Big Changes Are on the Way for Military Networks

If you take a close look at the networks used today by the Department of Defense (DoD), you’ll find decades-old technology that takes a lot of time and manual effort to provision, configure and maintain. 

But according to Lorraine Cleary, director of product management at Avaya Networking, big changes are on the way. She and other experts interviewed recently by reporter Peter Buxbaum for the Military Information Technology article “Networking Catches Up,” point to the growing adoption of standards-based, software-defined networks (SDN) that can be managed centrally using automated tools.

It’s clear it is time for a change. Networks have been built the same way since the 1980s, Cleary told the publication. Any innovations have simply been bolted onto the existing infrastructure. But a “bolt-on” approach can make it difficult to support real-time applications, including Voice over IP.

One example: To ensure voice traffic gets priority when it runs on a data network, a system administrator must reprogram each switch in person, one-by-one. It’s not a task for the faint of heart. Make the wrong move and you can bring down an entire network!

SDN changes the dynamic and makes it possible to administer a network centrally and seamlessly – taking advantage of virtualization and the benefits it offers. The advantages are so great that analysts say adoption by the DoD is inevitable. As a result, networks and information will soon be more broadly available to all operational echelons, including troops on the move who may be in harm’s way.

In the interim, though, Avaya isn’t standing still – and neither are our customers. We offer voice over IP solutions that are being used by both businesses and government agencies to accomplish today much of what SDN will do when broadly deployed.

“We are not in the data center and we don’t provide the underlying network hardware, but we do know what a well-paved highway looks like,” Cleary told Military Information Technology. “We have implemented a standardized technology called Shortest Path Bridging (SPB)… It smooths out the highway and accomplishes 80 percent of what SDN is trying to do.”

By sending voice data packets to a network server over the shortest path, latency is reduced to protect against dropped calls and lost video frames. New or changed services can be turned up on the fly in minutes. Organizations can simplify their operations and reduce costs – without having to replace their existing infrastructure. It’s a win-win approach, and it’s available today.

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Social Security Administration Processes 500 Millionth Call Through Modernized Phone System

On the morning of June 16, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) processed its 500 millionth call through its Telephone System Replacement Program (TRSP)-driven modernized telecom system.

It was a milestone for Social Security, which began the TSRP with Avaya in 2007 and just celebrated its 80th birthday in August.

Social Security had long relied on a conventional, old-school PBX phone framework. Each of the agency’s 1,600+ offices had individual PBXs, and almost all had products that were nearing, or had reached, end of life.

“We were scrambling just trying to find parts,” explained Todd Markulik, the SSA’s contracting officer’s technical representative.. “We looked at our future, and realized a Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony solution would be a good fit for us as a way to really create a nationwide network.”

The agency worked with Avaya to create a cutting-edge IP telephony network and manage its average 400,000 daily calls. The SSA recognized the need to future-proof its system with an impending influx of Baby Boomers coming of age for Social Security.

Through the TSRP, SSA was able to streamline and consolidate systems, and cut costs by as much as 50 percent depending on office location.

“Previously, we had somewhere between 20 and 45 analog lines from a local phone company, and we were being charged $35 to $40 a month per line,” Markulik said. “When we moved to VoIP, we eliminated all but maybe eight of those lines.”

The carrier-grade, enterprise solution is government-owned and Avaya-managed, end-to-end. It features leading technology, from Network Skills Based Routing to Dynamic Virtual Forward, and gives the agency redundancies that help it support contact centers in four regions of the United States seamlessly. As a result, the agency was able to get through Hurricane Sandy, and major blizzards and storms without an incident.

The future of Social Security’s technology looks just as bright. Markulik pointed toward plans for an increase in soft phones, teleworking and VoIP capabilities in the near future.

“We’re well-positioned for the future,” he explained.

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Creating Stronger Student Engagement in the Classroom

If you’ve been in a classroom recently, you may have noticed something different. Teachers are going beyond growing bean sprouts on windowsills and making papier mâché volcanoes to engage their students.

As technology becomes more and more a part of everyday life, it’s also turned into an essential part of the classroom. Avaya collaborated with one school district in Texas seeking to build a networking infrastructure to support its students, by creating an environment to support mobile student engagement. And quite frankly, what we created is just plain cool.

