CIO at Argonne focuses on security, ‘cloud’ management
By David Sharos For The Herald-News March 12, 2011 7:00PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
It’s hard to imagine living in the Chicago area and not knowing about Argonne National Laboratory. But what you might not realize is that a 50-year-old Naperville resident plays a major role there in keeping the technology and information flowing at one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s oldest and largest national laboratories for science and engineering research.
Charlie Catlett has served for four years as the laboratory’s chief information officer. His focus areas include cyber security and transformation of information infrastructure, a job that requires establishing technology strategies for computer science research at the facility. Catlett and his leadership team’s efforts ultimately affect more than 3,000 employees.
“We coordinate information technology for the lab as well as for the business aspects here, and we work to establish partnerships with the outside world that were not possible 10 years ago,” Catlett said. “Today with computer science research, we’re taking advantage of mobile technology and going where computer information technology meets the physical world with energy management, sensors and other computing capabilities.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in computer engineering, Catlett joined Argonne more than 10 years ago. And while he plays a major role in Argonne’s IT infrastructure, Catlett has also been a major contributor on the national level with Internet and computer technology.
Protecting IT assets
Before Argonne, he was the chief technology officer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and a part of the original team that established the NCSA in 1985. His early work there included participation on the team that deployed and managed the National Science Foundation Network, a high-speed “network of networks” that is said to be hierarchical in nature — the highest level is the backbone network that spans the entire country. In 1986, the network connected five supercomputer centers in the United States and provided connectivity to the Internet primarily for colleges and universities.
Catlett is also the director of Argonne’s Computing and Information Systems Division and a senior fellow at the Argonne-University of Chicago Computation Institute. He said many of his efforts at Argonne focus on security, and looking for ways to free up researchers and technical exports to do other things than worry about common computer services others can manage.
“Being a part of a federal lab, one of the jobs of the CIO is to oversee computer security,” Catlett said. “Being director of the IT division, our work affects thousands of people. We have to continue to develop safer and safer plans to protect our lab assets and data and provide cyber security. And we have to take all the opportunities we have to pursue information technology to operate our lab more efficiently and safely to support our science.”
The future for his department at Argonne, Catlett said, is to continue to explore the use of “cloud” services that will allow the lab to subscribe to outsources that will run the infrastructure through software subscriptions and hopefully free up the local talent pool.
“We want to take our own talent investment — take our IT talent and divert it toward scientific challenges rather than having to oversee regular services every business has,” he said.
Quality of life
As a Naperville resident, Catlett said the community and the schools here have contributed immensely to the quality of life for his family, which includes his wife and three children. He moved here based on a recommendation from a colleague at Argonne.
“I have some very strong feelings about Naperville, and I moved here after someone at work recommended it,” Catlett said. “We have a child who needs special education services, and we learned that the Naperville school district has one of the best programs.”
Two of his children already graduated from Neuqua Valley High School.
“We couldn’t be happier with the special education program there, and the quality and the character of the cross country coaches that worked with our kids.
“Naperville is a great place to raise a family, and we love the downtown.”
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