DISA moves ahead with VOIP
- By Dawn S. Onley
- Nov 17, 2004
'The benefits of a converged network are that we can significantly downsize the deployable communications packages that support the warfighters,' which makes it easier to transport.
'David Mihelcic, DISA chief technology officer
Warfighters in Iraq are making phone calls over the Internet.
A pilot program, run for the past several months by Central Command and the Special Operations Command, converts telephone communications to voice over IP calls.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is supporting the technology. The agency has tested VOIP in other applications and plans to expand its use to take advantage of its benefits, simplifying the communications infrastructure and improving data management.
David M. Mihelcic, chief technology officer for DISA, said the agency has been examining VOIP technology for more than three years and recently outlined how it would move to converged IP voice, video and data networks.
Mihelcic said the success of several VOIP pilots, including the one in Iraq and another at one of DISA's buildings in Arlington, Va., drove the agency to study the feasibility of moving to converged networks.
Mihelcic said the VOIP system in Iraq is smaller than conventional military communications infrastructures. 'The benefits of a converged network are that we can significantly downsize the deployable communications packages that support the warfighters,' which makes it easier to transport, he said. 'In addition, this approach will help us move into an environment where we can dynamically manage bandwidth based on the services required by the deployed warfighter.'
But deploying VOIP also poses such security challenges as data confidentiality, integrity and protection against denial of service, Mihelcic said.
At a recent conference, Joseph Boyd, DISA's chief of the Center for Network Services, also said the agency has some security concerns about VOIP.
'DISA is moving towards IP convergency, but ever so cautiously,' he said. 'Our big concern is the denial-of-services aspects.'
But Boyd predicted some networks'including those carrying sensitive information about nuclear capabilities'would not switch to VOIP.
DISA's Joint Interoperability Test Command in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., has ap- proved VOIP PBX systems developed by Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., and switches and routing gateways from Nortel Networks Ltd. Both have passed interoperability certification and security ac-creditation, allowing DOD agencies to use them.
Mihelcic said DISA conducted a comprehensive review over the summer of VOIP technology to be included in the DISA IP Convergence Master Plan next year. The plan will include technical, programmatic information on IP services.
'IP will be the primary means of communication for warfighters, business and intelligence information exchange,' Mihelcic said. The services also will use other means to provide redundancy and security for vital communications.
DOD is moving forward with the development of the Global Information Grid, a worldwide Defense Department network using IP.
The grid will be developed over the next decade as a six-layered network with both classified and unclassified components.
The six layers of the grid will be fiber, wireless and satellite communications; DOD's Net-Centric Enterprise Solutions suite of applications; an information assurance layer, and a portfolio of experimental pilot programs. Each will be added as completed over the next seven to 10 years, according to DOD's plans.