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Secret Service Runs At "Six Sixes" Availability

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the only-need-half-as-many dept.

Government 248

PCM2 writes "ABC News is reporting that the US Secret Service is in dire need of server upgrades. 'Currently, 42 mission-oriented applications run on a 1980s IBM mainframe with a 68 percent performance reliability rating,' says one leaked memo. That finding was the result of an NSA study commissioned by the Secret Service to evaluate the severity of their computer problems. Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who says he's had 'concern for a while' about the issue."

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248 comments

Wow. (4, Funny)

moogied (1175879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293134)

They should just flip the availability numbers over and get rid of the decimal. "Sir, its not 66.. its 99! You have it upside down!" -- Fixed.

Re:Wow. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293234)

66.6666% -> 9999.99%????

Obama = Hitler (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293330)

Obama - people follow him blindly without question
Hitler - people follow him blindly without question

Obama - political rallies are held in stadiums
Hitler - political rallies are held in stadiums

Obama - changes the American Flag to the ancient symbol of Horus Sun worship
Hitler - changes the German Flag to the ancient symbol of Black Sun worship

Obama - political rally held in Berlin Germany
Hitler - political rally held in Berlin Germany

Obama - Writes a Biography; Barack Obama: What He Believes In
Hitler - Writes a Biography; Mein Kampf: My Struggle

Obama - Writes another Biography; The Audacity of Hope
Hitler - Writes his 2nd Biography; A New World Order

Obama - his Father leaves baby Barry for a professional career (divorces mother)
Hitler - his Father leaves baby Adolph for a professional career (mother dies)

Obama - his real family identity and his name Soetoro gets buried in the media
Hitler - his real family identity and his Jewish name Schickelgruber gets buried in the media

Obama - has a chain gang Youth Group singing Alpha Omega blindly praising Hussein on Youtube
Hitler - had a Youth Group singing songs of nationalism praising Adolph (Pope Ratzinger was a member)

Obama - was part of the Chicago slumlord regime
Hitler - was part of the Nazi regime

Obama - has Soros and Rothschild as financial backers
Hiteler - had Prescott Bush and Rothschild as financial backers

Obama - tries to conceal his Muslim Faith and Foreign Citizenship by manipulating his Birth Certificate
Hitler - tries to conceal his Jewish roots by entering Austria and chasing down his Birth Certificate

Obama - could have another false flag burning of 911
Hitler - had the false flag burning of the Reichstag

Obama - has a half-brother, George of Nigeria, he disassociates from
Hitler - had a half-brother William Patrick lived in the USA died 1987, a half-sister named Angela

Obama - probably hates either or both parents
Hitler - probably hated either or both parents

Obama - vote fraud and poll manipulation - ACORN, Propaganda; Obama Girl
Hitler - vote fraud and poll manipulation - Minister Joseph Goebbels control of all News Media

Obama - economy is in a Recession
Hitler - economy was in a Recession

Re:Obama = Hitler (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31294006)

Mrs Palin, don't you have more important things to do than troll blogs?

Oh, I forgot. You don't, do you?

P.R.

Re:Wow. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293740)

and get rid of the decimal.

What, don't you realize they could have 999% reliability?? This could be revolutionary!! Think what you are saying, you nearly threw that away.

Re:Wow. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293894)

I think that means that it logs into itself at times to do things you might do. Think of how revolutionary that really is. Perhaps next we can get a server that plays solitaire for you while you're away from the server room.

Obligatory (1)

nten (709128) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293950)

That is silly, it would quickly discover the only way to win is not to play.

Re:Wow. (1)

fdsafdsafdasfdsafdsi (1751502) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293778)

funny, the headline says the computers only work at 60 percent capacity, so they still have headroom of 40%. What's the problem?

Upgrade... (5, Funny)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293140)

To windows, and get 73% uptime!

Or.. that other OS that you don't have to license per seat, and get in the solid 90+% uptime.

Re:Upgrade... (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293290)

If you can't manage two nines on a basic windows server, you're doing it wrong. If your service depends on a single server, you're still doing it wrong.

