Sigmund Solares

CEO, DirectNIC

Surviving Katrina with DirectNIC
40 minutes, 18.6mb, recorded 2005-09-07
The first most of us heard of DirectNIC was when word spread from Interdictor, the Live Journal of Michael Barnett, DirectNIC's Crisis Manager through the whole Katrina experience. After Katrina hit, and Interdictor began to serve as a lifeline to the world outside (and the open source community), it swelled from a garden path to a jammed 16-lane highway. On September 1, Michael wrote, "This blog was never intended to be some kind of springboard to fame. I had no idea it would be... well, be what it is now. It's nothing short of stunning..." That post alone had 496 comments, some arriving via pointers from the Times of London, other mainstream outlets and thousands of bloggers.

Then the first we heard of Sigmund "Sig" Solares was when Michael pionted at page after page of picture galleries shot by the company's CEO. Between Interdictor, Sig's pictures and allied citizens' media, the DirectNIC team not only did an amazing job of keeping their service (and its many customers) up and live on the Net, but also of reporting directly from the Ground Zero of Katrina's most harrowing aftermath — and fact-checking official media and posturing public figures along the way.

It would (and probably will) take a book to give a full report on what the DirectNIC team has gone through over the last week, and what the rest of us can learn from their experience. Meanwhile, Sig covered plenty of ground in his 45-minute talk with Doc Searls. As a Linux (and LAMP) based operation, DirectNIC's experiences were especially interesting to Doc and his Linux Journal readership. While technology served as a focus for the interview, there were also plenty of lessons to be learned about preparation, resourcefulness, intelligence, generosity and other human qualities — including one that becomes clear when you hear it first-hand: leadership.

That was something that clearly came from Sig. He was the calm eye in the storm of hard choiced that bore down on his team through the whole event.

In most tech stories told in the mainstream press, the heroes are vendors, not customers. In this case it was one tough customer, plus that customer's customers and friends.

Think of this podcast as one look at the source code of the best example we may ever get of an IT operation that takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

"Sig" and a team of brave and resourceful techies kept open a lifeline to their company, their customers and their city, all the way through Hurricane Katrina and its horrific aftermath. The crisis is far from over, and the smell of sewage, death and diesel generator fumes still fills the data center; but Sig kindly found time to talk with Linux Journal senior editor (and IT Garage manager) Doc Searls about a DIY-IT project which, for years to come, will serve as a crowning example of problem-solving in a real-life Worst Case Scenario.

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Sigmund Solares is a lifelong resident of New Orleans and CEO of DirectNIC, a leading domain registrar and hosting service located downtown in the Crescent City, not far from the Superdome.


This is the inaugural program in the IT Garage series, produced in partnership with Linux Journal and its sister site, IT Garage.

This free podcast is from our IT Conversations Legacy Programs series.