Military satellite networks get boost

Agencies that rely on satellite communications'such as the
Homeland Security and Defense departments and the intelligence
community'can take advantage of new technology to improve
application performance.

Riverbed Technology has announced that its Steelhead appliances
now support the U.S. military's open standard Space
Communication Protocol Standard (SCPS) to enhance communications
over satellite networks.

'SCPS [pronounced 'skips'] is heavily used by
military and intelligence community,' said Bill Hartwell,
general manager and senior director of Federal Markets Divisions at
Riverbed. 'We are now adhering to protocol transport
standards that the DoD community follows.'

Originally developed jointly by NASA and DOD's Space
Command, SCPS is a variation of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
designed to cope with the latency, packet loss and interference
inherent in satellite and wireless networks frequently used in
military applications. The SCPS protocol suite provides support for
transmission control, file transfer and security.

The SCPS-enabled Steelhead appliances integrate Global
Protocol's SkipWare SCPS technology with existing Riverbed
application acceleration technology to provide a single solution.
This removes the need for agencies to deploy multiple devices
inline together, which complicates their networks and increases
operational support requirements and cost.

'SCPS on its own doesn't bring application
acceleration to the table,' continued Hartwell. 'A
single solution that offers SCPS with application-level
acceleration is very powerful.'

Military organizations have found that most commercial WAN
optimization appliances lack support for SCPS, while SCPS-compliant
devices tend to be limited in the more advanced application
acceleration techniques used by vendors such as Riverbed.

The military and intelligence community often make use of
satellite technology because of its ability to support their mobile
operations, ad hoc and temporary communications needs anywhere in
the world. Satellite services are prone to transmission degradation
because of signal interference, weather ('rain fade')
and the packet latency associated with the long path from Earth to
the satellite and back. The TCP protocol, which comprises roughly
80 percent of Internet Protocol traffic, contains measures that
inadvertently interpret excessive latency as congestion and packet
loss, and trigger the application to back off on its transmission,
reducing link throughput.

'When you get into non-terrestrial communication, on a
ship or overseas, challenges exist. Satellite communications can
get affected by weather and other factors,' said

Other agencies may see opportunities to use the technology. For
example, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has an
extensive network that makes use of satellite services to cover its
weather-related applications deployed globally. The Coast
Guard's mission has very little land base and is usually in
remote areas, relying on satellite service for network
connectivity. These types of agencies may see a fit for the
SCPS-enabled Riverbed appliances in their networks.

About the Author

Dan Campbell is a freelance writer with Government Computer News and the president of Millennia Systems Inc.

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