Navy turns toward Sun
- By Bill Murray
- Apr 09, 2001
If Rear Adm. John Gauss has his way, aircraft carriers will operate with six servers instead of 27. To get there, he wants to switch vendors for the Unix software systems used for command and control operations aboard Navy ships.
Gauss, who in less than two months will turn over command of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, wants to rid Navy ships of Hewlett-Packard Co. servers and workstations running the HP-UX operating system for command and control applications. In their place would be Sun Microsystems Inc. midrange servers with thin clients and PCs.
"We want to shift away from [relying on a] heavy client to a Web-centric" architecture, Gauss said. "We'll have fewer servers running more applications."
Technicians aboard USS Coronado, the Navy's technology test bed, are testing two Sun Netra T1 servers running the Sun Solaris 8 operating system, said Lt. Cmdr. Sandy Fenton, the sea-based battle lab coordinator aboard the Coronado.
They're also testing two IBM Netfinity servers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Server 4.0 and a Global Command and Control System-Maritime (GCCS-M) server running on the Defense Department's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, she said.
The network also features a Sun Netra redundant array of independent disks for storage, as well as 54 flat-panel Sun Ray 1 monitors, Fenton said. The Sun Ray appliances are equipped with PC Card readers and, like thin clients, do not store any memory or applications locally.
The Navy already runs Sun software aboard ships to perform joint forces flight planning and several other programs, while the service uses HP-UX on workstations and servers to run GCCS-M. With the Theater Battle Management Core System set to be fielded, Gauss decided to take action. "We're really complicating [sailors'] lives by having them learn these different commercial systems."
The Navy will still use HP-UX in embedded weapons systems, which Spawar doesn't manage, Gauss said. Spawar, which sets the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) architecture program for ships, will begin replacing HP-UX with Solaris in late 2002 for command and control systems, he said. Gauss said that his successor at Spawar, Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, "absolutely" supports the idea of replacing HP-UX with Solaris.
Relying on fewer, larger servers will pose problems for the Navy, said Ron Ray, an HP Navy account manager.
"What if one of the two main servers fails?" he said.
In addition, he said, "it's harder to maintain a mainframe-class machine" like the Sun midrange servers.
The Sun servers the Navy is evaluating are redundant to protect against a single server failure bringing down the network, said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a Spawar spokesman.
John Leahy III, Sun Federal's chief of staff, declined to comment on the Navy's plans.
As part of its Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract, Electronic Data Systems Corp. selected Sun as its Unix vendor for network operations center servers. But Gauss said that was not a factor in his decision to switch from HP systems. "We started down this path before NMCI."
But some experts, including H. Lee Buchanan, former assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, have said that they want IT-21 to mirror the products used in NMCI.
In addition to Sun thin clients, which do not run floppy disks, the Navy will continue to use PCs to run Microsoft Excel, Word and other applications on its networks, Gauss said. "PCs are going to have a place" on the network, he said.
"I'm going to push it as far as I can" until May 31, when he begins his retirement, Gauss said of the Sun-migration effort, known as the horizontal integration plan. The program is funded through existing program budgets, and Gauss couldn't provide a dollar figure for the plan.
"I think, over time, we need to migrate to one Unix flavor," Gauss said.