EDS gets $40M order

Electronic Data Systems Corp. maintained its position as the lead shipboard integrator for the Navy's program to harness the power of commercial networks and computers with a $40 million delivery order to supply 20 or more ships in two carrier battle groups and two amphibious ready groups.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awarded the delivery order to EDS last week.

The Navy devised the Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) program two years ago to quickly equip its key fleet and shore installations with advanced commercial communications and computer systems rather than relying on Navy systems that are slow to be developed and deployed.

Capt. Mark Lenci, deputy program director of the global information systems directorate at Spawar, said that over the past two years, EDS has equipped about 50 ships with what he described as "fully integrated IT-21 suites," which include a high-speed fiber-optic backbone, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switches from Xylan Corp. and a full complement of state-of-the-art PCs and workstations.

Lenci said EDS also has equipped another 85 ships with portions of the IT-21 suite, with each receiving a local-area network and a Xylan switch.

The Navy initially had problems with earlier installations of the Xylan switches, Lenci acknowledged, including software problems and poor engineering of the shipboard cabinet. "We feel we're over the hump in making these switches work reliably," Lenci said.

Peter Buck, EDS' IT-21 program manager, said EDS had problems with the Xylan switches in the 1997 and 1998 shipboard installations. "We had some rough points, but both Xylan and EDS worked very hard to get them to work this year," he said. "The Navy now feels very comfortable that we can leverage their installed Xylan base.''

While the Navy remains committed to an ATM backbone as the best way to move voice communications and high-bandwidth video and data throughout a ship, Lenci said the service has backed off its original plans to deliver ATM all the way to the desktop because it would cost too much. "ATM to the desktop is not in the mainstream of commercial technology," Lenci said.

Spawar will have EDS install ATM directly to a limited number of workstations on command ships and carriers where there is a consistent requirement for high-bandwidth data usage. Such uses would include systems that display the Common Operational Picture of a battlespace at the same time as a video teleconference and "white board" collaborative planning. "This is [the type of installation] where ATM to the desktop over [Internet Protocol] would be worth the cost,'' Lenci said.

EDS views the latest IT-21 award, formally called the Shipboard Integrated Afloat LAN Delivery Order, as a key win, Buck said. The contract puts the company in an excellent position for other IT-21 business tied into the Navy's plans to field and develop a worldwide intranet.

Buck emphasized that this latest round is far more than a routine LAN installation. Rather, it is a full-fledged "shipboard integration, where the network itself is a system."

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