Sponsored by Nokia
Next generation C4ISR requires transport network automation
Bellridge Pty Limited is an Australian company that has been supporting organisations throughout the pacific with enterprise-wide security solutions for almost twenty years. Our experience with a range of consultants and cisos from government departments, publically traded giants and emerging enterprise; has allowed us to develop a suite of software and hardware applications to tackle the ever-changing, always sophisticated security technology landscape.
Along with AI, cloud and cybersecurity, C3 (command, control and communication) has been identified as one of the four priorities of the 2019 Digital Modernization Strategy for the US Department of Defense. The priority for C3 is to develop “a more secure, coordinated, seamless, transparent and cost-effective IT architecture that transforms data into actionable information and ensures dependable mission execution in the face of a persistent cyber threat.”
Cloud infrastructure is the key to defense digitization
In order to modernize the defense wide-area network (WAN), which is a key part of this new IT architecture, defense forces must modernize and automate their WAN to move data at greater speeds and scale. This new WAN will need several integrated layers: a fiber optic and microwave transport layer to do the heavy lifting over long distances, IP/MPLS at the routing layer because of its resiliency and multiservice support and, finally, 5G to provide the air interface for mobile communications, as well as a cloud-based virtual, software-defined network core that is extremely adaptable and scalable.
One of the most important aspects of 5G’s cloud-native architecture is its ability to provide “slices” for specific users and their applications on demand. Much like a virtual private network (VPN), a 5G slice guarantee specified levels of QoS and absolute security from adjacent slices. Slices can be quickly created and deleted as missions are launched and completed, freeing physical network resources for other missions or applications.
5G slices are ideal for military uses, where it is important to keep traffic associated with specific classifications and security clearances separate. Each slice can be configured dynamically to support whatever operational requirements the use case requires, from delay-sensitive virtual reality and drone control communications, to IoT sensors and augmented reality applications.
The performance parameters of a 5G slice need to be enforced from end to end. It is no good if the 5G cloud core commits resources for a high-speed augmented reality application, if the underlying IP/MPLS and optical transport layers don’t provide the necessary resources to support it. But in order for this to happen seamlessly on demand, there needs to be a lot of automation in the network. With todays’ IP/MPLS VPN technology, an end-to-end 5G slice would take hours or even days to configure manually.
The mechanisms by which this is done are conceptually simple. At the 5G cloud level, personnel might, for instance, launch the augmented reality application from their device. This would trigger a network policy that has been templated previously by IT personnel. This is called an ‘intent’, as in the sense of expressing a desire that the underlying network supply the necessary resources to run the augmented reality application. A software network ‘controller’ and a virtual resource ‘orchestrator’ translate the intent into automated routines to ensure that the layers from the cloud down to transport automatically configure themselves appropriately in line with the augmented reality policy intent.
Although this sounds relatively simple, the problem is that until recently, these various layers of the network operated separately. The transport layer, in particular, was architected to move very large streams of data, completely unaware of the specific applications it was carrying — much in the same way that a cargo plane crew didn’t used to know the destination or even content that was in the various pallets in its hold (of course, this has also changed).
In 2020, Nokia rolled out the world’s first automated 4G/5G network slicing within RAN, transport and core domains, including new network management, controller and orchestration capabilities. This was the result of nearly a decade of work by Nokia to build a robust and complete end-to-end portfolio for 4G/5G networking. Nokia is a world leader simultaneously in network service management, cloud data networks, 5G networks, IP/MPLS and optical and microwave technologies. Thus, it has the rare ability to engineer end-to-end solutions such as automated end-to-end network slicing.
As defense forces modernize to strengthen C3 and embrace cloud and AI for data-informed, data-driven decisions, Nokia is a strategic partner that can ensure DoD’s Digital Modernization Strategy meets its goals, providing the superior digital agility, speed and scale required by critical defense applications. Given the complexity of today’s multi-layer and multiservice networks, WAN automation will be essential to provide the additional capabilities that advanced defense applications will need. It will strengthen defense competitiveness and resilience in the face of external threats, as well as boost efficiencies and effectiveness in daily operations.
Read our white paper to learn more about automating the WAN for digital defense modernization.
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