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Reams Goodloe
Top Gun


Reged: 05/07/04
Posts: 2582
Loc: Kent, Washington
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: B. Butler (Oregonian)]
      #397584 - 10/06/14 11:48 PM

>>Much easier to transport the data than to transport the machinery, and that's exactly what they've done<<

Remote operational capability is great, but then, operators have to be remote. For short term problems, maybe remote expenses are cheaper than a full hardware backup, but it takes spare workstations at the now remote sites. But, this episode has revealed that there are at least a significant number of such spare workstations at various facilities..... ....so, perhaps it isn't such a big deal in the case of a one-off event...

As far as complexity ?
No worries,many industries have very complex systems....

- Reams-


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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397598 - 10/07/14 08:23 PM

Disasters ARE considered to some extent, but remember, this is the government - subject to accusations of gold-plating, overspending, featherbedding, etc, etc. A center that is designed to take a critical hit anywhere in the building up to and including losing the building and have no significant impact on operations is going to be REALLY expensive - with an extremely low probability that the money spent will ever benefit anybody. That's the kind of decision that, in a constrained budget environment, is very easy to make. As I said, this is the first time I'm aware of that any center has suffered crippling damage affecting operations on a sustained basis in 55 years. So, they plan to do what happened here - stop the world, figure out a plan B that can handle the immediate situation using available resources, and recover when able.

If all it took was the FAA equivalent of a spare tire to protect from this, they'd probably do it. Unfortunately, it's more like keeping an expensive second car around that you drive for two weeks every 60 years, with some Congresscritter demanding annual IG investigations into the fraud, waste and abuse inherent in having unused expensive resources around.


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Tom Charlton
Top Gun


Reged: 04/28/04
Posts: 2221
Loc: The west coast of Florida
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Scott Dunham (RDU)]
      #397599 - 10/07/14 08:24 PM

Quote:

Scott D. wrote:
Yes, if there is anything the FAA is good at, it's making a project take years longer than it should.


Hi Scott,
Yup, to wit: (MLS) Microwave Landing System! If I understand correctly, development was stifled so long by bureaucracy that GPS/WAAS came into play. A shame because it could’ve offered a substantial level of precision approach redundancy without relying on older ILS with its limitations.

I suspect “NextGen” will be far from what it could due to bureaucratic issues.

Regards,
Tom Charlton

--------------------
The airplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939.


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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Tom Charlton]
      #397601 - 10/07/14 08:29 PM

Unfortunately, they tend to refuse to field anything that isn't absolutely perfect, which leads to lots of navel-gazing and extended delivery times as a result. TCAS didn't make it out the door until version 6, and only then because Congress demanded it.

Trust me - by the time NextGen is fielded, it will be a total success...because they'll drop the requirements for anything that they can't get to work right, thereby reverse-scoping the project to whatever they have running when Congress demands that Nextgen be implemented RIGHT NOW because they get tired of hearing Real Soon Now from the Administrator of the day.


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Scott Dunham (RDU)]
      #397606 - 10/07/14 09:57 PM

Quote:

Unfortunately, it's more like keeping an expensive second car around that you drive for two weeks every 60 years,




With periodic maintenance and testing of said car to make sure it will run when needed.

And since this "spare car" might be called upon to back up any other car in the fleet, it has to be able to do the job of any of the other cars be it a sub-compact to luxury.

I think we're all on the same page in that it CAN be done, but it's going to be expensive. I think the disagreement is how much and if it would be worth it.


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Ward Miller POU-NY
Top Gun


Reged: 05/05/04
Posts: 10508
Loc: New York
FAA's many soft spots [Re: Scott Dunham (RDU)]
      #397607 - 10/07/14 09:59 PM

>> So, they plan to do what happened here - stop the world, figure out a plan
B that can handle the immediate situation using available resources, and
recover when able. <<

Scott, as I said earlier, I don't advocate they have two of everything.
Point #1: What I've been saying is at design time they should look for "soft
spots". That is why I thus named this thread. For example, don't have every
cable at a Center go through the same cable vault. Don't have all the
servers cheek to jowl; distribute them about. And so on.

Point #2: Have a Plan B, and C, and D, on file. When/if a specific disaster
occurs, then they can pass the word, "Plan C is now in effect." Then
everyone goes to their file cabinet and pulls out Plan C. It is really
Mickey Mouse to try to get every plane on the ground, then sit around picking
their noses and say, "Let's do X." "No, boss, we can't do that because of Y
and Z." Someone else says, "How about....?" And it goes on and on until it
sort of solves itself.

We always hear there is not enough money to do X or Y. I've worked under
governmental budgetary restrictions and I also know when you *really* want
to do something, unless it costs billions, you can figure a way to make it
happen.

I think it is unconscionable not to have contingency plans on file.


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Reams Goodloe
Top Gun


Reged: 05/07/04
Posts: 2582
Loc: Kent, Washington
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Scott Dunham (RDU)]
      #397614 - 10/08/14 12:34 AM

>>>by the time NextGen is fielded,<<<

Come on, they really need to recall the ADS work in Alaska and Florida as "local tryouts" and put a beta (or whatever level they are at now) in the field. No matter how long they study and run tests, there will inevitably be "issues" that surface only when things become operational...... Best not to have such issues occurring many places at the same time only after a nation wide roll out.....<g>

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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Reams Goodloe]
      #397621 - 10/08/14 12:46 PM

NextGen IS really a series of projects. For instance, Exelis was contracted to establish and manage the ADS-B network, and it's largely up and running even if most planes don't have the kit to use it. The center ERAM processors are being installed and are in use in the majority of the country. Etc.

Alas, I've seen this movie before, and when FAA gets pressed to complete something, the standard response is to jettison the hard stuff and declare victory wherever they are. The exact point that occurs in NextGen remains to be seen, but I'd bet money that it'll happen at some point.


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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397622 - 10/08/14 01:06 PM

Centers are very complex, and subject to all sorts of internal and external failures. Expecting a bombproof response to any eventuality prepared in advance seems to be a bit optimistic. They do look for soft spots, and require redundancy and diversity in communications and data processing services, for example, - but they all end up in the same building somewhere, and in an "inside attack" scenario like this I have a suspicion that even internal diversity could be readily defeated. This was a planned attack by a trusted technical employee who knew exactly what he was doing - that's about worst case on the list of "stuff" to defend against, and would be plan Z or so.

Degraded performance because of partial failures is usually addressed on the fly through flow restrictions and other traffic management actions, but total failure of the facility is handled by offloading to adjacent facilities just as was done here. They do have a contingency plan for that, but the focus is on "total failure" from a continuity of service standpoint, not on the specific technical reason for the total failure. At the time of the failure, ATC doesn't care why - they just need to maintain safety and get the show back on the road ASAP. That's the part where the specific response has to be identified and implemented once the current state of the system is understood. It would be great to have all possible answers in advance, but I don't think anybody knows how to do that.


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397625 - 10/08/14 04:06 PM

Quote:

Don't have all the servers cheek to jowl; distribute them about.




So instead of one room with redundant power and A/C, you have two rooms. The costs quickly go up. Not just initial, but operational costs.

At some point you have to plan that the entire center will go down. Perhaps the earth opens up and eats the whole thing. I imagine that some soft spots are so rare, that they fall back to "entire center down" plan rather then spend money on something unlikely.

One of the sayings I've heard is that "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." I think disaster planning has a similar issue. No matter how much you plan, there's things that come along that you just have to play it by ear. The question is did you do the right planning up front so you could use parts of it to respond?


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