Success in Military Communication

Contemporary Controls' Ethernet Managed Switches Are One Key Component for Reliable Communications

Whether it was to converse with UN diplomats or to radio U.S. Army units, soldiers and federal agencies required more than the standard level of security and flexibility in mobile communications equipment.

The answer was to deploy Data Communications Devices (DCDs) engineered by Dataline, Incorporated in Norfolk, VA. The DCDs are scalable, mobile multi-network data and voice communications packages. "They securely and simultaneously extend garrison classified networks, unclassified networks, video, and telephone capabilities worldwide via multiple transmission paths, explains David Huisenga, Senior Systems Analyst for Dataline.

Huisenga said Dataline is seeing more of the military and federal government adopt the DCDs in order to secure efficient area coverage for day-to-day operations. "On-going advancements in these devices have allowed for information to pass back and forth easily," explained Huisenga.

DDC-Brief Case (BC) This has moved Dataline towards developing the DCDs in various configurations meeting most commercial airline carry-on regulations. The DCD-Brief Case (BC), for example, is designed for military and federal customers. In practice, these individuals require a quick deploy, easy-to-use, robust and lightweight mobile unit capable of scaling up to support a forward headquarters. The DCD-BC and additional network devices are mounted in Pelican 1520 cases, backpacks and other cases for transport and operation.

The Base Station (DCD-5000) provides an entry point into a customer designated network or networks for the mobile packages which connect to the base station via a defined communication path such as Satellite, ISDN, or the Public Internet. The base station can scale up or down to meet specific requirements.

A key point here was that the primary challenges with the company's communications packages were size, power, and reliability. Central to the communications unit use is an Ethernet switch and recognizing that the previous type proved inadequate, Dataline contacted Contemporary Controls in Downers Grove, Illinois. Contemporary Controls is a manufacturer of Industrial-grade Ethernet switches marketed under the CTRLink® trade name—all proven superior to office-grade Ethernet equipment at an affordable cost.

"We found that Contemporary Controls' EICP8M-100T, eight-port managed switch, is more durable with the most ports in a small form factor," said Huisenga. "The physical size of the switch is a big issue given we had to integrate it into a small package. The switch is roughly 5" H x 3" W, just compact enough to meet the space restrictions. It met the requirements of our customers for a small form factor which incurred size and weight savings for Dataline."

A second necessity of the DCD project was the implementation of a switch that could perform well in austere environments like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. Dataline's feedback was positive. "In these environments, the aim of the switch is to improve the exchange of information," says Huisenga. "The switch hasn't failed to respond. We are extremely satisfied."

These are not the only reasons why the use of the EICP8M-100T switch benefited networking capability. "Added bonuses were features including VLAN support, port mirroring and temperature monitoring," he confirmed.

By definition, a VLAN allows the logical separation of network traffic—providing higher performance and higher network security. Ports on the switch may be assigned to individual VLANs, thereby restricting VLAN traffic. VLANs only allow communication between devices in the same VLAN. Huisenga commented that the VLAN capability allowed them more flexibility in meeting security requirements requested by some customers without incorporating another device to provide the security.

By using the port mirroring feature, port traffic from one or more ports can be replicated on another port for monitoring purposes. In this respect, an individual will employ port mirroring to help diagnose network problems.

Huisenga mentioned that his company has had requests for temperature gauges which require another physical device within the DCD. This Ethernet switch performs the temperature monitoring function allowing Dataline to decrease the number of components installed in the DCD. "Now we've reduced an entire subsystem within our deployable communications packages," he added.

Both copper and fiber versions are available in the EICP8M Series for specific applications where 0° to +60°C temperatures are expected. Designed with conventional features usual in Plug-and-Play (PnP) switches, the EICP8M also includes such important benefits as RapidRing®, trunking, Quality of Service (QoS), SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) and a programmable fault relay that can be connected to supervisory systems. Individual port parameters and other feature settings are configurable. Huisenga said they would investigate the use of RapidRing and trunking—solutions for applications requiring maximum uptime for an Ethernet communications network.

This series is designed with an interactive web server, accessible from any Internet compatible PC on the local network. Configuration is done either from a web browser or through a console port connected to a Windows-based terminal emulation program such as HyperTerminal. Port parameters (data rate, duplex, and flow control) can be pre-set via the console port or auto-negotiated.

Each model in this series performs as an SNMP agent allowing access to information concerning the status of its various ports. The SNMP agent is comprised of a collection of managed objects that can be queried by a SNMP manager to indicate the status of the network or any particular device. When this data is displayed in an easily understood format, operators and maintenance personnel, at a central location, can check the entire network by observing selected devices and detect potential problems before they occur.

Either straight-through or crossover cables may be used to connect any of the Auto-MDIX ports to NICs or another hub. Each port has an LED showing link/activity/data rate by color: green for 100 Mbps and yellow for 10 Mbps. Flashing indicates port activity. One power LED is provided.

The EICP8M Series is shipped with a DIN-rail clip for installation with a TS-35 DIN-rail. If direct mounting to a sub-panel is needed, an optional panel mounting bracket, shipped with the product, can be installed afer removing the DIN-rail clip.

A choice of network management software (iSNMP™ and IntraVue™) is available as well. Huisenga said his company would examine the use of this software to monitor the network in the near future.

In conclusion, both Dataline and Contemporary Controls are meeting defense-unique needs. Both are putting forth their efforts in focusing on communications systems, from the network level down to individual mechanisms