Hardware/software testing facility opens

The Army has consolidated eight laboratories dedicated to testing commercial hardware and software products into a new 42,000-square-foot building at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The $4.2 million building officially opened last week.

The new testing facility, the largest of its kind in the Defense Department, runs performance and usability tests on PCs, notebooks, operating systems, applications software and networking gear. While serving the Army, the test center widely distributes its results throughout DOD.

The new facility features a high-bandwidth network that links all the laboratories for the first time. An estimated 25 to 30 miles of fiber-optic cable were laid for the network, which supports Integrated Services Digital Network and Synchronous Optical Network/Asynchronous Transfer Mode technologies.

"Before, we were located in 14 different buildings scattered throughout Fort Huachuca," said Lt. Col. Jay Hatch, director of the Technology Integration Center. "By putting all the facilities into one building, we've been able to integrate the laboratories."

The test center now has access to the Army's wide-area networks, allowing engineers to conduct joint testing with other Army laboratories.

The new center houses the following labs:

* The Computer Lab, which tests palmtops, notebooks, PCs and servers.

* The Software Lab, which tests PC operating systems and applications.

* The Advanced Technology Lab, which tests video teleconferencing, wireless and other emerging technologies.

* The Collaborative Computing Lab, which tests groupware and electronic-mail applications.

* The Communications and Networking Lab, which tests networking gear such as routers, switches and hubs as well as network operating systems.

* The Performance Engineering Lab, which studies how applications are used and helps configure systems.

* The Network and Systems Management Lab, which manages and trouble-shoots Army networks.

* The Sustaining Base Information Services End-User Lab, which studies how new technologies can be inserted into the SBIS architecture.

The center's goal is to evaluate commercial products and ensure that they will support warfighters. To do that, the labs are beta test sites for many hardware and software products.

"We have good partnerships with industry," Hatch said. "They send us equipment, [and] we sign test and licensing agreements and then give feedback on the products to Army program managers."

Once the products get approval from the test center, they are added to Army indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts.

The Army's Technology Integration Center is a unit of the Army's Information Systems Engineering Command.

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