High-Speed Networking Connects Present to the Future

High-Speed Networking Connects Present to the Future<@VM>High-Speed Drivers<@VM>Commercial Partnerships<@VM>What is High-Speed Networking?

It's a familiar scene on the Enterprise. The bridge calls engineering: "Give us more power!" But this isn't the Starship Enterprise. It's the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, and the Navy brass didn't demand more engine power, but more networking power. And they got it.

The Enterprise is one of many ships that received an upgrade in networking capacity as part of the IT-21 project, the Navy's initiative to implement network-centric warfare, reduce fleet operating and support costs and enhance quality of life.

The increased bandwidth not only expands the carrier's strategic and tactical information capabilities. It allows flight-deck crew to use wireless personal digital assistants to record landing characteristics. Officers can attend college courses through videoconferencing. And sailors can send out as many as 60,000 e-mails a day to keep in touch with friends and family.

"Sailors who have been on ships with IT-21 capabilities ... will tell you of its dramatic impact on their quality of life. It has been a major boost to morale and efficiency on long deployments," said Adm. Jay Johnson, then chief of Naval Operations in January 2000 shortly after the launch of the Enterprise's upgraded networks.

The Navy's IT-21 is just one of many government initiatives aimed at boosting high-speed networks, according to government and industry officials. While the big high-speed networking news of 2000 was the $6.9 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet contract won by Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, there are countless other opportunities for businesses large and small.

"The federal government is an enormous business opportunity with significant critical networking and com- munications requirements," said Joseph Nacchio, chairman and chief executive of Qwest Communications International Inc., Denver.

Bruce Fleming

Just as increased productivity through technology has resulted in the longest period of economic growth this country has ever seen, information technology is enabling government to accomplish more with less. And it's just as well: Downsizing and looming retirements are taking a heavy toll on the federal work force.

"By 2008, almost half the current federal work force will be gone," said French Caldwell, research director for the GartnerGroup Inc., Stamford, Conn. "And there's no one to replace them. Generation X was frozen out of public service by downsizing and hiring freezes, and Generation Y doesn't want to work for government."

The military is gradually adapting to the changing playing field by using IT to provide the same levels of security with fewer personnel. Despite a decline in the number of ships, Johnson said that through the use of network-centric warfare, "we have spread sustained combat power across the fleet as never before, and the future holds the promise of even greater fleet effectiveness."

A second high-speed networking driver is electronic government. According to a study released by GartnerGroup, total
e-government spending by federal, state and local governments will grow from $1.5 billion in 2000 to more than $6.2 billion in 2005. All three segments of e-government interactions ? government to government, government to business and government to citizen ? require vastly increased networking capacity.

"The value propositions and innovative business models brought to the table by niche e-government providers are throwing down a gauntlet to the Tier 1 professional services and systems integration houses that have dominated the market for years," said Gartner's Caldwell. "However, these traditional government vendors have a tremendous advantage in their expertise at navigating the government procurement and accounting processes."

Yet another factor influencing the adoption of high-speed networking is an increase in the number of agency personnel who work online.

"The government wants to wean employees away from e-mails and onto portals," said Joe Oder, McLean, Va.-based director of federal relations for Nortel Networks Corp., Santa Clara, Calif. "They want a portal for personal and professional activities, 24/7, where they can check on promotion status, check job advertisements, check on travel and handle business expenses, whether at home or at work."

As a result, convergence technologies, including voice over IP and videoconferencing, are hungrily demanding bandwidth expansion.

"It used to be a great thing to gain access to low-speed networks," said Bruce Fleming, divisional technology officer of Arlington, Va.-based Verizon Federal Network Systems, a division of Verizon Communications Inc., New York. "Nowadays, users want high bandwidth that functions well remotely."

The bottom line, then, is that there is no end in sight to the need for additional bandwidth. As more high-speed networks are deployed, larger uses are developed requiring an even bigger backbone.

"Twenty gigabit is what the federal government wants now," said Oder. "We were at 1.6 terabits and now we're at 6.4. It's Moore's law, except it doubles every nine months."In the United States today, half the households are connected to the Internet and most have cable. Tens of millions use wireless devices. Because the commercial market for network and communications devices is so well-developed, government agencies are increasingly turning to commercial, off the shelf products and services, rather than pursuing systems that are highly customized or developed in-house.

"A lot of our [government] customers ask what's going on in the commercial world," said Fleming. "The impetus in government is to align with commercial best practices."

One firm using its commercial strength to gain a government foothold is Cox Communications Inc., Atlanta. Cox is the country's fifth-largest cable television company, serving 6 million homes. In the government sector, it provides sonet and cable-modem-based local communications services for Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and General Services Administration buildings in the Washington area.

"There are big shifts in the types of contract vehicles for the entire telecom industry, including government," said Steve Goad, acting manager of Cox's government and education markets group. "These are broad and encompassing contracts aimed at setting up a capability to bulk procure and gain economies of scale on telecom services."

The same is occurring with larger-scale networks as more and more agencies are outsourcing their work. The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project, for example, brings together 200 separate networks at 300 naval and marine installations worldwide. EDS as prime contractor has partnered with such companies as Raytheon Co., WorldCom Inc., WAM!NET Inc., Dell Computer Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. on this project.

"Through consolidation, technology enhancements and enterprisewide desktop management, EDS and our Information Strike Force Partners will provide higher quality voice, video and data services for onshore sailors, Marines and civilian personnel at a lower cost than the Department of the Navy is paying today," said Bill Dvoranchik, president of EDS' federal government business. "In fact, the Navy will be the first department in the federal government to implement enterprisewide desktop management via NMCI."

