Thursday, January 21, 2010

Design of the Cyber Security Operations Centre

The public opening of the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) at the Defence Signals Directorate provides a rare insight into the design of an Australian military operations centre. The Minister for Defence announced the centre would have a staff of 51 to 130.

Operator and console at the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoThe Defence Department provided photographs of the minister in the centre and more general views of the centre. One photo shows a close-up of an operator at a console. There are three wide format Dell monitors, each of about 24 Inches. The monitors are simply placed on the desktop using their supplied stands (no multi-monitor mounting is used). A standard keyboard and mouse are used. A Cisco Unified IP Phone (7970G or similar) digital telephone handset is located alongside the screens. In the background is a large video wall screen with two smaller flat screen displays and LED world clocks. There is a railing showing a balcony and second level with a glass wall and door (presumably offices).

DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photoA wider view shows what appears to be a projection wall screen with images from two projectors side by side, showing computer displays. Underneath are the two flat panel wide screens showing BBC World News. The flat panels have four LED world clocks to there left.

The design of the room appears symmetrical, with a central walkway about 1.2 m wide. Individual rectangular adjustable height office desks 1600 x 800 mm are used. Three rows of desks are visible, with three desks in each row, about 1200 mm between the rows. There is one operator, with two screens (some three screens) and a phone per desk. Free standing drawer units are under some desks. The back of the room shows a built in semicircular desk with two monitors.

Assuming the room is symmetrical, it would have 19 operator workstations. The room is about 13 m wide and 10 m deep, with a double height ceiling of about 6 m. This provides a generous 7 square metres per operator.

Clearly 51 staff could not fit in this area. Assuming that the visible area is surrounded by standard offices on two levels of three sides, that would provide an additional 440 square metres of space. This would provide a reasonable 11 square metres of space per staff member, for 51 staff.

The design of the room does not appear optimal for space utilisation or group work. The desks, at 800 mm, are deeper than needed (smaller desks could double the room capacity). The use of two screens per workstation creates a situation where the operator has to look either to the left or right, not straight ahead. There are only limited gaps between the screens cutting the operators off from those in front and behind. Also the desk rows are straight, reducing the ability of the operators to see others. Narrower semicircular rows of desks would provide a better result. These could be fabricated simply (height adjustment is not used in such centres, as is evident from the photographs). Also it might be better to provide each operator with just one large monitor (up to 30 inch).

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

E2 Ethos Shelving System

The E2 Ethos Shelf System is on special at Bunnings Hardware. This is a very elegant system using cast aluminium channels attached to the wall, into which slot cast aluminium brackets. Apart from the screw holes to hold the channels to the wall there are no other holes or protrusions in the channels (unlike most modular shelving systems). Each cast aluminium bracket is held by a grub screw tightened with the included Allen key. The shelf brackets have a cast curved support framework. The whole effect is reminiscent of an art deco 1930s train carriage luggage rack.

After purchasing their 1100 mm four shelf pack, it quickly became apparent why these are on special. The system of attaching the shelves to the channels requires close tolerances in the manufacture to allow the brackets to slide up and down for adjustment, but be sufficiently tight so they can be locked in place. Unfortunately half the brackets did not fit in the channel as they were not correctly cast had excessive metal. This required a laborious process of filing down each bracket until it fitted. Also the screw holes for holding the channel to the wall are not sufficiently recessed (a design flaw) so if the screws are not precisely aligned they stop the brackets from sliding past.

After a few hours of filing and of unscrewing and re-screwing, the results look good in a 1930s inner Sydney art deco style kitchen. But it would have been a lot easier to use one of the much less elegant, but more forgiving, modern steel shelving systems.

The E2 Ethos web site seems to suffer similar problems to their shelving system: it looks elegant but is very difficult to use. The home page provides a menu bar and an animation of shelves moving up and down. The only other content on the page is the number "01908 216466". Placing the mouse over "Storage" in the menu displayed a list of items. I couldn't read the items as the text was overlapping. Clicking on the menu items produced no apparent result.

Normally with a poorly designed web page I select "View > Page Style > No Style" so I can see a version of the page without the faulty formatting. In this case that did not work. I could try displaying the source code of the page and try to work out what was going on, but this would be a laborious process, like fining bits off the shelf brackets. As it is the web page provided me with no useful information, apart from confirming the company made shelves which can be adjusted up and down.

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