HP lands DARPA Internet work

Hewlett-Packard Co. won a three-year, $6 million prime contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop technologies that will improve mission-critical computer networks used during combat and related operations, the company said.

Under the contract, which is for one year with two one-year options, HP will work on the reliability of the basic communication system on which the Internet is based, known as Transaction Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.

"Our work for DARPA is aimed at significantly improving the performance of the Internet, making it even more efficient and reliable in critical situation, such as battlefield operations," said Patrick Scaglia, vice president and director of the Internet and Computing Platform Research Center at HP Labs. "If we can successfully create new approaches to the way Internet traffic is detected and routed, we may start seeing the Internet used as the de facto communications and information network in areas where it previously would've been thought too risky."

DARPA is the central research and development branch of the Defense Department. The project is part of the department's overall program to transform the way military forces use information technology in their missions.

HP and its subcontractors have proposed two approaches for the project. The first one involves a new generation of hardware routers and the second is based on a set of software routers running on computers throughout the network. Both use a network sensing infrastructure, jointly developed by HP and Princeton University, which detects communication link failures and switches transmission routes from trouble spots to lines where traffic is running smoothly.

In one proposed scenario, the new approaches would be used for communications between ships using digital wireless connections and high-Earth-orbit satellites, even if one or more of the satellites malfunctions or if high seas create problematic ship movements, HP said.

The new approaches are initially being tested on nodes at PlanetLab, a global overlay network developed by the University of California at Berkeley, HP, Intel Corp., Princeton University, the University of Washington and more than 60 universities worldwide. PlanetLab treats the Internet as a single, large, geographically distributed computer. An intelligent routing engine performs packet forwarding and maintains primary and backup routes in the event of a link failure.

HP's research team includes Anagran Inc.; McAfee Research, the technology research division of McAfee Inc.; the Universities of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara; George Mason University; and Princeton University.

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., HP employs about 151,000 workers and had 2004 revenue of $79.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2004. It ranks No. 56 on Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 List of federal prime contractors.

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