An Antiquated System

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-08-27 Print this article Print

The system itself is called NADIN (National Aerospace Data Interchange Network). It was designed by North American Philips for the FAA in the early 1980s. The two Philips DS714/81 mainframes became operational in January 1988. The company went out of business later that year, and the FAA bought out the entire parts inventory.

To its credit, the system has been running 24/7 for a long, long time-since the tail end of the Reagan administration, in fact. But the time has come for it to be replaced, as underscored by the shutdown this week.

By the end of 2008, Takemoto said, the entire system will be replaced by a new, state-of-the-art system: new hardware, software, everything. "It'll have a memory that will be exponentially larger than this one," Takemoto said. "It'll be able to handle spikes like the one we had yesterday."

Kenny Van Zant, chief product strategist at SolarWinds, a network management software maker, told me that most network outages are not caused by corrupted files.

"If you look at the root causes of most network outages, north of 70 percent of them are caused by configuration errors by humans," Van Zant told me. "Computers fail a whole lot less often than the humans punching things into computers fail. Network engineers, as smart as they are, are not immune from that."

Details about the FAA's proprietary network configuration software setup were not made available.

Detection and Monitoring on the Way

SolarWinds has a new configuration called Orion NCM (Network Configuration Manager) v5, which integrates new features into the previous Cirrus Configuration Manager product. Orion alerts network managers-via a Web-based user interface for handheld devices, cell phones and laptops-when any change in the network structure occurs, so that outages can be handled quickly.

Jim Battenberg, director of product marketing for Neverfail, a disaster recovery software vendor, told me that his software asynchronously replicates all the data between the two environments and monitors the network 24/7.

"So we would detect if the network goes down, if the server goes down, if there's problems with the hardware, if the processor is being hit too hard, or what have you," Battenberg said. "We detect everything within the ecosystem. And if there's a problem, we can a) fix some things ourselves, or b) fail over to the secondary system. And we do that automatically."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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