Lastly, is a performance reliability rating the same thing as uptime? I doubt it. If their server is down eight hours a day, they'd swap it immediately.

Re:Upgrade... (2, Insightful)

scubamage (727538) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293318)

If their server is down eight hours a day, they'd swap it immediately.

As soon as they fill out all of the paperwork, and find a way to blame the downtime on someone with we don't like.

Re:Upgrade... (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293384)

I'll pre-whoosh myself here:

*whoosh*

There, with that out of the way. Actually, it's probably going to take until they can resurrect their last COBOL programmer or find someone who they can train on a thirty year old system in less than a year.

Re:Upgrade... (4, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293478)

"If your service depends on a single server, you're still doing it wrong."

666 666 -> Devilishly clever redundancy.

Re:Upgrade... (3, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293834)

if you can't manage 2 nines on a an IBM mainframe your doing it wrong to begin with what makes you think they can do with something vastly more complicated as a massive windows deployment.

Re:Upgrade... (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293904)

I made that point in my second sentence. I can't imagine a mainframe with an active support contract has less than 99% uptime. I'm pretty sure that "performance reliability rating" is not a euphemism for "service level availability."

Re:Upgrade... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293994)

It's never the hardware failures that get you on any platform. From what I've seen, 99% of all outages are caused by idiots.

Re:Upgrade... (1)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293332)

No no, you can't let those pesky open source lads win!

Re:Upgrade... (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293844)

90+ uptime for free is useless if the OS can't fill your requirements.

Re:Upgrade... (0, Troll)

Mick R (932337) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294156)

I can't think of a better advertisement FOR Linux that that!

Re:Upgrade... (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293870)

the top 8 uptimes on netcraft are windows you fool. http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/today/top.avg.html [netcraft.com]

Sampling bias (4, Informative)

nten (709128) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294000)

Doesn't this constitute a sampling bias? (from netcraft)

Why do you not report uptimes for Linux 2.6 or FreeBSD 6 ?

We only report uptimes for systems where the operating system's timer runs at 100Hz or less. Because the TCP code only uses the low 32 bits of the timer, if the timer runs at say 1000Hz, the value wraps around every 49.7 days (whereas at 100Hz it wraps after 497 days). As there are large numbers of systems which have a higher uptime than this, it is not possible to report accurate uptimes for these systems.

The Linux kernel switched to a higher internal timer rate at kernel version 2.5.26. Linux 2.4 used a rate of 100Hz. Linux 2.6 used a timer at 1000Hz (some architectures were using 1000Hz before this), until the default was changed back to 250Hz in May 2006. (An explanation of the HZ setting in Linux.)

FreeBSD versions 4 and 5 used a 100Hz timer, but FreeBSD 6 has moved to a customisable timer with a default setting of 1000Hz.

So unfortunately this means that we cannot give reliable uptime figures for many Linux and FreeBSD servers.

Re:Sampling bias (0, Troll)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294072)

that's correct, but it still illustrates my point that windows server is capable of extremely high uptimes. anyone claimnig windows can't do 99.999% is a lier.

Re:Upgrade... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31294170)

http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/accuracy.html#cycle250

And that's partly why? Netcraft is incapable of measuring uptime for 2.6 kernels.

90%? (2, Insightful)

hedronist (233240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293948)

If you are only getting 90% from any OS you really should be shopping for a new OS. I've got flaky machines in my garage running Linux that regularly are up for 6 months or more at a time, and that includes dodgy power in my area.

A riff on a little ditty I once saw on /. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293152)

Once I sucked sixty-six dicks in a row.
I sucked sixty-six in a row.
One time I hung out with Joe.
I sucked his dick and sixty-five more in a row.

