DOD picks Pulsar for unclassified ATM net

Pulsar Data Systems is the unofficial winner of a contract to install a 10-node
asynchronous transfer mode backbone that is supposed to speed traffic across the Defense
Department's unclassified intranet.


A Pulsar spokesman said the Lanham, Md., company has been notified verbally that it
will receive the contract. The ATM equipment and transmission services will be supplied by
Sprint Corp.'s Government Systems Division, a Pulsar subcontractor. Neither Pulsar nor the
Defense Information Systems Agency would disclose the contract value.


DISA officials pledged in March that they would acquire a new backbone this fiscal year
to increase throughput on DOD's Non-Classified IP Router Network (NIPRnet) and reduce user
transmission fees by up to 29 percent [GCN, March 4, Page 1].


The contract, which the General Services Administration's Federal Systems Integration
and Management Center awarded for DISA, was delayed by several weeks of deliberations over
whether DISA should buy the services through GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service
instead.


Sources at DISA said the agency convinced GSA that DOD's requirements could not be met
through FTS 2000 or any other procurement vehicle offering ATM services.


Because of the delays, Sprint has only two months to install ATM switches and power
hubs from Fore Systems Inc. of Pittsburgh and hook them up to hundreds of dedicated data
lines from military bases and agencies.


"DISA went out on a limb and promised to reduce rates in fiscal 1996," an
industry executive close to the contract said, adding that Sprint would be hard pressed to
complete the work by Oct. 1.


Michael Baxter, a defense marketing executive at Sprint, said his company is confident
it can meet the deadline.


Service and agency-specific networks use NIPRnet as a bridge to overseas locations and
other military services. Because NIPRnet was cobbled together from older networks, it
requires data packets to travel through dozens of network nodes connected by leased lines
before reaching their destination.


The extra hops have caused delays and bottlenecks at a time when graphics-heavy World
Wide Web traffic is growing exponentially on NIPRnet.


Once the Sprint backbone is in place, users will continue to send messages over the
data lines that currently connect them to NIPRnet. Those messages will be routed to the
nearest ATM node, where they will enter Sprint's proprietary ATM network and speed at 622
megabits/sec to the node that is physically closest to intended recipient. There, the
message will once again go over a leased line to reach an individual base or office.


"Users will see an overall improvement in performance" from end to end,
Baxter said, but he cautioned that users with low-bandwidth connections to NIPRnet still
would have to contend with some delays.


According to Rear Adm. John Gauss, DISA's deputy director for engineering and
interoperability, the agency will realize large savings from the new arrangement because
it will no longer have to lease dozens of dedicated inter-node lines. DISA intends to pass
those savings on to users, who reimburse the agency for NIPRnet usage.


10 ATM nodes will support new NIPRnet backbone:


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