Jan 27 2015

USDA's Long-Term Plan for Network Upgrades

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the military, agencies seek greater stability and improved performance.

Federal agencies know that to keep pace with mobility and today’s high-bandwidth demands, they need to upgrade their networks.

To that end, during fiscal year 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expanded capacity at several important backbone locations and managed-service delivery points. CIO Cheryl Cook says the upgrades include network access to Kansas City and St. Louis data centers and to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud suite. “As a result of these investments, the department will continue to receive stable and reliable network performance for critical applications and services,” she says.

Along with the upgrades, the USDA replaced its legacy Cisco Systems routers and switches across 2,700 locations, including the offices of USDA Service Center Agencies such as Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.


The percentage of enterprise organizations reporting that their network and architecture teams primarily influence or control decisions about network infrastructure purchases

SOURCE: IDC, “SDN Survey: Big Changes for Datacenter Networking Operations and Personnel,” June 2014

Cook says the new Cisco routers deliver Voice over IP and wireless networking capabilities to each of the service centers. USDA also placed Riverbed Technology WAN optimization devices at all appropriate locations based on office size, bandwidth utilization and existing network capacity.

These upgrades are part of a multifaceted strategy under way at USDA. “In the short term, we are focused on bandwidth needs, ensuring connectivity for our customers and meeting security requirements,” Cook explains. “In parallel, we have long-term goals to ensure we have more flexible and agile connectivity options, more availability for cloud applications, and that we plan for future needs.”

Brad Casemore, research director for data center networks for IDC, says enhancing the network was a major step forward for USDA. “IT organizations have reached a point where they realize that traditional network architectures and operational models are inefficient and will not scale,” he says. “Today, network upgrades are not just about more bandwidth, but also about gaining operational agility and efficiency.”

DOD’s Major Upgrade

As part of its effort to build a more secure, defendable and responsive network, the Defense Department plans to deploy a series of upgraded network and security capabilities known as the Joint Regional Security Stack.

The Air Force and Army will run JRSS over the next few years, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will coordinate with the remaining military services and other DOD components to identify opportunities and resources for continuous implementation and deployment of JRSS.

JRSS and its management capability primarily consist of a suite of equipment that includes firewall functions, intrusion detection and prevention, enterprise management and security and incident event management, according to a DISA spokesperson. On the bandwidth front, a full JRSS stack will handle up to 40 gigabits per second. Strategic planning for the network includes consideration of a 100 Gigabit Ethernet capability.

Last September, Joint Base San Antonio became the first location to host unclassified JRSS equipment, followed by activation of sites in Montgomery, Ala., and Oklahoma City. DISA plans to activate sites in the U.S., Europe and Southwest Asia through the remainder of fiscal 2015 and will complete the project by the end of fiscal 2016.

The project relies on upgrading the Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN) to a Multiprotocol Label Switching environment to move data faster, improve command and control and prioritize and streamline data flow. This will significantly reduce data delay or loss caused by high volume and congestion.


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