Re:A riff on a little ditty I once saw on /. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293194)

cocksucker

Re:A riff on a little ditty I once saw on /. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293684)

One time I sucked sixty-six dicks in a row
One time I sucked sixty-six dirty dicks in a row
One time I got my kicks with Joe
And I sucked his dick and sixty-five of his friends in a row

Here's An Idea ... (4, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293162)

... I have several old P4 1.6Ghz w/ 256MB RAM & 100Mhz FSB in a store room at a client site. They originally shipped with Win 98 but they've since been upgraded to XP. The Secret Service can have them fro free if they just come and pick them up. I would have put them on Craig's List but I don't trust a web site where they let just anybody post things.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293236)

If you have an old 486 I'll take it. I wish I kept mine (mom sold it in a garage sale). DOSbox just isn't the same.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (3, Interesting)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293496)

You can get a 486 (DX2 66 MHz?) with 40 MB ram and eventually four harddrives, 3com 509b NIC and I think two disk drives if you come pick it up here.

I live in Sweden.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293554)

Thanks! but I live in the US. Customs+shipping would probably equal the cost of a brand new cheap Dell. I should probably just hit thrift stores, although they never advertise specs.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294022)

So I assumed :D

I put it together for 100 SEK since I remembered the good old days of Warcraft II and even more so Command & Conquer which I wanted to be able to play in LAN. But well, I can honestly say I never did (some wc2.)

Too bad :/

I think it had 2 72 pin and 8 30 pin sockets for memory, hence 40 MB :D

Two diskdrives and four harddrives? Same reason, it was possible so why not =P

Re:Here's An Idea ... (3, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293270)

I could point out that the cost of replacing this mainframe would mostly involve rewriting its applications to run on modern hardware. But then you'd be deprived of your joke, even if it is a pretty lame one.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293406)

it's an IBM mainframe. They can replace it with another (modern) IBM mainframe, no code change necessary. Posting anonymously, so you can believe it or not, but I do have a clue about the specifics. It's not a technical problem, it's not a financial problem, it's a bureaucratic problem. Government at it's finest.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (0, Troll)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293448)

I could point out that the cost of replacing this mainframe would mostly involve rewriting its applications to run on modern hardware. But then you'd be deprived of your joke, even if it is a pretty lame one.

You are correct, and I hope someone gives you an 'Informative' point. Alas, this is /. Those of us who are 'early posting Karma monkeys' get modded up simply because people with Mod points don't want to slog through all the posts in a thread so they use them early and move on.

Thanks for understanding.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (4, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293512)

Actually, as AC already pointed out, the idea that you'd need to rewrite anything is incorrect. One could for added speed, but the IBM mainframe line runs the code for every IBM mainframe for the last few decades without changes. There are reasons people buy them, you know.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (0)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293460)

My first thought was that there might be an emulator out there for that IBM hardware that would allow them to forgo the re-write. That way they get the reliability benefits of modern commodity hardware without all the heavy code lifting -- then again, maybe the code itself is part of the reliability problem...

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293714)

But then you'd be deprived of your joke

Are you sure? I assumed that the joke was that he was posting the ad on Slashdot because he didn't like Craigslist because anyone can post anything there (unlike Slashdot, where anyone can also post anything there too).

But then I guess it's not funny if you have to explain it.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294010)

You could probably write an emulator for the hardware a lot easier than you could rewrite all the software that runs on this thing

Re:Here's An Idea ... (0)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293386)

Why do people bother using 'old' with P4 and especially a 286, 386, C64? Is is that there are 'new' ones that you can just buy on the market? Seems redundant.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293540)

Why do people bother using 'old' with P4 and especially a 286, 386, C64? Is is that there are 'new' ones that you can just buy on the market? Seems redundant.

I'm pretty sure the older you are the more often you use 'old' to describe things (I am, in fact, considered a 'dinosaur' in programming parlance). That being said, yes [newegg.com] you can buy them new if you were so inclined.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293980)

P4s? Pah, new kid on the block. Here, have a 6502. [jameco.com] Only $6!

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293556)

P4? Because they have one/it was free?

286? Beats me, maybe to run some old game which doesn't run well on modern hardware.

386? Beats me.

C64? To get the genuine experience without needing to use an emulator on something modern?

With things like the C64 and the Amiga (or old Apple machines or NES or ..) I guess it's not just the software doing it. One want to feel, hear, see and maybe smell the real deal =P

Why get a real painting when you can get a copy? =P

Re:Here's An Idea ... (2, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294202)

We're on slashdot, right? Emulators? Think about it. We should take a poll to see how many members keep an emulated woman in their bottom dresser drawer, under the socks, where they don't think Mommy will find it. I hear that some people actually prefer fake over real.

