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Strong Communications Make Our Military Battlefield Ready

Level 12

By Joe Kim, SolarWinds Chief Technology Officer

At our recent user group meeting in Washington, D.C., I had conversations with some of our Army customers, which reminded me of a blog written last year by our former Chief Information Officer, Joel Dolisy. It is exciting that our software can support their mission.

No one needs reliable connectivity more than the nation’s armed forces, especially during the heat of battle. But reliable connectivity often can be hampered by a hidden enemy: latency and bandwidth concerns.

The military heavily relies on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for calls, web conferencing, high-definition video sharing, and other bandwidth-heavy applications. While this might sound more like the communication tool for a business boardroom, it is equally applicable within the military, and compromised systems come with potentially life-altering consequences.

Use of these highly necessary communication tools can dramatically strain even the most robust communications systems. As such, Defense Department IT managers must leverage their efficacy while helping to ensure that colleagues remain in constant contact with minimal lag, stuttering, or disconnection.

How can IT administrators and those in the field make sure their networks supply crucial connectivity to meet the needs of soldiers and commanders? How can they guarantee reliable data and communications anytime, anywhere?

We can look to the U.S. Army, which successfully deployed software and solutions that meet today’s essential need to remain connected. The Army’s recruiting message is “Army Strong.” Attaining that strength requires troops be battle-ready the world over. Today, that also means maintaining uninterrupted communications and deploying technology that can monitor, analyze, and reduce—if not eliminate—network outages.

The Army developed Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) to provide secure and reliable communications of all forms—voice, video, and data—from any location, at any time. The network is built on software that helps the Army manage networks in a number of ways, yet creates seamless and smooth communications.

Network bandwidth analysis solutions help to ensure optimal network performance for even the most bandwidth-intense applications. Performance monitors identify potential performance issues that managers can rectify quickly before the problems interfere with communications or cause outages. Configuration management lets Army IT personnel easily manage multiple configurations for different routers and switches to help to ensure communication remains unimpeded. Traffic analysis maintains optimal network and bandwidth usage. The Army has also deployed solutions to monitor the quality of VoIP calls and WIN-T wide area network (WAN) performance, and troubleshoot issues through access to detailed call records.

A Communications Blueprint

In short, the organization is working hard to ensure that warfighters and others securely remain in touch at all times. After all, the heat of battle is when the need for communications is greatest, and helping to ensure that troops stay connected from the front lines and the command post is an absolute must.

Through WIN-T and supporting technologies, the Army laid out a communications blueprint that other defense organizations can—and should—emulate. It has created a solution that enables soldiers to maintain constant voice, video, and data communications, even when in remote and challenging spots and while on the move. It’s an impressive feat very much essential to today’s always-on warfighter.

Find the full article on Signal.

21 Comments
Jfrazier
Level 18

I get it...but at the same time, troops and units need to be able to operate without being connected all the time otherwise when things drop out, and they do, you can't depend on that crutch.

If you flood an area with enough RF noise it will hamper even a digital signal.....

shuckyshark
Level 13

interesting...maybe someone should develop communication methods based on light waves...

Jfrazier
Level 18

they have it...via laser.  It is direct line of sight only unless you are using fiber optic cable.

shuckyshark
Level 13

I should have said "better communication based on light waves"... line of sight is not very helpful...and lasers can be refracted by particles such as rain, clouds, fog, etc.

Jfrazier
Level 18

exactly...

mprobus
Level 13

Not direclty related to the article itself, but it's kinda funny that just yesterday my 11 year old and I were talking about communications.  He made mention to wishing they would come up with something better than the current cell tower technology so we don't have to worry about dropped calls / no internet. In the conversation, the requirements of having access to communications while on the battle field came up.

vinay.by
Level 16

Nice

tallyrich
Level 15

Very good article. Communications is very important, but especially the military must have multiple methods/channels to prevent disruption of "services."

ecklerwr1
Level 19

Interesting... my company General Dynamics Mission Systems makes Win-T!  And CPOF, and TIGR which work together.  We depend on many Orion tools.  Bandwidth is extremely important in contested environments.  Nothing is more important than mission success so the network needs to work in the worst and most tough environments.

WIN-T's Soldier Network Extension: Simplifying the Network, Reducing the Burden - YouTube

The Soldier's Network: The Future of U.S. Army Tactical Communications - YouTube

Soldier works on WIN-T Increment 1 equipment during the NIE 11.1

soldier-works-on-win-t-increment-1-equipment-during-the-nie-11-11.jpg

Command Post of the Future (CPOF)

cpof1a-e1459179036888-1024x5471.jpg

Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR)

tigr_screen-11.jpg

and thanks to MUOS being connected can happen from Anywhere!!!

muos_new-cropped.jpg

muos-antennas-2.jpg

So even the guys in the field can reach out from anywhere almost Pole to Pole!

gd_manpack_radio_-_arctic_circle_tests__2_-cropped.jpg

You really hit on my wheelhouse today shidoshi1000

ecklerwr1
Level 19

That's the main goal Richard!

rschroeder
Level 21

Do you remember the early days of Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom when unsecured 802.11b was in use by our side on the battlefield?

