Managing bandwidth over military computer networks is critical for modern combat operations. An experimental networking protocol may help get vital information to warfighters by tracking data and giving priority to specific users, such as a unit involved in a firefight.
The Military Networking Protocol (MNP) program is an effort by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop new techniques to improve cybersecurity, promote dynamic bandwidth allocation and create policy-based prioritization service levels at the individual and unit levels. To improve security, program engineers are working on router technologies that include strong authentication and self-configuration capabilities. Smart networks also would reduce the need for additional network support personnel and would lower life-cycle costs for managing the network.
One of the goals of the new protocol is the ability to track data across a network, from its origin to its end point. This is something that current computer systems cannot do, explains Dr. Timothy Gibson, DARPA’s MNP program manager. The program builds on a previous DARPA effort called Control Plane, which developed devices called flow routers that managed data traffic across computer networks, he adds.
Managing a variety of data flows provides administrators with a great degree of fine-tuned control over throughput and other aspects of the system. “Before, we couldn’t really manage flows,” Gibson observes. But if data flows can be managed, they can be tracked. He explains that placing identifiers into the data moving across a network also can provide full attribution down to the individual or unit level for each data stream.