Why network management is a national security issue during the pandemic

network concept (Sashkin/ 

The White House and national security officials want more information on how public telecommunications carriers have responded to the pressure from spiking teleworkers' network usage, according to members at a May 13 meeting of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council (NSTAC).

The group is at work on a formal report on software-defined networking, a set of technologies that virtualizes much of the hauling and switching activity that requires hardware in older generations of communications technology. SDN has dramatically shaped the response to increased loads on national telecommunications networks during the pandemic, members said at their teleconference.

Joshua Steinman, deputy assistant to the president for cyber and senior director for cybersecurity with the National Security Council, asked NSTAC's corporate members to accelerate a review of a 2011 report on telecommunications network resiliency.

As Congress and other federal entities begin reviewing the response to COVID-19 in the coming summer and fall, said Steinman, "this is an opportunity to tap into NSTAC's judgment." He told the committee to fast track its review of the 2011 report, making changes and new recommendations. The report has not been updated since it was created almost a decade ago and doesn't completely cover the impacts of cloud computing, SDN/virtualization, 5G, connected devices and remote workforces.

Steinman said he would like to have a revised report in hand in 45-60 days help analyze best practices for network resiliency amid the pandemic response.

NSTAC also plans to have a more expansive report on SDN to the president by Aug. 12, said Raymond Dolan, co-chair, of NSTAC's SDN subcommittee.

SDN, said some NSTAC carrier members, has played an important role in supporting the massive work-from-home response to the pandemic in the last few months. Steinman said the telecommunications critical infrastructure response to the pandemic has been unlike any previous natural disaster, which tends to stress local and regional networks. The pandemic has put pressure on networks nationally.

Carrier representatives said SDN has let them quickly redistribute network loads to even out stress on peering points and routing facilities. Edge computing and SDN have increased the need for coordination among carriers' networking plans, said one major carrier representative.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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