Thursday, November 16, 2006

As noted by Dr. Barnett, Stephen DeAngelis of ERMB, Enterra Solutions and now a co-founder ( with Oak Ridge National Labratory) of the Institute for Advanced Technologies in Global Resilience, has been named one of Esquire Magazine's "Best and Brightest". Steve has been made the subject of a feature article "The Age of Resilience" by Brian Mockenhaupt, who has lucidly explained Steve and Enterra's mission:. An excerpt:

"Squirreled away in an office building a half hour outside Philadelphia, Enterra's small staff of tech whizzes and programmers is breathing life into Resilience Net. They huddle around computers writing language that translates regulations, laws, and accepted business practices into automated rule sets—if A and B, then C. These rules, which might tell a busi¬ness how to order new parts or com¬ply with the Patriot Act, are amassed in virtual libraries as algorithms. The system can think and react, much the way your antivirus software detects a threat, sends in a report, and brings back a patch to fix the problem while it inoculates other systems. The rules decide what information needs to be analyzed and shared, then how to disseminate it to the right people. If a law changes, new rules are added to the library and the system updates and learns. Now the organization can act with minimal human involvement, and as new sensors, databases, or analysis techniques are developed, the overall network grows in strength. With different groups using the same rules library, translating information into code every¬one can understand, communication is streamlined. This is how you connect the dots.
But Enterra's creature needs skin and bones, and Oak Ridge has the scientists. The laboratory was a key play¬er in building the first atomic bombs, which is fitting, because DeAngelis sees the new institute as another Manhattan Project, a group of disparate players com¬ing together to solve a special problem. Oak Ridge is well suited to the role. After the lab lost the spigot of cash that flowed during the cold war, it devoted itself to increasing American competitiveness, teaming with private enterprises to devel¬op new technologies. Companies working with Oak Ridge draw on a deep and unique resource pool—cutting-edge and hugely ex¬pensive facilities, some of the best minds in the country, and co operative agreements with top university research departments. Give Oak Ridge a problem and it can probably solve it. Its $1.4 billion spallation neutron source can peer inside materials and map their atoms. Its electron microscopes can see to a ten millionth of a millimeter. And its banks of supercomputers can apply Enterra's rules to a million scenarios and spit out solutions while there's still time to act."

(A personal aside; having been through Fermilab's nuclear particle accelerator lab on a couple of occasions as a guest of Dr. Von, I found the description of Oak Ridge's facilities and partnership with Enterra to be darned interesting)

Steve too had some remarks on his blog where he added some information to the Esquire article:

"As the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute, I have started recruiting some of the world’s best minds and will continue that effort. Some of those brilliant individuals undoubtedly would like to know exactly what the relationships are between Enterra and the Institute. In order to fully understand that relationship, you have to understand the relationships between the Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT-Battelle, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and the Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies. I’m going to give you just a brief version of those relationships.

...Although Enterra Solutions helped establish the Institute, it is independent from Enterra's commercial ventures. We deliberately sought a forum that would make it clear that Enterra’s involvement is not a subterfuge to attract business or tap free labor. That is why the academic association is so important. The company does support the Institute with pro bono assistance (I serve as Executive Director and Shane Deichman, another Enterra employee, serves as Managing Director). Our interest, however, is advancing technologies and ideas, not generating business leads.

We do hope that some of the work that we do in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory finds it way into Institute publications so that it can be discussed and applied in other sectors to make them more resilient. The most promising of these ventures, and the one discussed in the Esquire article, is ResilienceNet™. ResilienceNet is Enterra’s concept to complement Oak Ridge National Lab’s SensorNet program.

ResilienceNet is an intelligent, rules-based sense, think, and act application that enables decision support and secure information sharing based on real-time data sources such as SensorNet. SensorNet is an ORNL research program that addresses technical challenges associated with real-time sensor systems for national security and other large applications. ORNL and Enterra Solutions are collaborating to enable advanced ResilienceNet applications to interface with SensorNet interoperability standards. These tools will create an automated sense, think, and act capability in response to Chemical, Nuclear, Biological, Cyber and Explosive threats that should make existing nuclear emergency response capabilities even more effective

The important aspect of the Esquire piece, aside from the nice honorific element, is that it will help take the concept of " resiliency" out of the esoteric realm of defense intellectuals, network theorists and adolescent psychologists and inject it into the world of mainstream journalism and political discourse. Making organizations, networks, institutions and America itself more resilient requires tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of decisions by local and midstream deciders.

"Opting for resilience" is non-obvious from a short-term balance sheet perspective. It requires some education and diffusion of knowledge throught the culture so that the resiliency becomes a standard " option in play" when entrepreneurs, agencies and communities are planning for the future. As it stands, in most public debates, the benefits of building resiliency is usually understood only by engineers who usually prove less persuasive before political bodies than do bean-counters or self-aggrandizing special interest voices.

( A second personal aside: in a fit of civic idealism, I once served for a number of years on a planning commission for a midwestern municipality; a commission that had unusually broad powers over economic development. As a rule, engineers do not win arguments with lawyers when the judges are laymen, unless the engineer can point - in bold colors - to the imminent disaster some proposed course of action will cause. Hypothetical but reasonable probabilities are a concept that is totally lost on the general public)

Steve has a company. Enterra is not in the business of losing money. But in preaching the gospel of resilience, Steve is also working toward the public good. A public that must live in a world that increasingly resembles an ecology as much as an economy - a dynamic, complex, adaptive system whose evolution appears to be acclerating even as it's internal " brakes" and " circuit-breakers" are being eliminated. Resiliency cannot be done by an American GOSPLAN, it is something that people will choose if they understand the advantages.

When the next Hurricaine Katrina or a biological 9/11 hits, America will discover that resiliency is not an option.


Dan of tdaxp - "Web 3.0"

Asia Logistics Wrap - "Semantic Web for the Supply Chain"
Hi Mark,

Thanks for the link, and nice added perspective on the Esquire piece. I plan to blog it a bit either tonight or tomorrow from the angle of supply chain logistics, which should be fun.


" professionals talk logistics"

Hi Shawn,

Good to hear from you and thanks ! I'll keep my eye out for it.
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