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Predictable Communications for Net-centric Homeland Defense

A breakthrough technology was recently introduced that will dramatically reduce the time and cost of deploying high availability mobile communications networks for homeland defense operations.

“Software virtual networks” (SVN) can now be built that enable engineers to evaluate new wireless network components and technologies faster and at much lower cost than has been possible until now. Scalable Network Technologies, a Los Angeles-based provider of highly sophisticated software and technical services for wireless network development, developed this new technology, which will be launched under the brand name EXata™ in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Mobile Command and Control

National defense is becoming network-centric. Information is now the greatest source of power, and communication between decision makers and field forces to turn information into effective action is the critical link in projecting that power to defend the homeland. Mobile communications networks used by the military will need to interoperate with legacy and emerging communications technologies used by domestic public safety agencies, relief organizations and private sector entities in order to maximize execution effectiveness in the field.

Federal, state and local governments will need to perform two communications improvement feats simultaneously: integrate new technologies into existing infrastructures to improve interoperability and balance the ability to share information with the need to protect it from external threats.

Software Virtual Networks Accelerate Development

Today, network engineers use a combination of simulation technology, computer models of physical networks or network systems, analogous to “flight simulators” used by pilots, and physical “testbeds,” scaled-down versions of fully-deployed networks built with prototypes of the new technology being evaluated.

Simulation has become highly sophisticated over the last 20 years, and is best suited for evaluating solution concepts and initial designs in the early stages of the development cycle. Depending on the complexity of the network and the need for real-world fidelity, large-scale simulations and/or testbeds are used to evaluate designs prior to deployment.

EXata breaks new ground in speed and fidelity compared to competitive simulation and emulation systems. The underlying computer code, known as the kernel, is built with patented computationally efficient code that dramatically increases speed and accuracy on any computing platform. EXata is the only emulation system that can use advanced parallel processing to digitally represent every layer in the wireless communications protocol “stack.”

When evaluating network designs using EXata SVNs, any hardware, software or human user connected to the emulated network is not able to tell the difference between a real network component and its emulated replacement. As a result, engineers can take promising technologies from early designs tested with simulation tools, develop “virtual prototypes,” and integrate them into the SVNs, which in turn can be interoperated with existing deployed networks. EXata also produces greater predictability of actual performance. Many more potential solutions can be tested and evaluated in a given time period, allowing engineers to solve more problems with fewer technical compromises.

SVNs created in EXata deliver two substantial advantages over physical testbeds. First, emulation enables engineers to test and evaluate potential interoperation solutions much earlier in the design process, at a fraction of the cost of physical testbeds. Emulation reduces cost by minimizing prototype iterations through the development cycle. It also eliminates the need to acquire large physical spaces within which to construct testbeds; you can’t test routing protocols or connectivity issues if all the radios are in the same room.

Second, EXata produces better predictability of actual performance because engineers can test solutions against all potential environmental effects. As a result, many more potential solutions can be evaluated and more problems can be solved with fewer technical compromises.

The Future: Adaptive Networks

The next generation of field tactical communications for both warfighting and homeland defense operations will be adaptive networks – software-based radios and transmission equipment that can adapt dynamically to conditions and seamlessly interoperate with disparate communications technologies. Accurate, scalable simulations will be essential to the development of networks based on adaptive technologies because of sensitive interactions between the complex software “layers” involved.

Network emulation with EXata will lead to faster and better solutions to pressing homeland security needs like first responder coordination, intelligence sharing, and information assurance and security.

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