Navy command integrates phone, PC systems

Navy command integrates phone, PC systems

Naval Sea Systems Command shifts to voice over IP platform as part of move to new headquarters facility at Washington Navy Yard

BY MERRY MAYER | SPECIAL TO GCN

Personnel at the Naval Sea Systems Command will have a cutting-edge phone system when they complete the move to their new headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard this year.

The voice over IP system from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., lets phones and computers connect to one switch but still operate on separate LANs, said Don James, a senior network engineer and project manager for Anteon Corp. of Fairfax, Va. Anteon is the designer of the system.

With phones and computers integrated, users can access an up-to-the-minute directory through their phones without turning on their desktop PCs. When on the road, they can check voice mail using notebook PCs and save the cost of a telephone call.

When awaiting an important call, users can unplug their phones and take them into a conference room, as the intelligent phone lets the computer know its new location.

'The doctors on the hospital ships are going nuts over this. They love it,' said John Bourdon, chief engineer in the Office of the Chief Information Officer at NAVSEA.

It also saves money. When NAVSEA is moving personnel from one desk to another, rewiring is not required. Instead of using specialists, less expensive staff can do the job, Bourdon said.


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size="2" color="#FF0000">'The doctors on the hospital ships are going nuts over this. They love it,' said John Bourdon, chief engineer in the Office of the Chief Information Officer at NAVSEA.

NAVSEA engineers chose the Cisco product because it is more advanced and scalable than its competitors', Bourdon said. More importantly, it was the only product that let the office maintain separate LANs for phones and computers, he said.

This last point was critical because the phone system exists in a global environment, but the computer system cannot for security reasons, James said.

What's under the hood

The system runs on eight Compaq Computer Corp. servers configured by Cisco. The units are 733-MHz Pentium III Cisco Media Convergence 7835 servers that are expandable to 4G of synchronous dynamic RAM and have 256K of Level 2 cache. All the servers run Microsoft Windows NT.

Seven of the servers run Cisco's CallManager call processing software. The eighth server is what the engineers call a 'glass house,' Bourdon said. It holds the master database and pushes data down to the seven servers. 'It is protected and isn't asked to do anything else,' Bourdon said.

The seven servers running the system are redundant, so there isn't a problem if one or more of them fail, Bourdon said. There are seven to allow for load balancing and load sharing. 'They have pretty robust reliability,' he said.
The phones are Cisco 7960 IP telephones with LCD screens. 'They are a little grainy,' Bourdon said of the screens, but they are useful if someone wants to show a graph during a conference call.

Voice mail uses an NT-compatible communications server application, Unity from Active Voice Corp. of Seattle, that resides on a pair of Dell Computer Corp. servers.

Both e-mail and voice mail messages are stored in Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5. As with e-mail, voice mail messages appear in users' Microsoft Outlook inboxes. Once a message has been listened to, it is marked as read in the Outlook inbox.

Voice mail messages can be listened to either on the phone or through the speakers on a user's PC. Either way, both the phone and PC register the action.

The system is password-protected. The servers sit behind a firewall, and there is a tight access control list, Bourdon said.

The system's 4,100 phones and 6,000 to 7,000 computer devices are connected via a fiber Ethernet backbone.

Mostly copper

About 90 percent of the cabling is Category 6 twisted-pair copper. The other 10 percent is multimode fiber cable. Switches are Cisco Catalyst 6000s.

NAVSEA used Anteon because the company already was acting as general senior engineer for all systems issues, Bourdon said.

NAVSEA must be out of its old offices in Arlington, Va., by July. The first NAVSEA personnel began to move to the new site last month.

The infrastructure is already in place; the building is still being built around it, Bourdon said. About 1,300 miles of cable have already been laid, he added.

Training to use the new communications network will most likely be part of the orientation package, he said.

The process has gone smoothly, considering that NAVSEA was adding the technology to its plan as it was being developed, Bourdon said.

'So far, everything that was promised has come true,' he added, but 'it was pretty shaky in the beginning.'

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