The military is finding that voice over Internet protocol is an effective technology for secure collaboration and information sharing on converged networks-those that combine voice, video and data. Defense organizations are migrating from the isolated, point-to-point communications models of the past toward a more agile, networked and collaborative environment. At the same time, they are replacing their proprietary communications solutions with more interoperable systems based on open standards.
Many of the complex and often tediously precise tasks for computer and telecommunications planners and administrators can now be delegated to automation software designed to graphically represent architectures. The software eliminates many of the network maintenance frustrations by presenting information in a basic diagram with embedded data accessible in multiple levels beneath the illustrations.
Now that information service providers are rushing to provide global high-speed connectivity, differences of opinion have emerged about which type of protocol will best link diverse users. The potential for a dramatic shift in network methodology and the inability to predict what the future communications protocol of choice will be have left developers in a quandary.
The network urban landscape is under construction. And while T-1 lines and Ethernet may deliver the power, they are also becoming the lines of communication between cyberbuildings that host fully equipped accommodations for meetings, classes and seminars.
The Internet's promise of providing low-cost electronic commerce and information exchange in reality is bringing a whole new set of obstacles to corporations that are embracing these seemingly broad opportunities. These obstacles, apart from conventional logistics snags, involve rising costs, corporate intrigue and mushrooming marketing budgets.
The U.S. government is focusing on contingency planning to deal with potential malfunctions that could threaten operations at the onset of 2000. Agencies have been tasked with developing business continuity and contingency plans, many of which were tested this fall for year 2000 durability. Even organizations that are believed to be 100 percent compliant are establishing procedures to ensure that their core business procedures are not halted unexpectedly. This includes creating backup plans and determining key decision makers in the event of an operation shutdown.
Networking technology currently under development will allow users to monitor and operate sensors from a single, central, distant location. In tactical scenarios, this capability will reduce the need to send soldiers into the field to check or activate sensors. The system features an optional radio communication module that enables it to operate much like a wide area network, and ease of installation and portability make it a candidate for use in military training exercises.
Internet access may soon be as close as the nearest electrical outlet. New power-line networking technology allows voice, data and video signals to travel through standard electrical lines, turning building or campus electrical grids into ready-made communications pathways. Connected by devices similar to modems that are plugged into wall sockets, computers and smart appliances can be linked together or to existing fiber optic lines without extensive installation costs.
U.S. Army communications facilities in Okinawa, Japan, are using an automated alarm management system to monitor legacy equipment that is not interoperable. Consisting of an easily installed remote unit and management software, the system permits administrators to control multiple proprietary devices from a single on-screen interface.