The next step in the transformation of the U.S. Defense Department systems architecture will be networks defined by software instead of by hardware. Software-based network controls will extend the scope of what currently is limited only to data center operations.
Traditionally, switches and routers have been set separately from what was managed as computing inside the data center. Special-purpose devices were installed to solve specific problems of network management. This resulted in complexity and inflexibility. For example, to change networking data centers, operators had to reconfigure switches, routers, firewalls or Web authentication portals. This required updating virtual local area networks, quality-of-service settings and protocol-based tables with dedicated software tools. Network topology, as well as different software versions, had to be taken into account. Consequently, the networks remained relatively static because operators sought to minimize the risk of service disruption from hardware changes.
Enterprises today operate multiple Internet protocol networks for voice, data, sensor inputs and video. While existing networks can provide custom-made service levels for individual applications, the provisioning of network resources largely is manual. Operators configure each vendor’s equipment and adjust parameters, such as bandwidth, on a per-session, per-application basis. Because of the static nature, networks cannot adapt to changing traffic, application and user demands. With an estimated 15,000 networks in place, the Defense Department has difficulty managing such a proliferation of options.