by Nick Yurin
Acceleration and WAN Optimization; A Forecast for 2008
Once viewed as an ad hoc addition to the occasional Department of Defense (DoD) satellite network, acceleration technologies are no longer considered optional. They are an essential component in modern military satellite architecture. Todays satellite programs RFPs specify acceleration in absolute terms, with interoperability and standards compliance at the forefront of program requirements. Trends in the DoD acceleration industry have made these technologies more sophisticated and much more pervasive in military satellite networking. In 2008, expect many of these trends to continue unchanged, while other trends will take the technologies in this market in an entirely new direction.
The Space Communication Protocol Standards (SCPS)
Leading the way among acceleration technologies in 2007 were the Space Communication Protocol Standards (SCPS), an open-source acceleration technology, which in 2007, became an official mandate in the DoD IT Standards Registry. Adhering to the mandate, the DISA Standardized Tactical Entry Point (STEP) program upgraded their entire acceleration suite to high-powered SCPS platforms at the end of FY 2007. This compelled the thousands of military consumers of STEP bandwidth to likewise use SCPS for their acceleration. These two events as well as the wide scale adoption of SCPS by several key military programs and numerous hardware vendors accounts for the pervasiveness of this standard and its continued use in FY 2008 and beyond.
WAN Optimization and Standards Management
Accompanying SCPS in the military satellite acceleration market are the feature sets generally termed WAN optimization technologies. Although they are currently represented by no official DoD standards, WAN optimization features are attracting a great deal of attention among DoD satellite network architects. They are finding their way into an increasing number of military programs.
Where SCPS once served as the singular acceleration technology in the DoD network, expect to see more networks deployed with technologies such as data caching, compression and application-specific acceleration running alongside SCPS. Web caching, in particular, has shown great promise in bandwidth optimization, especially in networks where web-based applications comprise a large portion of the remote-side network traffic. Unlike some other WAN optimization technologies, web caching is localized and typically not dependent on a peer, and, as such, poses little threat to cross-program interoperability.
Other popular WAN optimization technologies, including compression and some application acceleration features, are often proprietary and require a peer with identical capabilities on the opposite end of the connection in order to optimize the data flowif they are able to establish the connection at all. This lack of cross-vendor interoperability will limit these types of deployments in the near term and will be discouraged by many elements of DoD. Nonetheless, these technologies provide far too many performance benefits to be neglected completely.
Expect to see network architects cautiously continue to deploy proprietary WAN optimization technologies in their tactical networks. There will be increasing scrutiny from DoD standards bodies and configuration control authorities. Particular attention will be paid to those technologies that jeopardize interconnectivity between programs and lock program managers into single-vendor solutions for their WAN optimization requirements.
The impact DoD oversight will have on the WAN optimization vendor community remains to be seen. However, expect to see a degree of push from within DoD for greater interoperability among the vendors various proprietary technologies. Despite the natural unwillingness among competitors in this market to cooperate technologically, there are advocates within DoD who would like to see a greater degree of interoperability. They are advocating it in areas such as compression and error-recovery. Although unlikely to occur on a broad scale soon, DoD consumers will continue to ask for greater cross-vendor interoperability. They may even look toward establishing military standards that will compel interoperability on the vendor community.
Size, Weight and Power
As tactical satellite programs continue to migrate away from the traditional transit case solutions toward the lighter and more mobile comms package, so, too, are networking hardware vendors reducing the size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) of their products. In recent years, it was not unusual to see SCPS and other acceleration technologies deployed in a 1u, rackmounted chassis, conveyed in a tactical transit case. But this form factor, along with its weight, power requirements and thermal signature, is not well suited for the contemporary mobile comms environment.
As SCPS can be deployed as a software-only solution, program managers are looking to reduce the size of the tactical performance enhancing proxy (PEP) as well as attempting to imbed SCPS software at points in the network that would render a standalone PEP unnecessary. Programs with a mobile or man-packed element, such as Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (Win-T) and Common Army/Marine Command and Control (CAMC2), are particularly sensitive to the need to reduce SWaP. They are architecting acceleration solutions that focus on form factor reduction or software-only deployments of both SCPS and accompanying WAN technologies. As more comms-on-the-move programs come online in DoD, the trend away from the big box solution toward the more lightweight, mobile and software-only solutions will continue. In 2008, expect to see more imbedded solutions in products such as modems and routers, and less standalone acceleration platforms.
Trends in acceleration are influenced greatly by trends in modem technologies, performance requirements, and network architectures. Military trends in bandwidth-on-demand systems and highly mobile terminals are directing the PEP vendor market toward lighter weight platforms and more sophisticated implementations of their technologies. Primarily used with VSAT systems in the past, as more Inmarsat BGAN systems are deployed in military networks, and as more DVB-RCS-based programs come online in DoD, SCPS and other acceleration methods will be paired with these newer technologies in increasingly complex and creative ways.
Acceleration has been firmly established as a standard component of the military satcom architecture. As DoD customers become savvier with their acceleration solution options, expect them to generate requirements that substantially change the face of todays acceleration technologies. 2008 will likely see a new breed of DoD acceleration technologies in form factors that were previously unavailable, with feature sets that reflect the changing needs of the military satcom user.
Nick Yuran is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Global Protocols, Inc. As a founding member of the company, Nick has worked to promote SCPS and other standards through DoD. His focus is on interoperability in tactical systems. Prior to joining Global Protocols, Nick served as a telecommunication analyst for various U.S. intelligence agencies. He possesses a BA in Slavic Languages from the University of Arizona as well as a MS in Telecommunication from George Washington University.
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