FAA approves extension of upgrade contract

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-09-24 Print this article Print

FAA approves extension of upgrade contract

On Sept. 23, the FAA exercised the second option year on its 2006 SAVES (Strategic Sourcing for the Acquisition of Various Equipment and Supplies) contract, which was approved by Congress, to fund the systems upgrade. The IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) contract will total $63 million after all options are exercised. 

To date, the FAA has spent about $23 million of that amount; GTSI is budgeted to spend about $13 million more this year.

The contract was awarded under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and is based on Office of Management and Budget mandates calling for agencies to consolidate their technology infrastructures.  So far, the SAVES program has helped the FAA standardize on technology, source goods and services more efficiently, and effectively monitor IT spending, an FAA spokesperson said.

Sun's open-source OpenSolaris/ZFS/SunFire server/Thumper storage infrastructure-which features built-in, state-of-the-art virtualization capability-was a key building block on which the FAA IT evaluation group settled. Some of the new software is already being used in the air traffic system; ZFS (Sun's open-source Zettabyte File System) is being used in the FAA's air traffic data center.

"The FAA uses a large quantity of Sun Solaris servers in a variety of configurations to support some of our noncritical business applications," Andy Isaksen, manager of the Communications Infrastructure Engineering Team for NADIN and architect of the original mainframe system, said. "ZFS is being used on at least one service within the Air Traffic Organization Enterprise Data Center."

Isaksen said, "NADIN, which is responsible for flight plan distribution ... is nearing completion of our user migration waterfall. We began our migration to the new NADIN from our legacy system in March 2008 and the transition is scheduled to complete in early 2009. We are approximately 75 percent complete."

Whatever infrastructure NADIN uses, it is responsible for all flight plan distribution for hundreds of airports, and it provides the gateway between the aviation community and FAA, Isaksen said.

Commercial aircraft of any type cannot take off with having filed a valid flight plan, one that includes destination, estimated flight speed, description of cargo, estimated altitude, weather conditions and other data points.

The FAA augmented its old Phillips DS714 mainframes in 2005 at the FAA data centers in Atlanta, Ga., and Salt Lake City with Stratus FTserver 6400s, which run on Intel Xeon processors. However, the NADIN system, which is compliant with National Institute of Standards and Technology 800-53 security controls and operates on a private network, will keep evolving to the Sun-Cisco implementation.

The custom-built NADIN application is not hardware- and operating system-dependent and can be compiled to run on many server platforms, Isaksen said. This includes Solaris, so the changeover was not a major issue.

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 Salesforce.com 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 DevX.com 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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