Security is federal telecom focus

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Age: 51

Residence: Vienna, Va.

Last book read: The Wild Blue by Stephen E. Ambrose

Leisure activities: Golf, jogging

Best job: CTO

Dream job: Golf pro

Mark Wegleitner, chief technology officer, Verizon

As chief technology officer of Verizon Communications Inc., Mark Wegleitner oversees the federal network systems group, which provides services to government. He is responsible for technology assessment, network architecture, platform development and laboratory infrastructure for the company's wireline business.

Verizon is the corporate entity formed by the 2000 merger of GTE Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp. Wegleitner was vice president of technology and engineering for Bell Atlantic network services. Before that, he was the network group's CTO.

Wegleitner began his career in 1972 at Bell Laboratories, where he worked on local switching systems and held a number of management positions.

He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1972 from St. John's University and a master's in electrical engineering and computer science in 1974 from the University of California at Berkeley.

GCN senior editor William Jackson interviewed Wegleitner by telephone.

GCN: How big a part of your division's business is federal?

WEGLEITNER: We have some commercial customers, but by and large we focus on the federal government.

It's part of the larger picture for Verizon Communications Inc. We have our fundamental local exchange carrier service, branching out into long distance where we've been able to in former Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. territories.

The local exchange carrier provides basic facilities and switching and data networking to the federal government. The federal network systems group takes it up a notch toward the application layer and does WAN engineering and operations. We have another unit, BBN Technologies, which does high-end research, also largely for the federal government.

GCN: Are your government customers asking for different things since Sept. 11?

WEGLEITNER: You can almost talk pre- and post-Sept. 11. The technologies we find the federal government looking for are fundamental broadband transport, routing, a fair amount of voice switching and management.

Post-Sept. 11, there is an emphasis on security and disaster recovery. The security aspects of the communications business have moved up several notches in the interest of homeland defense.

FNS does consulting--penetration evaluations, engineering services, installation and setup, a bit of firewall management. We have a software product called NetFacade that lets you detect an intrusion, or at least understand what is drawing the intruder's interest. We also have some high-end intellectual property and research in things like cryptography and public-key infrastructure.

GCN: How does NetFacade work?

WEGLEITNER: It sits on the network and simulates a host. From the inquiries you receive on the Internet, you can determine whether you have a potential intruder and what interest that intruder might have in parts of your network.

You monitor inquiries coming in from the hacker's location and can understand the intent of the intrusion and also, with a little bit of analysis, home in on the origin.

GCN: There don't seem to be many commercial products doing that. Is there something tricky about implementing it?

WEGLEITNER: I don't think there is anything particularly tricky about it. We've had a fair amount of success in the implementations that we've used, both internally and externally.

GCN: How does government differ from your commercial market?

WEGLEITNER: In some ways they are different, in some ways the same. We see the same kind of technological evolution in the federal government that we see as a local exchange carrier in the commercial market.

There are four key technology areas: the optical transport network; the conversion of circuit to packet technology and virtual private networking; broadband access by fiber, copper or wireless; and the migration to voice over IP or voice over asynchronous transfer mode in a softswitch environment.

I would say the government market shares all these areas with the commercial market, and in some cases the government is pushing the frontiers a little harder.

We have some work going on with high-end research arms of the government in the area of optics in the transport environment, which preceded by several years the appearance of high-capacity wavelength-division multiplexing systems in the commercial market.

GCN: High-end research aside, is the government a more aggressive consumer of technology?

WEGLEITNER: I guess I consider the government as on a flattened bell curve. In some cases, there are high-end activities that go beyond what we see in the commercial market. In other cases, we'll see network technology that is a little aged. There's almost one of everything out there.

GCN: Verizon this year announced the country's first third-generation network. What kind of demand do you expect?

WEGLEITNER: Verizon Wireless implemented that. Our responsibilities in FNS are on the wireline side, so I would be offering more a personal opinion than a company position. But certainly what we are looking for is anytime, anyplace access.

We'd all like to get the same kind of experience through a personal digital assistant or a cell phone or whatever untethered device. I think we're only seeing the beginning of 3G, and it's going to move from its current few hundred kilobits per second into the megabit range within the next year or so.

GCN: Does that mean the traditional division between wireline and wireless is likely to diminish or even go away completely?

WEGLEITNER: Absolutely. The 3G experience is only one instance.
Another example where you will see the integration of wireline and wireless is implementation of IEEE 802.11 LANs in a premises environment, where you can move from fixed to portable to mobile. You could wire a building with 802.11 LANs and move from one floor to another with your notebook PC and have the same access at a broadband rate as if you were physically connected to the LAN.

Another way we see the two integrating is in broadband fixed wireless. For example, we could use fixed wireless to put a broadband channel into a greater number of buildings to complement wireline digital subscriber line service.

GCN: The government has not adopted voice over IP widely. Why is that?

WEGLEITNER: I think the federal government and the commercial market are pretty much in lockstep on this. We are seeing greater interest every year. But there are constraints as we wait for IP quality-of-service capabilities. There is a need for switching equipment, which is improving every year, and for the greater number of capabilities people can get through conventional telephony.

Conventional telephony sets a pretty high bar in terms of feature sets and voice quality, and people don't want to take a step backward as they migrate to IP. We need a rich feature set for the government and the enterprise marketplace.

GCN: What other new technologies are on the way?

WEGLEITNER: A couple of initiatives stand out. One is optical transport and the ability to capitalize on wave-division multiplexing, not only for capacity reinforcement but as a service offering itself. A wavelength-based service would make transport transparent for any number of services--Sonet or Gigabit Ethernet.

Gigabit Ethernet offers a new Layer 2 switching capability for transparent LAN interconnection. That's gaining a lot of interest among our enterprise and federal customers.

The economics of decades of development of Ethernet devices created a price point that makes it attractive for integration.

Moving into the access environment, we are looking at a variety of fiber technologies to increase bandwidth in the loop.

Softswitching is moving us away from the monolithic switching technology of the voice environment into a distributed environment of gateways, controllers, and application servers or call managers.

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