Re:Here's An Idea ... (1, Redundant)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293766)

I would have put them on Craig's List but I don't trust a web site where they let just anybody post things.

So I take it you never heard of our Anonymous Cowards

Re:Here's An Idea ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31294134)

I know this was modded funny, but my most reliable server is a PIII-550 w/ a 440BX mobo and 768MB of ram. Runs Win2.3K Active Directory now, yes it's slow but it NEVER dies. Kind of like the mars rovers, I'm not willing to pull the plug just yet. But if the secret service needs it, I'll sacrifice for my country...

fully operational doesn't mean what it sounds like (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293186)

Mainframes of yore had a hell of a lot of moving parts: a large system might have dozens of tape drives and disk drives. Tape drives in particular broke down all the time and were taken offline until the maintenance guy came for his weekly or monthly visit and tightened the belts or whatever the hell they did. Knuth remarked on that situation in his magnum opus TAOCP vol 3 on sorting and searching. In the part about sorting with tape drives, he remarked that he'd never seen a large computer installation where all the tape drives were working. You'd have a computer with ten tape drives, two of them would be down pending repairs, and you'd use the other eight. In other words your computer was operational but not FULLY operational.

There is a similar situation in today's data centers. Even at the wimpy little shop I worked in last year (about 2000 computers) some were always down. We were doing pretty good if the number down at any moment was less than a few dozen. I don't think we ever had a single day of being fully operational (every single computer up at the same time). That was fine, it wasn't a requirement, it was a distributed system and the data and functions were all sufficiently replicated that we kept running, by design, even with parts of the system unavailable.

don't trust it, it's about pork (-1, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293192)

Oynk, oynk.

Liberman wants pork money, that's obvious, he probably wants a few hundred million dollars to go to his state for this 'program'. Question is, is this complete BS or is there something there about the 60% nonsense and all that jazz? I bet there is very little truth to any of these statements, that the secret service runs on these old computers and that they really need any upgrade.

Sounds to me exactly like that F22 BS, where the military says "we don't need it" and politicians say "yes, we need it, let's spend money".

It's about the money.

Oh, and Joe Lieberman - I cannot believe he is still alive, I mean better people in history died for less transgressions against their countrymen, and this piece of shit still walks the earth. Unimaginable.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293264)

so underbid on the contract...

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (0, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293300)

certainly, the moral thing when no taxpayer money needs to be spend is to take it anyway?

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293422)

if you know someone is going to get shot, is it moral to jump in front of the bullet? what about if it's just a punch?

i was talking about minimizing the money taken after corruption has already decided it wants a specific task accomplished that someone will certainly be paid money that doesn't need to be spent to give them.

i suppose you believe the moral thing to do in that case is overthrow the government?

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (0, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293508)

So by your logic, someone should take much less money and then do what? If the contract is for 100,000,000 for example, you underbid and take 50,000,000 and if that's definitely not enough, then what?

i suppose you believe the moral thing to do in that case is overthrow the government?

- oh, the government that US has right now is a failed institution. Should it be overthrown? Definitely. By voting. However if the people just keep voting in the same people, well, they deserve it then, don't they?

Lucky for me I am not a US citizen and I never lived there, so it's really a question that US citizens should ask themselves.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (0, Offtopic)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293750)

did you not being a US citizen influence your decision to bring my morals into question?

UNDERbid. ZERO is under ANY bid. do it for free. is that moral? do they do things for free to help the common good in your country?

what if the voting system itself is just as failed as the institution that implemented it?

lucky for us US citizens that you are safely on some other soil.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293876)

Underbid someone at 0 dollars for a contract and deliver what with that 0?

Lucky for US I am not it's citizen? As far as I am concerned - lucky for me.

what if the voting system itself is just as failed as the institution that implemented it?