BYOD? No Problem!

At Pearland Independent School District, we collaborated with administrators to create a network that would connect teachers and students. Pearland, a city within the borders of Houston, is a community that’s passionate about its students. We outfitted the district with high-speed Wi-Fi and co-developed a plan to institute a “bring your own device” (BYOD) program for about 12,000 devices.

Students now have the ability to bring Wi-Fi-enabled devices, like tablets and smartphones, from home on certain days and into some classrooms. Students can connect with their desktops, home folders, and all of their work no matter where they are. We worked hard to ensure that this new network would scale with the district for years to come.

Teachers incorporate this technology into their lessons through SMART Boards, class websites, and email to make their teaching come alive. Because the technology supports the staff and creates a secure network, educators are able to take advantage of applications and tools designed to make learning more engaging.

Specifically, at Alexander Middle School, teachers have access to a cart stocked with Apple iPad tablets and a cart with laptops to further foster classroom activities.

All of this new technology means that students are able dive deeper into the material and creatively engage with what they’re learning. Teachers are able to tailor their lessons to different learning styles, resulting in better long-term performance for their students by allowing them to engage directly with their schoolwork.

Infrastructure Is Essential

Ultimately, we needed to make sure that Pearland Independent School District was prepared for the future, and we did that by introducing a scalable network infrastructure.

According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 77 percent of teachers report lack of technical support as either a minor or major challenge to incorporating digital technology in the classroom.

This is an area where Avaya shines. We made it easy for the Pearland Independent School District to use networking technology to engage students in their lessons. With a system that runs like clockwork, the district can focus on hiring teachers instead of IT administrators.

That’s our goal: to make things easy for everyone involved and to engage students. Avaya focuses on what’s important to educators and students alike, and create technology solutions that make it simple for students to engage with their lessons and for educators to save time.

While kids might think using an iPad in their math class is cool, we’re more focused on the fact that they’re more engaged with their lesson in the long run. Although, truth be told, we don’t mind being cool, too.

Why This Hospital in Nevada is Providing Virtual Doctor Appointments

Have you ever wanted to connect with your doctor from the privacy of your own home? Want to avoid a visit to the doctor’s office during flu season? Tired of wasting your time waiting in a waiting room? On the road and want to check in with your doctor?

That’s all possible with telemedicine and mobile video conferencing.

Due to changing regulations at the state and federal level, it’s becoming increasingly easier for healthcare providers to not just provide these services, but also get reimbursed for them.

Patients can experience an improvement in their level of care by accessing their doctors no matter where they are, while also avoiding any inconveniences that may be incurred by having to travel to the doctor’s office in-person.

Licensure requirements around telemedicine–which were previously a barrier to offering video-based medical services–are now changing, as these types of services become more prevalent.

A provider typically needed to be licensed in the state where the patient would be receiving care. This was particularly challenging as it conflicted with some of the benefits of telehealth, such as being able to provide care remotely, no matter the location of the patient.

The landscape continues to change as represented by the following:

  • 10 state medical boards have created a telemedicine license
  • 24 states are a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)
  • New guidance from the Federation of State Medical Boards on expediting medical licensing for telemedicine
  • Recent congressional bills, such as the TELE-MED Act of 2015 and Telehealth Enhancement Act.

What is the benefit for healthcare providers?

Healthcare providers have the ongoing challenge of improving patient engagement and the health of the population, while reducing the costs associated with providing care (referred to as Triple Aim requirements). This is a challenge, and offering virtual appointments is another tool that providers can use to meet these goals.

Healthcare providers with this capability are growing. According to a recent study, “the number of patients worldwide using telehealth services is expected to grow from 350,000 patients in 2013 to approximately 7 million by 2018. Moreover, three-fourths of the 100 million eVisits expected to occur in 2014 will occur in North America.”

Renown Health in Reno, NV is now offering a solution that integrates Avaya Scopia to provide virtual doctor’s appointments for the treatment of many common conditions and minor ailments.

Watch the following video to learn more about this new delivery method for healthcare service.

To learn more about Avaya’s Healthcare solutions click here.