Brocade fulfills Army base's IPv6 marching orders

Brocade gear is powering a cutting-edge network that supports IPv6, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and 100 Gigabit Ethernet for the U.S. Army at Fort Carson in Colorado.

The new network, which serves the 137,000-acre military base, was installed by General Dynamics, which said the four-year project cost $6 million. The piece of the network that provides non-secure Internet access -- dubbed NIPRNET in military terms -- runs on Brocade equipment.

BACKGROUND: U.S. military strong-arming IT industry on IPv6

The Army required that Brocade's routers support IPv4, the current version of the Internet Protocol, as well as the upgraded version known as IPv6. IPv6 features an expanded addressing scheme that can support vastly more devices connected directly to the Internet, but it is not backward compatible with IPv4.

"IPv6 is a driver," says Wes Medley, manager of systems engineering for Brocade's federal sales office. "We've been supporting network infrastructure upgrades since 2006 within the Army that have been fully compliant with IPv6 standards. ...What's unique about this base is that we've integrated IPv6, IPv4 and MPLS into the infrastructure, and we've provided Fort Carson with the capability to upgrade to 100 gigabit/second."

Ron Cibotti, Army section vice president at General Dynamics, says Brocade's gear was selected because it complied with military requirements for IPv6 and was lower priced than rival's gear.

"IPv6 is a standard right now that all the Ethernet providers have to have," Cibotti says. "There are five large OEMs -- Cisco, Brocade, Enterasys, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper -- that are certified to handle and perform IPv6. ... Brocade gave the best-value solution from a total cost of ownership, and General Dynamics bid and won with them.''

Brocade says Fort Carson's new network is one of its largest core-to-edge deployments of routers capable of 100Gbps Ethernet and switches capable of 10Gbps Ethernet. Brocade is providing its NetIron XMR routers for the network backbone and its IronView Network manager software for monitoring network traffic.

Medley says Brocade's "ability to do IPv4 and IPv6 dual stack at line rates gives the Army the flexibility to migrate to IPv6 functionality and not upgrade their infrastructure.''

Medley adds that the Army also wants MPLS for running Layer 2 VPNs. "The reason that's important to the Army is that on any given Army base they have transient tenants," he says. "They want to be able to create Layer 2 VPLS domains on the fly."

Brocade is an incumbent on the Fort Carson deal, having provided routers to the base since the late 1990s.

General Dynamics selected Brocade for the Fort Carson network upgrade through the Army's Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program, dubbed I3MP.

"Brocade is a preferred OEM provider for General Dynamics' Army Solutions," Cibotti says. "They offer long-term sustainment, and that is the true value they bring to [us]."

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Tim Angelos, director of sales for the U.S. Defense Department at Brocade, says more than 50% of U.S. Army bases have Brocade routers installed and more than 80% have Brocade storage-area networking gear.

"The U.S. Army is one of our largest customers globally,'' Angelos says. "The flexibility of the Brocade design makes sense to the Army, which knows that they are going to run IPv4, IPv6 and MPLS concurrently. They don't know where and how much of each protocol they're going to need. The Brocade design supports all three protocols in hardware, so the Army can dial IPv6 or IPv4 up or down as needed with no performance impact and no additional cost associated with turning on any of those protocols."

Angelos says Brocade's IPv6 capabilities are helping it win Army business.

"In the last year, our business has been very, very strong across the Army," Angelos says. "They get to upgrade these networks every four to five years, sometimes longer. So being able to field something that they know is going to carry them forward is very, very important."

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

This story, "Brocade fulfills Army base's IPv6 marching orders" was originally published by Network World.

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