DOD turns to industry for the Internet it wants

The Defense Department recognizes Version 6 of the Internet Protocols as central to its concept of network-centric warfare. But enabling a worldwide network to pass IPv6 packets is not enough to realize its goal. It requires applications and tools.

This is the job of the World Wide Consortium for the Grid.

'The DOD was taken by surprise by IPv4,' said W2COG executive director Chris Gunderson.

Commercial products developed to open technical standards helped the Internet develop in ways never envisioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DOD wanted to leverage that power for its Global Information Grid.

But 'leadership realized that DOD wasn't wired that way,' Gunderson said. 'We continue to develop the same capabilities with different vendors again and again and again. That's why [DOD] felt it needed to invest in an organization like this.'

W2COG was formed as a commercial incubator in late 2004 with $1.6 million in DOD seed money and was incorporated in June 2005. It helps the department work with academia and the private sector to develop commercial products for its own net-centric operations.

Is it too late for DOD to influence the commercial development of IPv6 for its own ends?

'Nobody is very far along in kicking the tires on it and figuring out what it can do,' Gunderson said. 'There is still plenty of time for DOD to be on the leading edge.'

W2COG still is ramping up. 'We have only now started to collect dues and get our first products on the table.'

The first product making its way through the pipeline is an ultrawideband, wall-penetrating radar device that could create a security 'bubble' for troops in the field.

When an area, building or room has been cleared of combatants, a device could be installed that would alert troops if anyone re-entered the area.

The Marine Corps Systems Command is funding testing and development of the device, which now is in the demo stage. 'By May it will be a product in the field,' Gunderson said.

W2COG in January announced a partnership with the IPv6 Forum to promote and provide resources for development and deployment of next-generation networking technologies.

'IPv6 gives us the opportunity to improve current communications capabilities, especially at the edge of the network,' where it is needed most in DOD net-centric operations, Gunderson said.

Incubators such as W2COG are helpful in developing new technologies, because established companies often are reluctant to take these risks.

'The small companies hungering at the edge are going to come up with these ideas,' Gunderson said. 'What we're providing is a place where you can fail fast and cheap,' so successful ideas can quickly be sifted out and developed.'William Jackson

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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