Bases in Pacific gobble bandwidth

HONOLULU—A voracious appetite for bandwidth has nearly overwhelmed a recently launched Defense Department program here to double the capacity of the cables that handle phone calls and Internet service for military personnel stationed throughout the Pacific Ocean.

In April, the Defense Information System Agency-Pacific, which serves as the phone company and Internet service provider for U.S. forces operating from Alaska to South Korea, kicked off an ambitious expansion to provide a backbone for traffic carried on the unclassified portion of the Defense Information Systems Network-Pacific.

DISA-Pacific believed the current capacity—based on 45 megabits/sec (DS-3) and 155 megabits/sec (OC-3) circuits—would be more than enough. But military bases' increasing reliance on the World Wide Web and other means of communications to conduct business and fight battles has increased so much that "we're just keeping up with it," said Army Col. Mike Harvey, DISA-Pacific commander.

In addition, as companies and individuals in the countries that encompass the 105 million square miles of ocean and landmass that make up the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations increasingly sign onto the Internet, they suck up scarce transmission capacity that DISA-Pacific needs, Harvey said.

Cumulative Web page clicks by the thousands of military personnel stationed in Japan, South Korea, Alaska, Guam and Hawaii also put a strain on the network, said Army Maj. Mark Cleaver, Harvey's DISN project managers.

Much of the Web surfing is done for official business, Cleaver said. For example Army personnel in South Korea use the power of the Web and trans-Pacific fiber to check personnel records housed on a mainframe in St. Louis.

Similarly, logistics personnel in Japan use data-rich Web-based applications to order supplies by tapping into a mainframe operated by the Defense Logistics Agency in Ogden, Utah.

This means the DISN-Pacific network carries a heavy load of traffic bound for the commercial Internet. Military personnel also use the Internet like the general public does—ordering computers or tapping into Web-based help pages.

Part of the load, however, consists of Web surfing by troops in remote locations, activity viewed as an important morale tool by Pacific Command commanders, Harvey said.

To better manage that Internet traffic bound for commercial sites—and reduce demand on bandwidth—Harvey said he would like to establish an ISP hub in Hawaii to offload the dot-com traffic.

The agency has requirements for two OC-3 pipes from Hawaii to the mainland United States, but DISA-Pacific cannot acquire them now because cable capacity is full, Harvey said. DISA-Pacific must wait until the new Southern Cross trans-Pacific cable, being built by a consortium of U.S. and long-distance phone companies, comes online in March or April.

Once DISA-Pacific switches on all its new circuits, it will have more than doubled the capacity of the backbone for the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET), from 298 megabits/sec—roughly two OC-3s—to more than 600 megabits/sec—roughly four OC-3s.

The bandwidth problems mirror the experience of DISA in the continental United States, which has seen its NIPRNET bandwidth jump from 75 OC-3s to more than 200 in the past two years. [FCW, Nov. 15]Harvey, interviewed here at DISA-Pacific headquarters at Wheeler Army Airfield, envisions user requirements pushing the need for bandwidth to the point where he will need to install 2,488 megabits/sec OC-48 circuits in the backbone.

For example, Harvey said, DISA-Pacific is installing two circuits of slightly less than 10 megabits/sec each for just one user—the U.S. Space Command to satellite control stations on Oahu and Guam.

Harvey anticipates handing off traffic from DISN to an ISP through a contract with a commercial provider. Alan Chvotkin, business management vice president for AT&T Government Markets, said he viewed the ISP hub as "an interesting opportunity."

AT&T Government Markets provides high-capacity circuits to DISA-Pacific in Hawaii through its Hawaii Inter-island Telecommunications Service contract.

The exponential growth in the trans-Pacific backbone reflects ongoing upgrades in networks serving U.S. forces in Japan, South Korea, Alaska and on Oahu, Cleaver said.

DISA-Pacific also has embarked on a crash effort to upgrade the switch horsepower in all those regional networks, installing more than 40 Fore Systems Inc. Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches capable of handling traffic up to the OC-48 level.

DISA-Pacific secured good pricing on the enhancements to the DISN-Pacific network, which according to Harvey means users "pay less per kilobit of data, but since they need more bandwidth, it means that as prices go down, costs still go up."

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Boom in bandwidth

How DISA-Pacific plans to sharply increase the capacity of regional networks in the PacificJapan: 148 megabits/sec (current capacity); 285 megabits/sec (capacity by end of 2000)

Okinawa: 62 megabits/sec; 196 megabits/sec

S. Korea: 95 megabits/sec; 167 megabits/sec

Guam: 11 megabits/sec; 92 megabits/sec

Alaska: 6 megabits/sec; 89 megabits/sec

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More bandwidth expected soon

By Bob BrewinThe Defense Information System Agency-Pacific, because of the extra capacity built into the Defense Information Systems Network-Pacific, does not expect the kind of delays in ordering extra bandwidth that has plagued DISA in the continental United States.

Col. Mike Harvey, DISA-Pacific commander, said that if the U.S. Pacific Command needs extra capacity to respond to a contingency, DISA-Pacific has established a rapid way to ramp up. "It used to take us as long as a year," he said. "Now we have it down to 90 to 120 days" to add capacity to the DISN-Pacific backbone.

While DISA-Pacific is expected to fill much of its bandwidth requirements in the foreseeable future through the $4 billion DISN Transmission Services-Pacific contract awarded to MCI WorldCom last month, Harvey emphasized that he does not plan to make that vehicle his sole source.

"I'm going to compete," said Harvey, who said he started ordering the high-speed circuits that make up the DISN-Pacific backbone well ahead of the award of the DTS-P contract.

Diana Gowen, vice president of MCI WorldCom's Government Markets Division, said she viewed DTS-P "as an opportunity for growth.... Otherwise we would not have bid the contract."

Alan Chovtkin, vice president for business management at AT&T Government Markets, seemed puzzled by Harvey's embrace of competition after the awarding of DTS-P, wondering how his company could compete with such a large-scale contract vehicle. But, he said, if Harvey does intend to compete, he should do so on electronic bulletin boards operated by DISA's contracting arm.

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