back to article UK air traffic controller lands 6,000-seater VDI on flashy Violin arrays

The UK's national air transportation service is basing a 6,000 seat private cloud VDI system on flash arrays from VIOLIN Memory. NATS is the UK's provider of en-route and other air navigation services. It is separate from the Civil Aviation Authority which is the UK’s aviation regulator with responsibilities for airspace …


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  1. JaitcH

    "chosen a cloud approach to get itself a strategic platform for service optimisation"

    Let's hope it is more reliable than iCloud.

    There's enough flight delays already.

  2. Isendel Steel

    Clouds and Air Traffic

    Shouldn't be a problem ..... as long as the radar / auto guidance for poor visibility holds up.

  3. collinsl

    No problems will be incurred by air traffic control

    As someone who has recently left NATS I would like to clarify that the new desktop infrastructure is for the engineering and planning side of the business, not the air traffic control side. The air traffic controllers use custom systems developed within NATS whilst controlling. This project is merely a desktop refresh for the "office workers" within the business.

    Let me stress again, this is totally safe and will have no flight impact at all, otherwise the information would not have been released.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: No problems will be incurred by air traffic control

      Or another way to look at it - there are 6000 people supporting those actually doing any work.

      How many actual air traffic controller desks are there compared to all these managers, HR, publicity etc ?

      1. collinsl

        Re: No problems will be incurred by air traffic control

        The reference to 6000 people was only used by the Register. There are far fewer people in the organisation however a smaller system would have been too small.

        There are about 3000 support staff, of which 85% or so are engineers or engineering managers. The rest are Project Planners, HR, Legal, Finance etc. There are about 400 ATCOs on duty at any one time, with three watches throughout the day & night.

        These figures are from my memory and may not be completely accurate.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      So They Are Using

      .."security by obscurity" ?

      Another country uses X11, Motif and Linux. Not exactly nice looking, not exactly nice APIs, but certainly as reliable as it can get.

      It appears NATS uses similar technologies. That is what can be gleaned by some "expert googleing" (ie. not being a fucking idiot at the google command line). I found NATS to use

      * MSVC

      * web services

      • Code development in Jovial, Ada, C and/or C++

      • Unix scripts, for example Perl

      * Ada

      * some RTOS and my best bet is QNX, but maybe it is Integrity

      * MS Access (yay !)

      Courtesy your friendly Porker Lockhhed-Martin and LinkedIn.

      Again, if they think secrecy helps the security of their systems is a very bad philosophy. Most of these systems have a very bad security history (remember the HPUX ping of death ?) and must be protected by strong cryptography (encrypted virtual networks) and a capable security team. Remove all electric interfaces and mass storage. Seal the boxes and glue all cables in place. Ban all personal electronics on premise and enforce that. No WLAN. etc.

  4. Ryan 7

    For people who need to make split-second decisions about multiple planes in the air,

    I'm not at all comfortable with the UI lag that desktop virtualisation brings. Give me local processing on whether I just pressed that button or not!

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ..the "standard" commerical Unices, Windows NT versions (up to 7), Linux and MacOS X are NOT real-time capable. At least not "hard realtime capable". I remember HP selling VxWorks on their PA RISC machines as a realtime OS. HPUX would execute on a second processor and be responsible for networking, storing data, interfacing to other systems, running relational databases etc.

      As someone posted here, they don't use this virtualized contraption for flight control operations. They use it for their engineers, managers and the beancounters.

  5. ma6cb

    Here's hoping it all works

    In the Enterprise where I work we use Xen Server. It is as stable as a weeble in a tornado.... Despite huge interaction with Citrix, multiple patches, linux and Xentos experts and hardware expertise being thrown at it.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Xen is open source and used in many critical operations. That is why is so robust. Lots of well-qualified people have looked at the code; not just some stressed people in a single $corporation.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    German ATC

    Some technical details:

    It appears they now switched to Qt.

  7. IO-IO

    Say what?

    I've done the maths often enough on large VDI deployments. No one "saves" £9M without having some seriously wrong numbers.

    ROI is difficult to get right unless corners have been cut.

    1. Dave Hilling

      Re: Say what?

      I actually read a citrix white paper I think it was where they claimed all kinds of insane savings.... if you read the whole thing at the end the summary mentioned most of the savings was actually outsourcing not the VDI itself. We could never make the math come up in any way that saved us money when we already had a good system management system (altiris) and good processes.

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