FAA inches toward modernization with new Host

The Federal Aviation Administration last month unveiled a central component of
its air traffic systems modernization.

Since February, FAA has been overseeing an upgrade of its Host air traffic control
systems. Into the fall, the agency plans to take down its old IBM Corp. systems at 20 en
route centers nationwide and replace them with IBM 9672 Model RA4 parallel-processing

Host acts as the heart of the air traffic control system, collecting flight plan and
radar data from aircraft and forwarding it to controllers at the en route centers.

The servers for the Host and Oceanic Computer System Replacement are five times faster,
seven times smaller and 10 times more energy-efficient than the IBM 3083 Model BX1 and
4381 mainframes deployed in 1987 to run Host, said John Frederick, HOCSR testing director
at FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J.

All told, FAA expects to spend $607.2 million on the Host upgrade, he said.

The new Host systems can process 32 million instructions per second and each take up
250 square feet of space. The old Host mainframes have 7 MIPS of processing power and a
1,910-square-foot footprint. Frederick said FAA will save $15.6 million in reduced
electrical power use over each system’s 10-year life.

“With the new Host, controllers can focus on the task at hand, knowing they are
supported by more reliable equipment,” FAA administrator Jane Garvey said at the
system’s dedication ceremony.

Lockheed Martin Corp., FAA’s air traffic systems modernization contractor, will
manage the Host upgrade in four phases:

During the phase, Lockheed also will replace IBM 4956 Series 1 computers with IBM
RS/6000 Model H50 servers for the communications subsystem at the FAA’s oceanic
centers in Long Island, N.Y., Oakland, Calif., and Honolulu, he said.

The New York en route center went online with a new Host server in late February;
Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, Houston and Los Angeles centers came online last month. All 20
en route centers will get the system by November, Frederick said.

“The system is working great,” he said. “It was very easy to implement
and has very low maintenance.”

The year 2000 problem prompted FAA to replace the old Host mainframes. IBM Corp.
technicians who programmed the 3083 and 4381 mainframes last year said they believed the
computers would not recognize date codes correctly after Jan. 1 [GCN, July 27, 1998, Page 3].

FAA and IBM technicians subsequently tested the code running on the old Host systems
and determined the mainframes would not suffer date code failures. But to be safe, the
agency still decided to replace them before 2000.  


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