Recently in Category Great Circle > News

On June 23, 2008, I'll be reprising my popular Incident Command for IT: What We Can Learn from the Fire Department talk for the O'Reilly Velocity Web Performance and Operations Conference. From the blurb for my talk:

The Incident Command System (ICS) is used by public safety agencies nationwide (fire departments, police departments, Coast Guard, etc.) to manage emergency responses to events ranging from single-vehicle car crashes to wildfires involving thousands of personnel. It provides a standardized organizational structure and set of operating principles for quickly and effectively coordinating the efforts of multiple parties in response to an evolving incident even as the response changes in scope, scale, and focus.

In this talk, Brent will introduce the concepts and principles of ICS, and discuss how these can be applied to IT events, such as security incidents and service outages.

As I've mentioned before, besides my professional work in the networking field, I do a lot of volunteer emergency services work. For example, I used to be one of only about 40 fully-qualified air search and rescue Incident Commanders in the California Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, and I currently help teach community disaster preparedness classes for the Mountain View Fire Department. So, I have a fair understanding of the tools (methods, structures, and principles) that such agencies use to organize themselves to deal with emergencies, and I've long pondered how some of those tools could be applied to emergencies in information technology.

The conference program looks pretty interesting; I'm looking forward to sitting in on several of the other talks.

Velocity, the Web Performance and Operations Conference 2008

Great Circle has moved to Alameda

|
Great Circle Associates has moved once again, this time to Alameda. We had fun in San Francisco, but hopefully this will be our last move a while! (Though, of course, helping clients move is one of our key consulting services.)

We're still serving clients in Silicon Valley and throughout the rest of the world.

Our new contact info (our mailing address has changed, but our phone numbers remain the same):

Great Circle Associates, Inc.
2608 Buena Vista Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501

WWW: www.greatcircle.com
USA Toll Free: 877 GRT CRCL (877 478 2725)
International: +1 415 861 3588
Fax: +1 415 552 2982

After Hurricane Katrina last year, I spent some time in Mississippi and Louisiana working on disaster relief efforts, along with many others high-tech professionals. Most of us were part of hastily organized, ad hoc efforts, with little or nothing in the way of pre-event planning, training, and preparation.

I'm now proud to be part of a new organization that is in the process of forming, called TechReach International. TechReach's goal is to deploy no-cost telecommunications services into humanitarian relief efforts (both domestic disaster relief operations, and international humanitarian operations), using trained/certified volunteer communications specialists and state of the art technology.

TechReach will be hosting a "Simulation Day" in Mountain View (on the Intuit campus) on Tuesday, 19 Sep 2006, 12:30pm-6:00pm. We invite you to stop by, meet us, learn about the organization, see demos of various disaster relief communication and networking technologies, hear a variety of interesting speakers, and contemplate joining or supporting us. Full details are on the web site at http://www.techri.org/.

I hope to see you there!

Great Circle Associates has moved to San Francisco, though we're still serving clients in Silicon Valley and throughout the rest of the world.

Our new contact info:

Great Circle Associates, Inc.
519 Duboce Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94117

WWW: www.greatcircle.com
USA Toll Free: 877 GRT CRCL (877 478 2725)
International: +1 415 861 3588
Fax: +1 415 552 2982

USENIX has made available an audio recording (in MP3 format) of the Incident Command for IT: What We Can Learn from the Fire Department invited talk (Adobe Acrobat PDF format) that I did at the 2005 LISA conference a couple of weeks ago. You'll want to skip past approximately the first 3 minutes (2 minutes, 56 seconds, to be exact) of the recording, which are silence and administrivia announcements from before the start of the presentation; it would have been nice if USENIX had edited that out, but they didn't.

I'm back home today after two weeks on the road, and it's good to be home. The first week, I was in San Diego for the annual USENIX LISA conference (where LOPSA was a major topic of discussion), then I was home just long enough to do laundry and repack before heading out to New York City for the Interop conference and exhibition (where I was helping Splunk showcase their product in the InteropNet NOC).

LISA and LOPSA

At LISA, I participated in the Social Technologies and Advanced Technologies Workshops (small, day-long discussions among senior practitioners who are especially interested in a particular topic), gave an invited talk on Incident Command for IT: What We Can Learn from the Fire Department (Adobe Acrobat PDF version), and chaired a Birds of a Feather session on network automation.

Much of the "hallway track" discussion at LISA, of course, was about the implosion of SAGE and subsequent formation of LOPSA, the League of Professional System Administrators. I think that LOPSA has a chance to become a world-class organization, but the first year or so are going to be critical, and it isn't going to happen if everybody takes a "wait and see" attitude. What's going to matter most are money and membership numbers. To try and make sure LOPSA reaches critical mass, I've joined as a Platinum Individual Sponsor, and I encourage others to join/donate/volunteer as they are able.