- voting system will remain a failure as long as the people who vote do not care about understanding what they vote on. A system that implements voting in the first place is better than a system that has no voting at all, so there must have been something there in the beginning, but obviously over time money became the deciding factor for winning almost any vote, that's the failure.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293934)

but obviously over time money became the deciding factor for winning almost any vote, that's the failure.

are you sure it's never the rigged/hackable/unverifiable voting machines? or are you implying they only exist because money became available to mandate them?

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (3, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293312)

They'll probably contract it out to EDS and spend 3 billion dollars on Citrix licenses.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (0, Offtopic)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293314)

If this is this case, the good senator shall hereon be known as Joe Libermanbearpig, in honor of the late ManBearPig [youtube.com] of Al Gore mythology.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (-1, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293528)

I'll repost the same message again, later, when the moderators are tired of voting it down: this is another pork program, Joe Lieberman is a thief, a liar and a traitor.

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293658)

We'll never get tired of voting you down. Right now I'm waiting for your next post so I can knock it down too. Batter up!

Re:don't trust it, it's about pork (-1, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293898)

Ok, let's do it again, and then later on we can do it once more.

Joe Lieberman is a lying bag of excrement, most likely is doing this as a pork project for his state and probably the underlying story is that there is no need to update the secrete service computer systems, at least no more than building that new F22, which politicians want to see built in their states anyway.

Money, it's about the money. Lieberman is a pig and people who don't see it are blind.

The conspiracy runs deeper than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293198)

The even more shocking reality is that there is no secret service IBM mainframe, only a non-working mock up on a sound stage. The actual performance reliability rating is 0%. And over the years a series of system administrators have been been hired only to die in mysterious bullet-related circumstances.

They are just going after some impressive numbers (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293284)

I mean why settle for five nines when you can have... NINE FIVES! :D

Re:They are just going after some impressive numbe (1)

Firehawke (50498) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293570)

Nine fives? I think they just work nine TO five!

Two Satans (1)

bathmatt (638217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293292)

Wow, 6 sixes, that is like running at two satans... That's a lot

Re:Two Satans (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293438)

Can you convert that into a more familiar unit, like Library of Congresses?

Re:Two Satans (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293594)

Can you convert that into a more familiar unit, like Library of Congresses?

You know the Library of Congresses is a pretty reliable machine. Does anybody know what its downtime is?

Re:Two Satans (5, Funny)

kitezh (1442937) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293706)

Can you convert that into a more familiar unit, like Library of Congresses?

You know the Library of Congresses is a pretty reliable machine. Does anybody know what its downtime is?

The downtime for the Library of Congress [loc.gov] is 4:30 pm - 8:30 am, Monday - Friday, and all day Sunday. That translates into an uptime of about 28.6%. If you take the Secret Service 68% as uptime, then it would be 2.4 Library of Congresses.

Re:Two Satans (1)

a_ghostwheel (699776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293858)

You've failed to account for days when US government is unexpectedly closed (e.g. any sign of snow in the D.C. area) - Library of Congress would be closed on such days too. So actual answer is probably a bit higher than 2.4

Re:Two Satans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293734)

Well, if you're a fundie, 2 Satans = 2 LoC - 2 Bibles.

Other denominations may vary.

this HAS to be deliberate misinformation (-1, Troll)

ffflala (793437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293308)

It makes more sense that this is intentional misinformation. It would explain away a considerable budget request while simultaneously --if believed for a moment-- would lull groups opposed to the SS a false sense of security. If the capabilities of the SS is underestimated, their job will be easier.

To think that the previous administration didn't sink as much money as could possibly cram into the SS in the interests of their own security is absurd. While it doesn't have the same bunker/man-sized-safe reputation for paranoid security, the same goes for the current one. Both the current and the previous administrations were faced with a very large number of openly hostile people who were not shy about voicing threats.

SS? SS!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31293820)

Oh sorry, you mean Secret Service [wikipedia.org] . I keep thinking Schutzstaffel [wikipedia.org] .

I truly doubt it. (1)

nten (709128) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294092)

Never ascribe to malice or incompetence what can be explained by incompetent malice. I'm proud of myself, that sounded witty, but honestly I'd guess the original system "just worked" and slowly the needs outgrew it so that fewer people could use it at any given time than would like to use it. So slowly that the people who would have to explain the purchase could say "but its not that much worse than last year" instead of filling out enough forms to account for the mass of a sequoia, in order to do the requisition.

