Every bit counts

The Navy's Mike Howard says that outdated information costs businesses money, but it could potentially cost lives in the military.

Olivier Douliery

The Navy finds a faster way to get memos out to personnel at sea

When the Navy issues a memorandum, personnel aboard ships sometimes don't have it in their hands until several months later.

A Navy base generally waits to collect enough memos or policy changes to fill a 650M CD-ROM. Then the copies must be burned, labeled and mailed. By then, said Mike Howard, a Navy assistant program executive officer, 'the data becomes vintage.'

Starting this year, Navy ships will use Internet portal software to transmit such news by satellite and the Secret IP Router Network.

Developed by iOra Inc. of San Rafael, Calif., the portal will connect land bases to fleets for two-way updates to nontactical documents such as technical publications, administrative notices, bulletins and maintenance logs.

Compressed data

IOra's Publisher software will scan every document already stored on a ship's server for matches. It will then compress and transmit only the updated bytes, which can save up to half the file size.

Publisher, which runs under Microsoft Windows 2000, communicates with Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server loaded on a ship's server.

Navy officials said the compression of large files set the iOra software apart from the department's other communications methods such as the Metcast subscription system for meteorological data, the Unix rsync file-transfer program or the Surface Warfare Officer Network, with which ships' officers exchange e-mail.

'This is the only one that sends only what needs to be changed,' said Howard, who works in configuration and logistics management for mine and littoral warfare at the Washington Navy Yard. 'Others send the whole file.'

He said he and his colleagues didn't believe iOra's compression claims until they conducted an on-and-off two-year pilot between the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department in Norfolk, Va., and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst, N.J.

Now the Navy is gearing up to deploy the technology on 300 ships, which could take up to three years as they pull into port, Howard said.

'It's not legacy data we need to be converting, it's legacy people,' he said. 'The biggest challenge is mindset.'

'The amount of data is growing exponentially,' said Paddy Falls, chief executive officer of iOra, 'but the bandwidth is not growing exponentially.'

George Schussel, chief executive officer of Digital Consulting Institute of Andover, Mass., said the iOra technology 'shortens the time frame from when something is happening to when you can respond intelligently. The benefits of pulling a human out of the loop are cost savings and better decision-making in real time.'

Future apps

Falls said future applications could include distance e-learning or sending targeted Web content to individual sailors.

He said a nondisclosure agreement kept him from revealing the contract value, but pricing for the Publisher software starts at $7,500 for a single server license plus $15 a month per client.

Howard said leaving things as they are would have cost even more. 'Having outdated data in the business world costs you dollars,' he said. 'In war, it costs you lives.'

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