IT/Web: September 2008 Archives


Oops, article on China space launch jumps the gun

"An article describing China's long-awaited space mission was launched Thursday hours before astronauts even left the launch pad. The country's official news agency Xinhua posted an article on its Web site Thursday written as if the three astronauts had already been launched into space. The Xinhua article is dated Sept. 27 -- two days from now -- and comes complete with an entire dialogue between the astronauts."

Editor's note: NASA PAO often struggles to keep pace with events. But in China they have found a way to be days ahead of events. Can NASA PAO ever catch up with this latest Chinese accomplishment? Meanwhile, poor right wing Patti at the Examiner clearly has no sense of humor.

Editor's note: A planned email outage due to an impending natural disaster is one thing. But having an email system for an entire government agency designed such that one part - inside one switch - is a single point failure for the whole system is inexcusable.

From: "Nomad-Outreach"
Date: September 17, 2008 10:00:52 AM EDT
Subject: ENMC Activity Affecting NOMAD - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This notice is being sent to customers with a mailbox located at MSFC. ENMC Activity Affecting NOMAD Replace Defective Part in a Switch

Mon 9/15 Status IT Services (Jonathan Pettus, CIO)

"Per the Agency contingency plan, the host servers located at JSC, which service JSC, GRC, DFRC and NSSC were taken off line through an orderly shut down on Friday night. Critical users and senior executives were migrated to back up systems, but non-critical users were without e-mail. The full system came back up last night. If that had not been possible, the non-critical users would have gone to the next level of contingency, which would have allowed new e-mails to be sent and received, but no access to past messages. FY09 funding has been set aside to move those servers to a less risky location, as well as to upgrade to a version of Microsoft Outlook that permits easier migration in future."

Editor's note: But Jonathan, why did you allow this situation to happen in the first place? Let's see how many years it will take for the servers to be "moved" given that internal politics prevented this from being done in the first place? But you do not need to "move" servers to solve this problem. You need to be able to back up and/or transfer their functionality to other locations when the need arises - just like companies do in the real world. As such, you might consider hiring a few IT professionals from the real world to advise you on things like this. Then again, this is really about petty NASA politics - and NASA's chronic inability to rise above them.

NASA NOMAD: Email Services Being Stopped at Johnson Space Center (JSC)

"Email, Calendaring, and Outlook Web Access (OWA) services will be stopped today in preparation for hurricane IKE for all customers located on the JSC servers. Customers located primarily at the following centers will be not be able to send or receive email messages.

1. Glenn Research Center (GRC)
2. White Sands Test Facility (WSTF)
3. Johnson Space Center (JSC)
4. NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC)
5. Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC)

If you attempt to send messages to impacted customers, located primarily at the above Centers, your message will not be delivered until the email services are restarted."

Editor's note: I had to re-read this message several times to make sure that I understood the sheer idiocy it contains. Whoever designed this IT infrastructure for NASA should be fired. A month ago a power outage at Redstone Arsenal caused a NOMAD shut down. I thought that was a dumb IT set up. Well, now we learn that some genius decided to make the NASA NOMAD email system zero fault tolerant for natural disasters - and place email serves in a hurricane prone location - with no back up.

Here is how it seems to work: a hurricane threatens JSC - so NASA shuts off email and other services to a large chunk of the agency. Why? Because NASA deliberately set the system up such that other NASA centers - some of which are thousands of miles away and poised to offer assistance and keep the rest of the agency operating - have their email and other services routed out of JSC - and only JSC (or so it would seem). A few critical users have some service, but everyone else is out of luck for at least 48 hours. Would any self-respecting, profitable, commercial communications company do something as silly as this? No. They'd never stay in business. Only NASA would come up with such a flawed and stupid plan.

It looks like NASA learned nothing from either Katrina or 9-11.

NASA Internal Email: NOMAD Outage Caused by IdMAX Processing

"The Agency NASA Operational Messaging and Directory Service (NOMAD) experienced a problem as a result of a data update to Active Directory (structure used to construct the address book) caused by IdMAX processing. The address was removed from the Active Directory for approximately 3,400 NOMAD user accounts. During this outage, the 3,400 impacted users did not have access to their email client, Outlook Web Access (OWA), Instant Messaging, and their handheld mobile device (BlackBerry, Treo and Windows Mobile Devices)."



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