MIT and Steve Boutelle discuss the military’s move to an Everything over IP
Q: Can you tell us about yourself?
A: For almost four decades, I had the privilege of serving in the U.S. Army, retiring in 2007 as a three- star general and chief information officer [CIO] of the Army. Before becoming CIO of the Army, I served in several leadership positions, including director of information, operations, networks and space; program executive officer of command, control and communications systems; and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pacific Theater plannercommunications systems. As a teacher and mentor, I expanded the Army’s education program to incorporate the latest Internet and convergence technologies. Today, I am a vice president at Cisco in the Global Government Solutions Group and chief executive officer of Cisco IRIS, an internal team focused on Internet Routing in Space [IRIS] for government and commercial markets.
Q: If you were still CIO of the Army, what do you think would be keeping you up at night?
A: Completing the move to an Everything Over IP [EOIP] network infrastructure. The war on terror forced the military to speed up the transmission to EOIP on a tactical level. With two occupations, the hunt for terrorists around the world and defending the homeland, our troops and first responders needed the flexibility that only comes from IP. EOIP offers many benefits, including reduction in costs and consistent access to greater numbers of applications and services that can be tailored to fit the mission. In addition, an EOIP network increases ease of deployment. For example, for every 10 servers you need with the old system, with IP and virtualization you only need one. The reduction in hardware saves huge amounts of time and money.
At the post, camp and station level, work still needs to be done. The military operates thousands of bases throughout the world, some of which have been around since the birth of the nation. A large percentage of the outposts rely on copper switching technology that is more than 35 years old. Not only will moving our posts, camps and stations to EOIP provide them with the benefits discussed above, but it will also provide a greater ability to train soldiers on the equipment they will be using on the battlefield. At the early stages of the war on terror, we were obliged to train soldiers at home on Cold War era technology. When they arrived in country, they’d have to quickly train on the next- generation IP systems they’d be using in combat.
Q: How does EOIP fit into the military’s plans?
A: To ensure decision superiority, delivering communications to every layer of EOIP is a critical piece to completing the military’s mission. Once you have a fully IP-based network, there is a lot you can plug in that gives the warfighter an unbelievable amount of data, for rapid decision making. For instance, sensors around the world can be IP enabled. When something is not right, or a change is detected, an alert is immediately generated, and sent to the appropriate person. With this type of sensor, battle planners would have access to real-time information down to the level of a particular river a special forces team needs to cross at a specific time. Intelligence personnel would hear and see a greater amount of information, allowing them to provide almost real-time intelligence to teams globally.
There are plenty of additional examples, but the one that provides the most promise is the capability to attribute each sensor to specific information or a person. Let’s say you are a battle commander and one of your convoys is ambushed. Through your Blue Force digital battlefield display, you can see what reserves you have available to send. What’s really unique is that you can have individuals or vehicles, equipped with IPenabled sensors, that tell how much ammo is available, the skill set of the personnel on board, such as the medical skills of a medic in a specific ambulance, how much fuel has been used and more. Being able to see at this level of granularity gives commanders an incredible amount of flexibility to complete the mission.
Q: Have you recently come across any technologies that you think will have a significant impact on military communications now and in the future?
A: Moving to an EOIP platform via Unified Communications dramatically reduces the complexity and total cost of ownership of the network, and simplifies network upgrades. PacStar co-developed with Cisco the only fully IP-based network solution that enables converged, collaborative Unified Communications in theater and on the base. This solution is differentiated by the added benefit of PacStar’s IQ-Core Software, an advanced, wizard-based, network management system that makes the solution easy to deploy and maintain, and dramatically drives down training costs and school requirements.
PacStar offers a solution set, based on a Unified Communications platform from Cisco, that helps fill the tactical void by extending EOIP to the lowest level, and ensuring continuity from the battlefield to the base. The software is easy to use and translate into other languages, and provides faster set-up time for situational awareness. Remote management capabilities and alerting frees soldiers to do other tasks beyond maintaining the network. Providing IP-based communications that are easy to deploy and manage greatly increases the military’s ability to complete its mission.