Guard bureau moves to ATM

When renovations forced the National Guard Bureau—the National Guard’s
liaison with the Army and Air Force—out of its Pentagon offices, the bureau’s
chief information officer took advantage of the move to install an advanced network for
1,300 employees.


“I had the chance to start from scratch,” said Maj. Steven C. Jewett, CIO in
the Office of the Chief. He replaced the old Ethernet with an asynchronous transfer mode
network built around hardware from Fore Systems Inc. of Warrendale, Pa.


Jewett wanted the LAN to support data, voice and video and to connect with the
different WANs of the Army and Air National Guards.


“ATM was a logical solution,” he said.


The bureau’s move to Jefferson Plaza 1 in Arlington, Va., is supposed to be
temporary, but Jewett planned for plenty of growing room.


“I built for a 10-year life span,” he said. That meant OC-12 backbone and
OC-3 pipes to carry data at a speed of 155 Mbps to desktop PCs. Part of the reason for
such high bandwidth to the desktop PCs was to satisfy future requirements, and part was
simply the economics of network interface cards.


“I ordered [enough] to bring everybody up on ATM. I needed all new NICs,”
Jewett said. “I was able to negotiate a price on the 155-megabit cards.”


The new headquarters for the first time colocates the offices of the directors of the
Air and Army National Guards. Prior to the move, the Army director had an office at a
readiness center in Arlington, and the Air director had an office at Andrews Air Force
Base, Md.


The separate readiness centers and their staffs are still in operation, but the
directors now will work in the same facility with the National Guard chief, Lt. Gen.
Russell Davis.


Timing for the move was tight. The bureau’s Digital Equipment Corp. Alpha server
at the Pentagon had to hand over its workload to a new ProLiant 7000 server and two
ProLiant 6000s from Compaq Computer Corp., and a Dell Computer Corp. PowerEdge 6100, on
the same day the moving trucks began pulling up.


“I had exactly zero burn-in days,” Jewett said.


The move began August 7. It went smoothly enough that after less than two weeks, Jewett
could take a couple of days off to go fishing. For a new network to come up that soon,
“it had to be an open system,” Jewett said.


The new network has interfaces to the Army National Guard’s nationwide Synchronous
Optical Network and its videoconferencing systems from Bay Networks Inc. of Santa Clara,
Calif., and to the Air National Guard’s new Ethernet, which runs a distance-learning
system from PictureTel Corp. of Andover, Mass.


The old Ethernet hubs have been replaced by ForeRunner ASX-1000 ATM backbone switches
at the core. ForeRunnerE-155 ATM Workgroup switches provide workgroup connectivity, and a
ForeRunner ASX-200BX switch serves as the WAN interface. A ForeRunner ASN-9000 ATM
Services Node hosts LAN emulation services and legacy routing applications.


The ATM network came in at less than the cost of a new Ethernet, Jewett said. The key
to affordability was the price of the 1,300 NICs.


“I kept saying, I’m almost there, but I can’t afford the NICs,”
Jewett said. They usually cost about $400 each, he added, but he got them for a lot less.
Just how much less, Fore Systems asked him not to say, Jewett said.


Next, he plans to install a videoconferencing system from CCC Inc. of New York. The
final phase will add voice service to the ATM network.


“I ran into a few desktop units that were not upgradeable to handle ATM,” he
said, so he replaced about a dozen PCs. “The only other issue we had was getting over
the fear” among support staff accustomed to working with Ethernet.


“It went great,” Jewett said. When he left to go fishing, there were only 10
support tickets outstanding, he said. 

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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