New Pentagon offices get Gig-E

Weeks after the attack, many military personnel had no access to their files or e-mail.

'DOD's John Osterholz

Olivier Douliery

Most of the workers displaced by the terrorist attack at the Pentagon a year ago have moved back into new offices with a more sophisticated IT infrastructure than they had before.

The Pentagon Renovation Office has overseen an upgrade of the IT infrastructure from asynchronous transfer mode to Gigabit Ethernet, said Sajeel Ahmed, director of engineering for Defense Department's Information Systems Engineering Command.

The telecommunications shift added more switches to ensure greater connectivity in the Pentagon and outside the building, Ahmed said. Gigabit Ethernet also is easier to install and simpler for network technicians to maintain, he added.

'When ATM was installed five years back, that was the technology of the day, and now the industry has shifted to Gig-E for LANs,' Ahmed said. 'ATM is a lot more complex to install and manage and does not provide flexibility and scalability.'

Defense officials also have sought to install an enterprise infrastructure, leaving behind the separate systems loops within each military agency that couldn't exchange data easily. Most of the Pentagon's systems were built piecemeal over six decades, Defense officials said.

The new infrastructure also will make the Pentagon workspace less cramped.

New and old

Before the attacks, new IT equipment such as wiring and switches were laid on top of old technology, said officials from General Dynamics Corp., the lead contractor for the IT renovation.

'There is no structure to the cabling,' said Dave Gabel, the company's project manager for the Wedge 1 renovation. 'We had an IT backbone that had to be totally replaced. There were between 15 to 30 telephone closets that also had to be replaced.'

Since 1942, the Pentagon has accumulated more than 100,000 miles of copper and fiber cable. In the rebuilt wedge, that cable has been replaced with fiber-optic cable to connect high-speed Gigabit Ethernet networks. In addition to greater throughput, the new technology offers quicker recovery in case of another IT outage, Ahmed said.

'Gigabit Ethernet technology allows us to rebuild the network a lot more quickly,' he said.
The work on the Pentagon IT infrastructure began before last year's attacks, but it gained momentum afterward, Ahmed said, because Defense officials decided they needed to beef up the infrastructure while improving connectivity.

The airliner that crashed into the Pentagon temporarily took out one of two major communications lines in the building. In the days and weeks after the attack, military personnel relocated to other federal buildings, but many had no access to their data files or e-mail accounts, said John Osterholz, director of architecture and interoperability in the Defense Department's CIO office.

Damaged tapes

Even getting to data backup tapes proved to be a daunting task, said Rich Fitzharris, DOD's IT director for the renovation. IT workers were faced with piles of dust and debris, smoke damage, dangling cables and destroyed PCs.

'The biggest thing was removing all of the active electronic equipment and determining the damage,' Fitzharris said. 'We shipped a lot of equipment back to the companies and had them clean routers and switches.'

The revamped Pentagon will house more than 25,000 people. DOD plans to spend more than $1.1 billion on the project, to be completed by 2014.

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