Navy carefully upgrades European network management

Navy carefully upgrades European network management

BY WILLIAM JACKSON | GCN STAFF

The Navy is automating its European network management from the Mediterranean to the North Sea by monitoring performance and pushing software over a virtual private network.

'We're not completely there yet,' said Tom Reidy, deputy chief information officer for the commander in chief of U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR). 'It's been a slow go because this is new to the military.'

CINCUSNAVEUR has been installing Unicenter TNG enterprise management tools from Computer Associates International Inc. over the last two years. Navy administrators use the TNG tools to remotely manage the network and distribute software. TimeStep Secure VPN from Newbridge Networks Corp., owned by Alcatel Corp. of Paris, provides security.

'We've been very careful in the transition' to avoid interruptions in service, Reidy said. 'We're on the point of the spear.'

Despite the official caution, Reidy said he has 'been in the information technology field for 30 years, and this is one of the most beneficial concepts I've seen in a long time.'

The Navy's European command network grew piecemeal. The backbone is primarily asynchronous transfer mode over fiber cabling, whereas the inside wiring at most bases is Ethernet over copper.

The management facility in Naples is the network's main hub, with support activity in Gaeta, Italy. All told, there are eight main access points in Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece and England, 'plus a number of 'cats and dogs' all over Europe,' Reidy said.

Many segments abound

The 'cats and dogs' are not strictly part of the network, but CINCUSNAVEUR monitors performance of their links. And not all the facilities are on U.S. bases. Because of political factors and mountainous geography, there are many segments using microwave, satellite and other wireless links.

Until two years ago, the separate entities managed the CINCUSNAVEUR network with little coordination.

'We started feeling the pinch about three years ago,' Reidy said. 'We ran into a problem with finances and resources. We couldn't manage it, and we couldn't get economies of scale in buying for it.'

About 30 months ago, they began looking at enterprise management tools for automation. Unicenter TNG was chosen for its scalability.

The Navy chose the features it wanted to start with, adding new ones as needed.

TNG 'does a lot of things automatically, setting up policies and schedules,' said Allan Andersen, Computer Associates' vice president of corporate marketing. 'You only have to do the things that are exceptions.'

The wireless links on the CINCUSNAVEUR network made performance monitoring especially important, Andersen said.

'With wireless, you have to be a little more effective than with wire,' he said. 'The network has to be optimized for those types of links.'

The Navy initially used Unicenter TNG for software distribution and network discovery, later adding advanced help desk features.

Help center

'We're trying to centralize all our help desk support,' Reidy said.

The software's help desk component identifies callers and systems, shows recent changes and checks for anomalies. Help desk personnel can take control of a caller's system.

The Naples management center uses TNG to check clients for compatibility with new software before sending it out to 30,000 users, Reidy said. Software metering tracks licenses to make sure the Navy is not paying for unused licenses or using any unlicensed programs.

Now being added are Performance Neugents, artificial intelligence modules that learn the parameters of normal performance and notify administrators when problems occur.

The most important part of rolling out a management system for such a far-flung network is to take things slowly and make sure everyone understands, Reidy said.

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