Vendor Consortium Works On Common Architecture For Defense Dept. - InformationWeek

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Vendor Consortium Works On Common Architecture For Defense Dept.

Defense wants to remake the armed services, and one of the critical tools would be a global, common networking architecture for U.S. forces.

WASHINGTON--A consortium of 28 aerospace and IT companies unveiled an initiative Tuesday to develop a common networking architecture for military and homeland security users. They, along with various sensor systems, would be linked to an interoperable, global network.

The Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium is a response to Defense Department efforts to link its forces around the world. Consortium members said military officials requested their help in developing the interoperable network.

The effort also builds on past efforts to link military sensors and data. Those efforts have taken on greater urgency as Pentagon leaders seek to transform U.S. military operations. A key element would be network-centric military operations. "The companies are working together to enable network-centric operations," Oracle's Gary O'Shaughnessy says.

Systems connected to the proposed interoperable network would operate as nodes on a common, secure network, adds Carl O'Berry, an executive of Boeing Co. Current networks do not allow information sharing.

A 1996 effort in Bosnia called the Command and Control Augmentation System served as a prototype for what military planners are seeking. The "publish and subscribe system" provided an encrypted bit stream of intelligence data at 30 Mbps. The network-centric initiative would build on these earlier networking programs, says Paul Kaminski, a former Defense acquisition chief who's serving as an adviser to the industry consortium.

O'Shaughnessy says the consortium will define and deploy a set of guidelines based on open standards that would permit most systems and types of information to interoperate on the global network. The group is working to enable network-centric operations using emerging network standards, the Oracle executive adds.

Discussion aimed at forming the group began last November, and formal meetings began last month. Initial talks are focused on collaborating on standards development and developing "common semantics," executives say. So far, the group has established no implementation plan for delivering its blueprint for a common network architecture.

The group will also seek to apply industry standards to Defense's existing network reference models and sensor systems. In the past, there has been little interoperability among networks operated by different military services, making it difficult to share battlefield information. "We will try to fill those gaps," a consortium executive says.

Among the consortium's other members are Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems.

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