Military applications

The military is aggressively pursuing mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs).

Taylor Salman, director of business development at OpNet Technologies Inc., said almost all of his company's MANET customers are from the Defense Department. OpNet provides a software product that simulates MANETs and offers off-the-shelf models of MANET protocols, such as Dynamic Source Routing.

Military customers use the product for research and development, Salman said, and they participate in the company's MANET model development consortium. He said the Pentagon's MANET activities are still in the proof-of-concept stage but added that test systems should emerge soon.

DOD officials are interested in deploying MANETs on the front lines. "In a tactical situation where you have a group of people moving forward with some kind of command structure in the rear, they want to create a network where you have instant contact with the command structure," Salman said.

MANETs may initially lack the scalability and reliability of networks based on a fixed infrastructure, but the ability to instantaneously establish field communications is invaluable.

"In terms of military applications, to have some level of network connectivity evolve prior to more reliable infrastructure is an incredible asset," said Ed Carney, vice president and general manager of Cisco Systems Inc.'s Government Systems Unit.

Salman expects MANET to be relatively inexpensive to deploy, because the MANET routing protocols will bolster existing technology. "You're talking about just a software change for standard equipment," he said.

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