the department $951,088 to upgrade the R25 to an R35 and $1,273,000 to upgrade the R36 to R46 - a total of $2,244,088.

In addition, the committee and the department will take a request to the September interim finance committee meeting to add nearly $1 million more to further upgrade the R36 computer.

Because the computers are overloaded, many agencies have been unable to finish entering their detailed budgets for the coming two years in the Nevada executive budget system.

Different agency officials report it can take upwards of 10 minutes for the system to process a single budget entry because of the overload.

Savage confirmed that saying it's especially hard on programmers.

"They'll enter a line of code and they'll wait and wait and wait 10 to 15 minutes," he said.

He said the situation is costing employees thousands of hours and that a number of agencies are having budget people and programmers come in to work during from 2-5 a.m. when the computers aren't jammed.

"The productivity losses are at minimum $75,000 and likely $100,000 a week," he said.

The primary upgrades, he said, will take only about two days and should greatly relieve the logjam. In addition to upgrading processing power and memory on the two mainframe computers, he said that money will allow DOIT to move the budget system onto its own small computer system along with the Public Employees Benefit System, freeing up more computing space.

But Sen. Bill O'Donnell, R-Las Vegas, a longtime critic of NOMADS, said abandoning that entire system may be a better answer.

"If we get rid of NOMADS, we will have all kinds of computing power," he said.

Subcommittee chairman Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said without trying to fix blame, "the reality is we have to buy more machine or our users will experience unacceptable delays."

"That means citizens standing in line at DMV, citizens standing in line at welfare centers," he said.

The legislators agreed to support Gov. Guinn's orders allowing immediate expansion of the computers and to review the request for an additional upgrade at the September IFC meeting.


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