With the Air Force now showing interest in the project, EDS views this contract as the tip of the iceberg.

"We believe this contract begins a new wave of federal outsourcing, applying the best practices of the private sector to government," said EDS' CEO Dick Brown.

Nonmilitary agencies are also turning to outsourcing to handle their expanding networking needs. When the Treasury Department, for example, wanted to build a single network to unite 150,000 employees in 14 bureaus via the $1 billion Treasury Communications System, it initially planned to build a private backbone. After reviewing its options, outsourcing came out cheaper.

Treasury's prime contractor, TRW Inc., Cleveland, selected Qwest as the system's largest subcontractor. Qwest has also landed other government contracts, such as building the backbone for the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development's Abilene project. This will connect research facilities at 160 universities. Further contracts include the CalRen2 high-performance, Next Generation Internet project and a $50 million project to provide a terabit of capacity for the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network.

"Qwest's strategy as an early adopter of advanced network capabilities is paying off in its ability to deliver futuristic network capacity, speeds and efficiencies," said James Payne, Qwest's senior vice president for government systems. "DOE requirements for ESnet called for performance standards unheard of in today's commercial and government marketplace."

This expanded capacity will enable researchers in multiple facilities to share computational resources and provide remote access to high-resolution visualization of simulations and experiments. "This new partnership between the Department of Energy's ESnet and Qwest will dramatically increase our nation's capabilities for collaborative research by linking the nation's top scientists with DOE's unparalleled research facilities," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

In another project, Nortel Networks, GST Telecommunications Inc. and Sprint Corp. are all part of the National Transparent Optical Network Consortium. The consortium, which is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's SuperNet, provides 10 Gbps connectivity for West Coast facilities such as Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"For the first time," said Larry Bergman, manager of the Information and Computing Research Technologies Section at JPL, "NTONC provides sufficient bandwidth to send multiple uncompressed streams of high-definition video to remote locations, a capability that is highly sought-after for high-end NASA and DoD visualization systems, as well as for the entertainment industry."

Cisco, meanwhile, is providing high-speed networking facilities to help federal doctors save lives. Personnel at 40 National Institutes of Health locations nationwide can watch live video of weekly lectures and seminars given by world-class biomedical scientists as a result of NIH's deployment of Cisco's IP/TV software.

At the same time that the central backbone systems are being upgraded, gigabit Ethernet and 10 gigabit Ethernet are bringing down networking costs and allowing more bandwidth to the typical end user.

"There is a migration away from ATM as the backbone of choice and an ever-increasing need for higher performance networks to support more powerful computing platforms such as storage area networks, streaming video and collaborative workflow applications," said George Prodan, vice president of Extreme Networks Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.

The report by networking market research firm Dell'Oro Group backs up Prodan's statement. The report predicts that the gigabit Ethernet market will grow by 22 percent in the second quarter of 2000. The company forecasts an eightfold increase in the market, to over $4 billion, by the end of 2001.

The ongoing $1.2 billion renovations at the Pentagon are one example of a project which is managing the transition from asynchronous transfer mode. The plans initially called for a 155-Mbps OC-3 ATM system to serve the building's 25,000 users and 100,000 IP addresses. With the development of gigabit Ethernet delivering six times the speed at half the cost, prime contractor General Dynamics Corp., Falls Church, Va., investigated whether it could meet the performance, reliability and interoperability parameters demanded by the Pentagon.

A test using 80-gigabit Ethernet ports serving 4,600 simultaneous users on 200 virtual local area networks passed with flying colors. As a result, General Dynamics selected Extreme Networks' 128 Gbps BlackDiamond switches. ATM has not been completely dropped, however, and currently, both systems work together.

At this point, there is no sure way of telling exactly how far the government's need for networking capacity will expand, but it will clearly continue to get bigger, faster and cheaper. And no single solution will replace all other technologies.

Verizon's Fleming predicted that 10- or 100-gigabit Ethernet will reach the desktop level. Nortel's Oder said there will be a move to double capacity by shifting from 32- to 64-channel dense-wavelength division multiplexing. For Steve Goad of Cox Communications, the future entails more agencies using virtual private networks to extend local and wide area networks over the Internet, using cable modems to increase the speed.

Already, we are seeing widespread use of two-dimensional, full-motion video images, 3-D simulations and live remote CAT scans. If this trend continues, it won't be long before somebody starts calculating the bandwidth needed when the order comes down to "Beam me up, Scotty!"While the airwaves are full of ads touting the benefits available from a digital subscriber line or cable connection at home rather than a 28.8 modem, it would still take more than 1,000 hours on DSL or cable to download one of the 500-gigabyte files being used to design the new Joint Strike Fighter (F-22/F-15s) jets.

Similarly, it would take DSL and cable several years to transfer the 9.8 terabytes sent down by the space shuttle during NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission last year. Even fast Ethernet's 100 Mbs is too slow for such purposes. By high-speed networking, then, we are talking about the stuff the "big boys" use in the gigabits and terabits range.

On June 6, for example, Qwest Communications International Inc. broke the world speed record using Nortel Networks OC-768 (40 Gbps) global optical networking platform. The trial, using live commercial traffic, successfully combined four 40Gbps signals using dense-wavelength division multiplexing, a total of 160 Gbps, while maintaining their normal commercial performance standards. Given the rate at which the field is developing, however, even that record may have been broken by the time you read this article.

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