White House IT overhaul an antique roadshow

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The New York Times yesterday had an account of an ongoing effort to modernize the IT infrastructure and end-user equipment relied upon by those whose workplace address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In a sense, the story was rather alarming, as it turns out the White House was in sore need of just about new everything.

There were a couple of networking nuggets worth noting in the story.

First was the matter of old cabling … lots and lots of the stuff.

One of his first tasks was trying to map the miles of Ethernet cables and phone wires inside the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The team of technicians eventually discovered and removed 13,000 pounds of abandoned cables that no longer served any purpose.

“They had been installed over the decades by different organizations using different standards, different techniques, from different eras,” Mr. Recordon said. “They were finding these pipes that just had bundles of cable that had been cut off over the years, no longer used. So we just started pulling it out.”

The second involved a similar upgrade undertaken by the administration of President George W. Bush, as told by Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff:

Mr. Hagin said he wished (the current team) well, but predicted it will not be easy. He recalled once discovering a basement room in the West Wing filled with telephone switching gear that technicians said could be replaced with a unit the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. But everyone was nervous about cutting the wires because no schematics or design guides existed anymore, he said.

Replacing the equipment took a full two years.

It’s not just the wheels of justice that grind slowly.

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