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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