Navy refines its IT-21 plans







SAN DIEGO—The Navy has drafted a message that will further define the standards
for its Information Technology for the 21st Century initiative.


To confirm its support for the IT-21 program, the Navy will spend $298.9 million this
fiscal year and $476.9 million in 2000 to install IT-21 systems aboard ships, Navy
officials said.


To keep IT-21 policies up-to-date, the Office of the Navy’s Chief Information
Officer and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command were scheduled to release the new
initiative message. It is intended to update the interim IT-21 hardware and software
implementation specifications laid out in a March 1997 message from the Pacific and
Atlantic fleets.


“That standards message has to evolve and change with technology,” said Rear
Adm. John Gauss, SPAWAR’s commander, at the Navy’s recent Connecting Technology
Fall ’98 conference.


Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 will still be the standard fleet network operating
system as outlined in the 1997 message, Gauss said. But the Navy will shift to Windows
2000, formerly known as Windows NT 5.0, when it becomes available from Microsoft, he said.


Despite the increasing capabilities provided by NT, Unix has secured its place within
the IT-21 architecture on high-end, high-performance servers, Gauss said.


“If you look at where the technology is today and what the forecasts are, it will
take another five years for NT servers to match Unix servers for all the things that only
mainframes once brought to the table,” he said.


Another area of technology addressed by the new IT-21 message will be enterprise
management software solutions, Gauss said. The Navy is considering products from Computer
Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Tivoli Systems Inc. of Austin,
Texas.


“As distasteful as it may be, we may have to standardize on certain products
because network management is something that will cross corporate enclaves within the
Navy,” Gauss said.


He also suggested that the message will include strong requirements on security to
ensure that products are compliant with the Defense Department’s public-key
infrastructure requirements.


To date, there are only two product suites that are PKI-compliant—those from
Netscape Communications Corp. and Microsoft Corp., Gauss said. But he said he expects
Lotus Development Corp. products to reach compliance very soon.


As to the systems implementations, the Navy, in part, will modernize its fleets with
high-speed asynchronous transfer mode LANs. The service has installed IT-21 LANs on the
USS Enterprise and USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle groups, as well as USS Belleau Wood and
USS Nassau amphibious-ready groups.


The USS John Stennis carrier battle group and the USS Bonhomme Richard amphibious-ready
group are next in line for IT-21 installations.


“IT-21 is here. It’s up and running in the fleet. No longer is it just a
concept,” said Rear Adm. Richard Mayo, the Navy’s deputy director for space,
information warfare, command and control.


SPAWAR last month awarded Electronic Data Systems Corp. a delivery order under the
company’s PC LAN+ contract to install ATM LANs on Navy carrier battle groups and
amphibious-ready groups this year. EDS is providing Navy ships with ATM switches from
Xylan Corp. of Calabasas, Calif.


To date, the Navy has used only Xylan switches for its shipboard IT-21 LANs even though
ATM and Fast Ethernet switches from Bay Networks Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., Cisco
Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara outperformed Xylan in Navy
IT-21 certification tests.


The installation and logistics support tail, such as spare parts and training, requires
standardization on these ships, Gauss said.


But SPAWAR’s decision to go with Xylan was not a foregone conclusion, he said.


“We were having some serious problems making the Xylan-switched ATM backbone work
correctly on our ships, and in August it wasn’t clear to me that we would ever get it
to work,” he said.


The software problems with the Xylan switches were resolved through a company-supplied
upgrade, Gauss said. In the end, with Xylan’s performance no longer an issue, cost
became a major consideration for SPAWAR, he said.


“If I was outraged with the price of Xylan, I was shocked to see what the prices
were for the alternatives,” Gauss said. Xylan may not be the most advanced solution
or the market-dominant leader, he added, but it meets Navy requirements.  

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