Color me skeptical (5, Insightful)

belthize (990217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293326)

There's something about this whole thing that simply doesn't ring true. I believe parts, I believe they have a 1980's main frame, I believe it's not terribly reliable but something about the whole: leaked memo according to Joe Leiberman, we need more money, they won't give us more money' spiel sounds off. I suspect they have huge chunks of computing that's much newer and reliable, I'd be shocked if that IBM serves any significant purpose.

If nothing else I predict a large percentage of the umpteen million dollar final cost somehow going to Connecticut, but I'm probably just incredibly jaded.

Connecticut already gets billions (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293880)

If nothing else I predict a large percentage of the umpteen million dollar final cost somehow going to Connecticut, but I'm probably just incredibly jaded.

What's a few million? Connecticut is one of the top haulers, thanks to Electric Boat, where many nuclear subs (and a number of other ships) are made.

Every time the Pentagon tries to cut its budget, congrescritters get all up in arms about "jobs", so the Pentagon has all these useless projects (congress forces the programs it wants.) It's the primary reason US military spending has risen so sharply over the years.

reliability != availability (1)

tomp (4013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294180)

Availability often comes at the cost of reliability.

If you put 2 drives in a RAID-1 mirror, the odds of a drive failure goes up. After all, you now have twice as many drives that might fail. However, a single drive failure no longer makes the data unavailable.

RAID-1 lowers reliability with the goal of raising availability. Paying sysadmins to swap drives is way cheaper than paying people to sit around waiting for their critical data to be restored from tape.

Low reliability is probably just a sign that their systems are highly redundant. Not really surprising.

1980's mainframe? (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293394)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't one small consumer grade server have the same power? Isn't this an easy fix?

Re:1980's mainframe? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293452)

> Isn't this an easy fix?

And you'll port their software for them at no charge?

Re:1980's mainframe? (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293584)

Nah, just direct them towards some OTS Software that would do the same thing, probably easier.

Re:1980's mainframe? (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293836)

Ah. So you will just port all their data from their old proprietary database system to a new proprietary database. Piece of cake.

Re:1980's mainframe? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294030)

Ah. So you will just port all their data from their old proprietary database system to a new proprietary database. Piece of cake.

You would need a security clearance for starters. Then the software would have to be developed to US Federal/Military standards. Maybe that requires CMMI-5 these days. So there's certification of the development processes, auditing and QA.

I think we are talking 100E6 USD before any code is actually written.

Re:1980's mainframe? (2, Insightful)

Z_A_Commando (991404) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293486)

If the only thing keeping them from upgrading was a "small consumer grade server" I'm pretty sure the NSA would have made one fall off the back of a truck and this would no longer be a problem.

The problem is more likely that the software running on the server is proprietary and closed-source, making upgrades incredibly expensive. Far more expensive than the incremental upgrades that the system should have seen in the 20+ years that it's been in production.

Re:1980's mainframe? (5, Interesting)

mikefocke (64233) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293666)

Don't ever underestimate the difficulty of porting specialized applications

One Government agency I know of was informed with 5 years advance notice that their long time mainframe computer manufacturer would no longer be in the hardware business nor support the operating system. The Govt let a huge contract to port the applications. After several years, and millions spent in progress payments, that conversion attempt failed. So did several more. So after 10 years and about 4 attempts at conversions using some of the biggest software contract houses in the country they were still running on the original hardware and software and buying used equipment for backup. One of the few in the world.

It got done eventually I suppose.

Why, you ask, was it such a task to convert? Because they were attempting to replace something that had been custom built on top of and inside an operating system over perhaps 20 years. Distributed database and multiple geographic locations processing bits of the data using computers from multiple manufacturers communicating together long before the Internet (not that you could have put that kind of data on the net). So in order to convert, it took an understanding of how the whole thing worked and those that had that level of understanding had long since retired. It wasn't Cobol that was the problem but human limitations.