Interop and Splunk

At Interop, I was working in the NOC for the InteropNet show network, helping Splunk showcase their product. Splunk's product is a really powerful troubleshooting tool for interactively working your way through huge volumes of any sort of text-based system logs (syslog, SNMP traps, whatever). It is designed as a tool for use by smart people who understand what the log messages mean, if only they could wade through the flood; the software doesn't try to understand the messages itself, just makes it easier for a system/network/security administrator to navigate through the flood of messages and find the needle in the haystack. There's a very powerful free version of their software (the paid version adds various features, but the free version is fully functional by itself) available from the Splunk web site; check it out!

Besides my professional work in the networking field, I do a lot of volunteer emergency services work. For example, I'm one of only about 40 fully-qualified air search and rescue Incident Commanders in the California Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, and I help teach community disaster preparedness classes for the Mountain View Fire Department. So, I have a fair understanding of the tools (methods, structures, and principles) that such agencies use to organize themselves to deal with emergencies, and I've long pondered how some of those tools could be applied to emergencies in information technology.

I've been invited to give a 90 minute talk on the topic at the USENIX/SAGE LISA Conference in San Diego on Thursday, 8 December 2005, and I'll be giving a preview of the talk at the BayLISA meeting on Thursday, 20 October 2005:

Incident Command for IT: What We Can Learn from the Fire Department

Have you ever wondered how fire departments organize themselves on the fly to deal with a major incident? How they quickly and effectively coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies? How they evolve the organization as the incident changes in scope, scale, or focus? They accomplish all this by using the Incident Command System (ICS), a standardized organizational structure and set of operating principles adopted by most emergency agencies nationwide. In this talk, Brent will introduce the concepts and principles of ICS, and discuss how these can be applied to IT events, such as security incidents and service outages.

Please join me for one or both of these talks!

Slides from the BayLISA talk on Thursday, 20 October 2005:

I just returned from a very unique experience: 2 weeks on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, helping design and deploy a wireless network to provide free Internet connectivity to communities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The work was very challenging and very rewarding, and I strongly encourage anyone who can to consider going down and helping out for a week or two.

I was working with Radio Response, which is an ad hoc group formed in the wake of Katrina, mostly out of the WiFi ISP industry. There's a lot on their web site about what they've done, and what they still want to do; in particular, check out some of the press clippings about the organization.

Networking in a disaster zone is a fascinating challenge. You have to figure out how to make the best of what you've got, because getting more (whether it's equipment, service, or personnel) can be very difficult. There are all sorts of unique obstacles (logistical, safety, infrastructure, political, environmental) to overcome or bypass. On the other hand, you can pretty immediately see positive results from your work.

One thing that surprised me (but probably shouldn't have) was the extent to which we ended up serving other volunteer groups, rather than the victims directly. We were able to provide Internet connectivity to multiple volunteer groups who were running kitchens feeding thousands of people a day, a mobile trauma hospital, the main warehouse distributing donated food and other relief supplies throughout the area where we were operating, a couple of FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Forces, and various other organizations. Most of these organizations had other, more limited methods of Internet access, but by providing them with connectivity that was generally faster and of higher bandwidth, we were able to make their jobs that much easier (by more easily allowing them to far more easily coordinate with their support organizations outside the disaster area, for example), which meant they could provide that much more and better service to the victims of the disaster.

Anyway, as I said, the work was both very challenging and very rewarding, and I encourage you to consider donating time or resources to Radio Response or other organizations who are doing relief work. The level of devastation in the region is simply staggering; entire communities have been wiped out, and are being rebuilt from the ground up. New Orleans tends to get the vast majority of the public's attention, but it's far from the only area to be devastated by Katrina and Rita.

At the USENIX/SAGE LISA '04 conference in Atlanta, Great Circle Associates founder and principal Brent Chapman was honored with the 2004 SAGE Outstanding Achievement Award "for outstanding sustained contributions to the community of system administrators".

As he presented the award, Rob Kolstad (SAGE's Executive Director) specifically recognized Brent for:


  • developing and releasing the Majordomo mailing list management system
  • being the original SAGE Postmaster when SAGE was formed
  • establishing and hosting several important email discussion forums, including the Firewalls and List-Managers mailing lists
  • teaching countless system administrators about Internet security through his Building Internet Firewalls seminars and books

Past recipients of the award include such distinguished professionals as Larry Wall (for developing the Perl programming language, and other system administration tools), Paul Vixie (for his work on BIND and for ongoing efforts to eliminate SPAM email from the Internet), and Brent's Building Internet Firewalls coauthor Elizabeth Zwicky (for her role in founding SAGE).

Pages

About this Archive Archives

This page is a archive of recent entries in the News category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Mailing List

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by Movable Type 4.12