Overview of the CMS Recharge Center

Established in 2000, the CMS Recharge Center enabled the department to use research and general budget funds to move from an ad-hoc collection of servers created and maintained by individual graduate students over the years to a centralized cluster of services created and maintained by professional IT staff, providing continuity of operations for the last two decades as well as systems deployment that was integrated, top to bottom, with a sustainable cluster design

Who We Are

Patrick Cahalan (x3290, 112 Annenberg)

Primary Responsibilities:
  • Windows Systems Administration
  • Budgeting and RC Administration
  • Primary Purchasing Agent
  • Systems Architecture
  • Facilities/Server Room maintenance
  • Account Management
Secondary Responsibilities
  • Linux Systems Administration
  • User Support
David Leblanc (x2902, 112 Annenberg)

Primary Responsibilities
  • Linux Systems Administration
  • Systems Architecture
  • NAS Management
  • UNIX Software Maintenance and Deployment
  • System Security
Secondary Responsibilities
  • Account Management
  • User Support

How To Contact Us

For best results use the CMS Help Ticket System (email help@cms.caltech.edu). You will get a confirmation email when you get a ticket, which will enable you to track the status of your request. Using the ticket system ensures that your email isn't lost in an Inbox and that both of us see your request, so if one of the tech staff is out, your issue can still be addressed. You can also contact us via the CMS Slack instance, and via phone at the numbers above. But the primary method should always be the ticket system.

Who Should Contact Us

For department wide problems (e.g., the CMS web site is down, CMS mail is down), any person who uses CMS services can contact the IT staff. For specific user-level requests (desktop support, help with software installations, questions about research resources), only CMS folks who have support through the Recharge Center should request help. More on that below.

Response Estimates

The primary workday is normal Institute operational hours, Monday-Friday, weekends and Institute Holidays excepted. If you open a straightforward request that is time sensitive, you should receive an initial response the same working day, or early the following working day if you opened your request after 4pm. Technical staff may or may not respond after normal working hours. For longer term requests (for example, a virtual machine for some service that will not be deployed for weeks, or assistance with a capitalized equipment purchase), expect a preliminary response by the end of the business week. A matrix of common requests and expected response/resolution times:

Type of Request

Support Category

Expected Initial Response

Expected Resolution

Password Reset / Account Maintenance Anyone with a CMS Account Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Following Business Day
Academic Software Troubleshooting Anyone with a CMS Account, Using CMS resources for Instruction Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Varies by Complexity of Issue
Academic Software Deployment Instructors, Faculty, Visitors teaching Using CMS resources End of Business Week if submitted prior to the 1st week of relevant term Varies by Complexity of Issue, Beginning of Term
Common Desktop Support Question RC participants Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm 1-2 Business Days, Hardware Issues Excepted
Issues with Email Service Anyone who receives CMS email Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Highest priority response for CMS RC accounts
Help with Personal Devices RC participants Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Varies by device and issue
Printing Supplies, Maintenance, or Troubleshooting Residents of Annenberg/Steele House, for common-area printers Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Varies by issue
Purchasing Assistance, non-capitalized equipment RC participants End of Business Week Varies by item, typically 1-2 days
Purchasing Assistance, capitalized equipment RC participants End of Business Week Varies by item, typically vendor-determined
Slack Account Activation Anyone associated with CMS Same Business Day if request submitted by 4pm Following Business Day

Support Staff Indirect Duties Description

Research and Development:

CMS support staff are constantly reviewing new technologies on both a user‐facing and infrastructural basis. This includes systems monitoring, configuration management, systems deployment, inventory management and control and security on the infrastructural side, and user‐facing services such as compute resource management (HPC and HTC cluster management), knowledge management (content management systems and wikis), and code repositories. There are also the more "commodity" services such as email and spam scanning, and basic web services. The majority of research and development efforts on the user‐facing side are in support of requests from the research community. However, instructional efforts can benefit from the deployment of services that were originally requested as part of a research effort, and there are occasional requests for enhanced services for instructional support. R&D work is estimated in the current and previous year to be attributable 70% to research purposes, and 30% towards instruction.

Systems Engineering

Systems engineering (the design, construction, and deployment of systems) like Research and Development, is largely attributable to research‐related work rather than instructional based efforts. Systems engineering involves taking services designed in R&D and putting them into service, integrating them with the existing architecture, and ensuring stable performance.


Systems maintenance tasks include software and operating system updates, log rotation, log analysis, and other tasks involved in ensuring the ongoing reliability of deployed services until their end-of-life

-- PatrickCahalan - 2021-09-13
Topic revision: r1 - 2021-09-13, PatrickCahalan
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