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Winning Infrastructure -  The Case for Network Centric Warfare / Oren Barkai, ECI Telecom

The Case for Network Centric Warfare

By Oren Barkai, Senior System Architect,
Government & Defense Solutions, ECI Telecom

The purpose of the Network Centric Warfare (NCW) doctrine is to translate information supremacy into strategic fighting advantages. Today, an army's ability to share information is crucial to a successful military agenda, leading governments to deploy NCW-based communication infrastructure as an integral part of their military strength.

With the ability to provide real time evaluation of the battlefield, NCW communication infrastructure is built to handle the hurried shift from routine communication activities to wartime operations. This move requires flexibility, scalability and redundancy.

But what are the requirements for truly network centric operations?

Suffice it to say that while the telecommunication requirements of defense forces might have changed over the years, the basic service definitions are in fact well defined and have remained constant. The network infrastructure and its supporting services are an essential part of the organizational strategy, and as such need to support the military equivalent of business processes.

The first priority is connectivity, or bandwidth. A robust NCW communication infrastructure must be able to support and transport the vast amounts of voice, data and video-based services to enable decision makers to gain a complete picture of the battlefield in real time.

Second, there is redundancy. In the civilian sector, a network failure may cause inconvenience and monetary loss in most cases. In the case of the military and defense corps, the slightest system down time may translate into a national security threat - an intolerable reality. The industry benchmark of “five nines” for network reliability, which is usually acceptable for non-military service providers, is not a valid option for an organization which demands “always up and running” systems.

Flexibility is another necessity, as the information transmitted must keep up with the rapidly changing battle realities and maneuvering forces. One may argue that flexibility is also important in civilian telecom. However, no operator has ever prepared itself for a scenario in which an entire city moves from one side of the country to the other. The level of flexibility demanded in the defense sector is significantly higher.

Another important aspect is “cost effectiveness.” The task of building a converged infrastructure for communication applications is not a new practice. The first converged infrastructures were based on several distinct platforms. In recent years, these different platforms have evolved into a new architecture based on IP/MPLS protocols. The idea of building a converged infrastructure has arisen from the capital expenses fiascos of building multiple infrastructures per service and then struggling to keep them alive and working together, in order to utilize them for newer, more advanced services.

The foundation lies in the fact that an NCW communication infrastructure must scale in two major dimensions: volume (amount of users, bases, bandwidth and so on) and technology (allowing the phase-in and out of new and legacy technologies). Scalability is key when ramping up a communications system while moving from routine operations to wartime preparedness.

Part II: Discussing the different deployment approaches