The United States Army is mounting a campaign to develop the largest, most ambitious network management system ever built, and it's drafting commercial software and Internet standards for the job.
As early as this week, the Army will award a pair of contracts to design and build the Joint Network Management System (JNMS), a high-level network planning, monitoring and control system that will be used in combat operations. Every major network management software vendor -- including Hewlett-Packard, Computer Associates, BMC Software, Tivoli Systems and Concord Communications -- is vying for a piece of the deal, which could be worth $1 billion or more over the 15-year life of the program.
"The military is so dependent on networks, computers and phones," says Martin Amen, director of the space and communications systems division for Logicon, a government contractor bidding on JNMS. "When you look at what the military is trying to do -- the planning, deployment and redeployment of diversified networks on the battlefield -- you see that the mission is pretty daunting compared to the commercial network management problem."
"There's no doubt that this is the biggest network management system ever built," says another industry executive tracking the JNMS program, who asked not to be identified. "Nobody in the world operates a network as big as the Department of Defense. This is like supporting a mobile Ma Bell. The logistics, the tactical planning, the requirements on this program are massive."
The initial JNMS contracts are expected to be in the $75 million to $100 million range, according to Lt. Col. Angel Colon, product manager for communications management systems at the Army's Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). But Colon confirms the program likely will be worth many times that amount as the Navy, Marines and Air Force buy compatible gear.
Three systems-integration teams are in the running for the JNMS contracts: AT&T is teamed with Lockheed Martin, Harris, ACS Defense and Computer Associates; Logicon is teamed with General Dynamics; and Science Applications International Corp. is teamed with TRW. Each team has dozens of subcontractors, leaving many IT companies around the Washington Beltway with champagne on ice to celebrate a possible JNMS victory.
"The buzz on JNMS is intense," the industry executive says. "We're all in a waiting game now."
On the drawing boards for a decade, JNMS will serve as a common network management platform for joint military operations. The Army is handling the research and development for JNMS, but the system will be deployed across all the military services.
The first units are due in 2003, with full deployment expected by 2006.
Delivering a shared view
JNMS is planned to provide the military's top brass with a shared view of the network infrastructure being used in a particular military operation. As such, it will manage networks that are strung together at a moment's notice out of radio, satellite, wired and wireless links in far-flung regions of the world. And its users -- military commanders aboard ships, tanks and aircraft -- are among the most mobile.
JNMS is expected to support high-level and detailed network planning, monitoring, reconfiguration, spectrum management and security.
It replaces a 2-year-old interim system dubbed JDIICS-D for Joint Defense Information Infrastructure Control System-Deployed, which provides rudimentary network monitoring and trouble ticketing.
"JNMS will enable the actual network planning and the sharing of plans across different headquarters and services," Colon says. "For the first time across the services, we'll have a flexible and scalable network management architecture. We can continue to add modules and capabilities without having to go back to the drawing board."
The common architecture should ease user training, which is a serious problem given the military's transient workforce.
"If we have a common network management capability, as people rotate from one region to another, they don't have to relearn the tools," Colon says.
The JNMS architecture relies heavily on commercial software, and it mandates Internet standards including TCP/IP, SNMP and RMON. These requirements are designed to eliminate interoperability problems between the services and protect the military's investment into the future.
"One of the things that the Army has talked about is developing a flexible, extensible architecture so you can plug and play certain commercial off-the-shelf technology as the system goes forth in its evolution," Logicon's Amen says.
Does AT&T have a leg up?
Indeed, the AT&T team hopes the experience managing its telecommunications network will give it a leg up on the competition.
"The solution that we offered up to the Army is heavily influenced by what AT&T does in the commercial marketplace," says Jerry Garretson, who directs military communications programs at GRC International, an AT&T company. "But instead of leasing services as we would in the commercial world, we'll build a system and sell it to the military."
The Army will award two JNMS contracts: one each for software development and training and support. Both contracts last for one year, with six one-year extensions. The software contract includes options for the Army to buy hardware, including network management servers and clients.
"One of the vagaries here is the hardware options," says George Fitzpatrick, project leader for JNMS for the Army's CECOM. How much JNMS will ultimately cost depends "on what capabilities the services have and how many systems they need."
Among the companies expected to play a role in JNMS regardless of which team is selected are the vendors whose products are already used in JDIICS-D: HP, Cisco, Remedy and OPNET Technologies.
This story, "Army thinks big on net mgmt." was originally published by Network World.