Bonum Certa Men Certa

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): Case Study in Mission-Critical FAAILURES

It seems to be running Microsoft Windows

A few years ago, FAA chose Microsoft Windows for its server systems.

The FAA is implementing the Stratus servers, which use Intel Xeon 2.8 MHz large cache MP processors and support the Microsoft Windows operating system, at control centers in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.


FAA is making a lot of headlines at the moment; it did last year, too. The latest suggests that there are serious holes.

Most of the problem is that the FAA has just two computing systems, one in Atlanta and one in Salt Lake City, to deal with the whole of the US. There was no redundancy, or enough different computers and communication channels to handle the same workload in an emergency.

If the FAA was a power company and it ran its operations in the same way it would be fined hundreds of thousand dollars a day.


Here is the latest incident, which led to some thinking and maybe an investigation.

According to an internal FAA document, the system, called the National Airspace Data Interchange Network, crashed on Thursday and caused in 134 departure delays. The Salt Lake City system also took over but had problems with the high queue level, the document said. The system also failed in June 2007.


Here is the older issue [expired].

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner acknowledged the computer troubles and said the nation's largest carrier experienced about 50 cancellations on the East Coast, with LaGuardia departures being hit the hardest.


On the brighter side of things, FAA seems to be rejecting the latest version of Windows.

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to bar contractors who administer the air traffic controllers exam from using Windows Vista-based PCs.


Those who are responsible for IT have actually considered GNU/Linux by now.

Bowen said he's in talks with the aviation safety agency's main hardware supplier, Dell Computer, to determine if it could deliver Linux-based computers capable of accessing Google Apps through a non-Microsoft browser once the FAA's XP-based computers pass their shelf life.


Here is a personal account [expired].

The story had a certain flair. In early March, the chief information officer of the Federal Aviation Administration, David Bowen, was reportedly considering forsaking Microsoft Windows and Office in favor of the Linux operating system and the Web-based Google Apps Premium office suite.


There has been no word on this subject since then, so what will it be?

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