Re:1980's mainframe? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293832)

The traffic signal system called SCATS was like that. It was hand assembled in PDP 11 machine code. There was business logic built into device drivers to get around executable image size issues. The people who wrote (more like built) it knew it inside out. They were just lucky to get it ported before those guys retired.

Re:1980's mainframe? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293544)

Sure, get the custom-programmed code that requires the input and output of a mainframe rewritten to a $1000 server. The cost should only be a few million. That'd only buy a few new IBM mainframes that would run the existing code faster and more reliably than the old mainframe without any code changes.

Hokey Illustration (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293416)

1980's mainframes did not use reel-to-reel tape. They used tape cartridges, often managed by automatic tape libraries.

Re:Hokey Illustration (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293520)

The picture looks an awful lot like late 60's drives for an IBM 360 model 44.

I guess they needed a picture that screamed 'main frame'.

Re:Hokey Illustration (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293638)

TG Daily claims [tgdaily.com] that the Secret Service uses a IBM 704 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hokey Illustration (2, Informative)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293768)

Plenty of nine-track tape was still in use on mainframes in the 1980s.

Re:Hokey Illustration (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293882)

Plenty of nine-track tape was still in use on mainframes in the 1980s.

Yes, I did backups at work on 9 track well into the 1990s. Admittedly we were late for an upgrade then. The coating used to come off on the heads on the old tapes. Cleaning was a chore.

At my current job I rescued an old 9 track tape which was going to be left behind for the cleaners when we moved offices. Its at my desk right now. Maybe somebody will come looking for it one day.

Misleading photo (4, Informative)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293444)

The story uses a stock photo [gettyimages.com] captioned "Obsolete mainframe super computers in [Computer History] museum". I don't think the Secret Service uses IBM 2401 magnetic tape units [ibm.com]

That's normal. (2, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294008)

The media uses stock photos whenever they don't have real photos of something. This is normal. I've even seen stock photos of Bumble Bee tuna used in contamination stories for another brand. (I forget which one.) Talk about misleading...

dis-information. (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293672)

what more is there to be said aboutit?

Security by Venerability (4, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293732)

At last a computer that can be safe even in a cyberwar, no modern hacker would be able to enter there, or at least, do anything dangerous. Even the Morris worm would scream and run facing that technology. Leave that multivac running enough time and will eventually make light.

Not curious at all (1)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293866)

Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut

Its not curious. Don't confuse his desire to censor, restrict, or otherwise hinder the people's access to free information(the internet).

Doesn't mean he won't allow every resource into that same tech if security/administration needs it...especially if it achieves the former.

Pish, Overachievers.... (1)

Matey-O (518004) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293902)

That's better than our goal of Nine 5's...up a little over half the time!

I gots one to spare (0, Redundant)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293940)

Sounds like they could have my spare dual core desktop and it would be an improvement.

$187 million? (4, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31293956)

They're claiming it will cost $187 million to replace. Bullshit. If the hardware is more than 15 years old, which it sounds like it is, it's impossible to conceive how they could spend more than $100k on hardware to replace it and still give 100x the performance and capacity. OK, let's splurge - spend 5 million on hardware.

These jackoffs would have us believe it's going to cost $180 million to replace some bullshit law enforcement database software that's 20 years old? Complete bullshit. Instead of the mythical $500 government hammer, now we've got the $180 million dollar software package that should cost

Re:$187 million? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294066)

These jackoffs would have us believe it's going to cost $180 million to replace some bullshit law enforcement database software that's 20 years old?

We don't know what that software does. Thats why its called the Secret Service. My guess is that nothing will be delivered for less than 300 million USD. And yeah I do work on large civil/military projects, though on the European side.

"Curiously"? (4, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31294130)

"Curiously, upgrades to the Service's computers are being championed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut "

What's curious about that? It's not like the guy is a Luddite or something. The Secret Service, at the forefront of protecting POTUS, is a national security issue, and Lieberman is very involved in those issues. If the author threw that in because he doesn't like Lieberman's politics, then that's kind of lame. One would think that issues like keeping government IT systems up to date would transcend party politics.

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