Optical link bridges Navy community

The Navy is taking advantage of a high-speed optical network to create a 'local-area' network that spans some 20 miles of the San Diego region.

The Navy is taking advantage of a high-speed optical network to create a

"local-area" network that spans some 20 miles of the San Diego region.

The network, which the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command describes

as a "transparent LAN," gives remote Spawar workers easy access to the base

intranet. Based on its success, other military bases in the region are now

looking at a similar solution, sources said.

The transparent LAN links the San Diego Defense and Space Technology

Consortium, located in El Cajon, Calif., with Spawar, which is located about

20 miles away in Point Loma, Calif. The consortium, which was created in

1999 to help businesses in San Diego County compete for defense contracts,

works closely with Spawar, including Spawar employees using an Air Force

satellite communications system in El Cajon.

The new data connection between the satellite project team and the Spawar

Systems Center in Point Loma enables workers at both locations to easily

and quickly share information, according to Jeffrey Siconolfi, operations

manager for Spawar's Automated Communications Management System.

In addition, the network allows the DOD workers at the satellite office

to maintain their .mil e-mail addresses, which had been limited to workers

on military bases or in DOD offices, he said. This address allows the remote

workers to access DOD World Wide Web sites that are restricted to those

with .mil addresses, he added.

But the network does not compromise security. E-mail, financial data

and administrative information — but no classified data — flow between the

two locations. And no contractor has access to the corporate intranet — "just the people who need it, the people who use government credit cards,

people who do purchasing," Siconolfi said.

Cox Communications Inc. is providing the LAN service using fiber-optics

technology that can manage data at OC-48 speed, or 2.488 gigabits/sec. They

are using multiservice access equipment from Atmosphere Networks Inc., which

can handle data handed off by either high-speed optical or standard Ethernet

networks.

The network, which also includes 180 telephone lines for voice service

and a 10 megabits/sec Internet connection, is also highly scalable, according

to Paul Shortal, business account manager for Cox Business Services in San

Diego. A simple change in software, for example, can increase throughput

from 20 megabits/sec to 45 megabits/sec.

This "bandwidth on demand" can be provided via the transparent LAN within

one hour compared to the usual 60 to 90 days required by carriers using

traditional telecommunications equipment. In addition, Cox does not charge

a service fee to ramp up bandwidth, Shortal said.

In addition to the scalability of the network, the technology also provides

a "seamless connection" for the users at the satellite office, he said.

"The connection is as if they are in the same building," Shortal said.

"They don't even know that there's a 20-mile distance between them. That's

the speed of the network. It's as if it's next door."

Cox is talking with officials from Camp Pendleton and other regional

military installations about providing the transparent LAN technology for

their operations, he added.

—Harreld is a freelance writer based in Cary, N.C.

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