DISA changes to CIP routers
- By William Jackson
- Aug 25, 1997
The Defense Information Systems Agency is midway through changing its megacenters to a
DISA expects to save on hardware and software maintenance as well as line charges by
replacing mainframe front-end processors with routers equipped with Channel Interface
Processors (CIPs) from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.
The megacenters and their customers then can use the Defense Department's
Non-Classified IP Router Network instead of dedicated lines, said Bob Gold, chief of the
central communications office for DISA's western-hemisphere megacenters at Fort
Gold said Cisco 7513 routers have been installed at seven of the 14 megacenters slated
to receive them. The rest will go in later this year, after a break to let the megacenters
finish end-of-fiscal-year processing.
Gold said his team will decide during the break where to install another five Cisco
7507 routers to handle intercenter communications.
"We are trying to reduce the number of boxes we have to maintain and move to
something that supports the NIPRnet," Gold said.
This switchover is one of the largest ever from front-end processors to CIPs to connect
mainframes with TCP/IP networks.
Jim Massa, director of federal operations for Cisco, estimated the switch could save
DISA and its customers as much as $1.7 million a year in maintenance and support costs as
well as up to 10 percent on line costs.
"The return on in-vestment is almost instantaneous," Massa said.
Gold said he could not be specific about savings, because the megacenters'
configurations are changing, as is the number of megacenters.
"The numbers are hard to pin down," he said. DISA had as many as 60 front-end
processors, but that number has declined gradually. Not all the processors will be
"CIPs do not, at this point, allow us to do everything," he said. "We
can't completely eliminate front-end processors, but we can greatly reduce our dependence
on them. We've probably got an 80 percent solution."
DISA now runs 16 computing megacenters. Various proposals call for reducing that number
by half or more, but at present only one, in Sacramento, Calif., is closing. Customer work
has been brought into the centers by what Gold called drag-and-drop fashion over dedicated
lines back to each customer.
"It was quick. It got the applications into the 16 megacenters from 172 posts,
camps and stations," Gold said. "But we've got lots of boxes to maintain and
lots of software to support."
In looking for ways to economize and simplify, DISA looked at what it was doing with
front ends, Gold said. The costs' bulk was there, at an annual price tag of about $40,000
for each front-end processor's hardware and software.
Another decision driver was that the front-end processors are not year 2000-ready.
Preparing them would have required memory and software upgrades. Some processors could not
be made ready at all.
DISA has three flavors of front-end processors, from IBM Corp., NCR Corp. of Dayton,
Ohio, and Amdahl Corp. The CIP cards replacing them will connect to the host mainframes,
using either Enterprise Systems Connection channels or parallel bus-tag channel
The CIP plugs into the router, which connects to the network and supports IBM 3270
devices. Remote users access mainframe applications over the network from 3270 screens on
their PCs. Except for the fact that an IP address is needed, the change is transparent to
Because one megacenter has only Unisys Corp. equipment, which the CIPs will not
communicate with, only 14 centers are changing to routers.
Communications between megacenters, now handled over IBM Systems Network Architecture
connections, will travel via five Cisco 7507 routers with CIPs running Advanced
Peer-to-Peer Networking. The routers have Synchronous Optical Network OC-3 cards for
high-speed asynchronous transfer mode file transfers.
"We haven't done anything with those other than buy them," Gold said of the
William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.