The opposition was able to access it and use it to gather intel against our side--until more encryption was invented and deployed.  It would be sad to see the statistics of that "W.E.P." protection that wasn't protecting anyone.

I suspect we'll always be chasing that security & encryption solution around--it's important to not deploy insecure or insufficiently secured solutions in military, business, and personal communications.

But knowing the risks, people still buy & connect IOT devices to their home networks, with default security settings (or NO security settings).

Perhaps we're not the students of history we should be . . .

Wouldn't it be amazing if we spent equivalents amounts of funds on military and prevention?  By prevention, I'm thinking:

  • Education for all parties on all sides
  • Good nutrition for all
  • Clean water for everyone
  • Safe environments for everyone as they grow
  • Removing ancient grudges so they're not handed down to the next generation
  • Ensuring businesses and governments work ethically and fairly
  • Teaching altruism as a goal, instead of greed

Honestly, if you take away folks' incentive to be bad, you've reduced your need to spend on securing network bandwidth everywhere.  Sure, it's a pipe dream.  But 'You've got to have a dream.  If you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream-come-true?"  (Bloody Mary, South Pacific)

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goodzhere
Level 14

I agree.  In very remote locations and certain terrain, this is not feasible.  IF there is connectivity, via satellite or some other means, it is not very reliable, and surely will NOT support the infrastructure needed to support a decent size unit.  That is fact, as there are many factors that can cause connectivity issues.  Interference issues should not bring our troop communications to a halt, if there are relying on this communication method.  Just saying...

goodzhere
Level 14

This is great and good to have, but we are also opening the door to cause a dependency.  This dependency is not necessarily a good thing.  We should not be relying solely on technology, as that is exactly what our enemies will attack to cripple us.  It is just common battlefield strategy.  Communication is almost always the first target, or it is most certainly at the top of the list.  AND advertising communication methods is not a very good idea either.  I have yet to figure out why we always like to advertise what we have and what we can do.

ecklerwr1
Level 19

Another HUGE recent technological development is allowing our weapons, planes, and vehicles to function in a GPS contested environment.  Also our new GPS constellation that is almost ready to go is going to be much more advanced to also help with this.

shuckyshark
Level 13

problem is - if we rely too much on technology, and it fails...we're back in the dark ages...as with EVERYTHING, have a backup plan and TEST IT!

rschroeder
Level 21

Your comment reminds me of the opening night of Desert Storm, where we eliminated enemy radar with cruise missiles and took away their ability to remotely see our airplanes coming in.  Low-visibility Stealth aircraft then had a lower risk for their sorties.

Hopefully we're not advertising ALL we have or can do.  I suspect the advertisement of advanced capabilities has something to do with sales and P.R. and funding.

And maybe pride or boasting . . .?

ecklerwr1
Level 19

That's part of the reason GPS is such a concern... we depended to much on it until recently.

byrona
Level 21

This is some awesome stuff, thanks for sharing ecklerwr1

d09h
Level 16

As awesome as this technology looks today, revisit it in 25 or 50 years and it will look like tin cans connected by string. 

d09h
Level 16

Saw an article just this weekend about GPS signals being altered.  Hopefully folks are considering the likelihood that the 'bad guys' can and will attack GPS.

rschroeder
Level 21

I don't know what it might be, but an alternate / private / secret technology seems like the only solution to bandwidth/security/eavesdropping/interference for military purposes.

And what someone can imagine and invent, someone else can imagine or copy and interfere with.

Does anyone ever get the idea that competition ISN'T the solution?  That cooperation and trust will get us a lot further?

Sure, there are bad guys out there.  But does there HAVE to be bad guys?  If we could get consistent education, morals, nutrition, safety, etc. to every child, and get others to stop teaching hate and prejudice to kids and peers--wouldn't that result in a significant reduction in malware creation, malicious hacking, poor ethics, and just overall badness & evil everywhere?

Sure, it'd mean having an open mind.  Yes, it'd mean not being aggressive, not taking advantage, not promulgating the stories of generations of feuds and ignorance . . .

It's daunting, it's overwhelming, it doesn't seem possible.

But if you don't have a dream, how will you make your dream come true?

About the Author
Joseph is a software executive with a track record of successfully running strategic and execution-focused organizations with multi-million dollar budgets and globally distributed teams. He has demonstrated the ability to bring together disparate organizations through his leadership, vision and technical expertise to deliver on common business objectives. As an expert in process and technology standards and various industry verticals, Joseph brings a unique 360-degree perspective to help the business create successful strategies and connect the “Big Picture” to execution. Currently, Joseph services as the EVP, Engineering and Global CTO for SolarWinds and is responsible for the technology strategy, direction and execution for SolarWinds products and systems. Working directly for the CEO and partnering across the executive staff in product strategy, marketing and sales, he and his team is tasked to provide overall technology strategy, product architecture, platform advancement and engineering execution for Core IT, Cloud and MSP business units. Joseph is also responsible for leading the internal business application and information technology activities to ensure that all SolarWinds functions, such as HR, Marketing, Finance, Sales, Product, Support, Renewals, etc. are aligned from a systems perspective; and that we use the company's products to continuously improve their functionality and performance, which ensures success and expansion for both SolarWinds and customers.