So, you’re the guy responsible for keeping Neustar’s software 100 percent reliable. That must be stressful, no?
Oh sure, but before we do anything—like a major upgrade—we go through these long cycles where we analyze the heck out of what needs to be done. We wait a long time before we write any code and then we test what we just wrote—and then we test it again and again. So it’s not about how fast you can do something, it’s about how right you can do something. So that helps.
What is your team like?
We’ve got a great team of people who have been working exclusively in number portability for ten-plus years. In the IT industry, it’s very unusual to have people stick around for that long. And to be able to work with these people is just a treat. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without having that level of expertise and teamwork.
Why was your system so important after 9/11?
In a nutshell, the portability system allows you to very dynamically change where a call is terminated, and it’s a big logistical problem—you’ve got networks all over the country that are trying to figure out where to direct a number and so the portability system will let you, on the drop of a hat, say, well no, these numbers shouldn’t be terminated into that switch because that switch is gone—or is not operating. Let’s direct them over to this other switch. That’s why the system can be relied upon in crisis time, which was the case after both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Has Neustar always handled all of the nation’s number portability?
Another provider originally had about half of the regions, and Neustar—or Lockheed Martin, at the time—had the other half. The other provider was not able to get the system done in time and there were many problems with the system that they delivered. They were unable to turn around those problems so eventually the regions decided to choose Neustar as their vendor.
How much downtime is your system allowed?
In the course of a month, we’re allowed about 40 minutes of down time, but we typically don’t come close to that much. I don’t have any wood here to knock on, but implicitly, that’s what I just did.
And what about you—what do you do when you have personal downtime?
Oh yeah, that’s when I play guitar. You can just forget about everything, except playing the music, which is a challenge for me. It’s a different kind of challenge.
So I’m curious. As the 100 percent guy, do you hold your children to the same standards you hold Neustar?
No, I only demand five nines of reliability with my children, so 99.999 percent accuracy is all that I ask of them. They usually comply.
How is that going over?
Uh, we’re working on it. It’s a long-term evolution.