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FAA Infrastructure: System Integrator's View

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-10-14 Print this article Print

Transitioning off of legacy systems is never easy, but it’s especially challenging if you are an agency of the U.S. government such as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Real progress on a next-generation system is being made, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you read some news headlines about FAA system failures this year. Beyond being a nuisance to airlines and travelers, experts and former employees of the FAA are calling flight-plan system failures a warning sign for peril.

FAA Infrastructure: System Integrator's View
"What the FAA is doing is common to what a lot of other [government] agencies are doing: They're trying to do more standardization across their IT infrastructures," said Tom Kennedy, vice president of sales at GTSI, the systems integrator selected by the FAA.

One of the main requirements in the GTSI contract is that FAA wanted more control of equipment purchases. GTSI worked with the FAA's standardization committee, chaired by longtime FAA IT administrator Rick Jordan, to come up with the standards in upgrading the networking and server/storage parts of the systems, facilitate the buys and carry out the implementations, Kennedy said.

"Right now, we're mostly working on the non-NAS side of the FAA's IT," Kennedy said. "What we want to do is show success on this side of the system, and then bring it to the NAS side."

One of the main challenges GTSI faces is consolidation of storage devices, Kennedy said.

"They made a major investment in virtualization," Kennedy said. "In their [previous] environment, they had disparate storage devices from multiple vendors, all across the FAA. They're now upgrading or consolidating them, via the standards. Now they've honed in down to one platform."

And that would be Sun-Cisco.

"SAVES was a pretty high initiative that came out of the [U.S.] CIO's office. The first year, it seemed like there was some resistance [to the upgrade] internally, as people were getting comfortable with actually having [new] standards," Kennedy said. "But since our implementation, we've done two times the volume [of data transactions] this year versus last year."

That kind of performance will catch attention of bureaucrats every time.

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