anyone really knew what it could become, security was not
an issue. If pioneering scientists and engineers had known
how the Internet would evolve, they likely would have “baked
in” security and used networking components to build and
enforce security policies. Much of the present conversation
about security revolves around protecting data integrity and
ownership. Some say that as long as data is encrypted, systems
are secure. But, as threats become more sophisticated, a new
approach to security is critical—and it starts with leveraging
the network itself as a point of enforcement.
As networking has evolved, platforms have been stitched
together to accommodate the increasing use of applications.
While applications have become more complex and interdependent, platforms also have expanded their functionality and
are now programmable, delivering services and adapting to
requirements. The emergence of software-defined networking
accompanied by virtualization means that open source, standardization and network automation in a multi-vendor, multinational environment are essential building blocks for the
Army’s effort toward “dynamic transport.” But what will these
transport methods be? Will they rely on wires and fiber or new
and emerging technologies?
Achieving dynamic transport requires a seamless combination of many transit methods. Some may be in use now,
including transmission technologies such as radio frequency,
satellite, fiber, microwave and Wi-Fi. Others include the much-anticipated fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks, which are
still in the planning stages, as well as undeveloped technologies. Many transit methods will have enduring relevance, while
others will be migrated to next-generation technologies.
The use of a wide variety of transport methods will provide
one level of security—fallback options that offer added protection if one form of communication transport is attacked.
But achieving this level of security, and dynamic transport
itself, requires automation that shifts among transit modes
instantaneously, in response to fluctuating network demand,
connectivity challenges and changing user locations. The most
productive way to enable the Army’s network of the future is to
have an infrastructure that provides the secure, programmable
access necessary to make these instantaneous shifts a reality.
The infrastructure architecture must incorporate a high-level
orchestration system—an authoritative source that “knows”
everything across the network and “tells” the environment
how, where and when to forward needed information.
This need for coordination means the Army should avail
itself to open, compatible software solutions instead of closed,
proprietary firmware. Moving forward, the Defense Depart-
ment should commit to leveraging open solutions that support
interoperability among multiple vendors and take advantage
of best-of-breed solutions. Some proprietary elements will
remain. After all, the Army’s mission is unlike any in the pri-
vate sector, and select specialty systems and solutions are the
only way to maintain a tactical advantage. But the Army must
fully embrace the foundational tenets of openness and pro-
grammability to get the flexibility it needs. That essential ver-
satility will support the ever-increasing number of connected
devices as part of the Internet of Things. As they proliferate,
these devices and sensors—often challenged by limited battery
life, obstructed transmission frequencies, interrupted one-way
and two-way transmission and unverified data—introduce
new volatility to the system that could strain the performance
of a less-flexible network.
Furthermore, once data begins to flow, dynamic comput-
ing transforms it into useful information for actionable intel-
ligence. For that kind of added value, the data sent by the
sensors—whether biometric, location-based or something
else—must have context.
Above all, cybersecurity cannot be an afterthought. It
must become inherent to the network. As the Army network
evolves, security applications and network security functions
will have to work seamlessly with network components and
their built-in security capabilities.
Certainly, industry can aid in getting the service to that
streamlined state. For now, the Army should be applauded
for issuing its strategic plan and sharing its long-term vision
for the role of technology. Publishing this vision challenges
organizations to address upcoming issues and develop a new
system that can help ease difficulties. Companies can help
execute this vision by developing technologies and embracing
the role of trusted adviser. Vendors must educate government
customers while listening closely to their unique needs and
concerns and championing the movement toward open and
As it always has in the federal space, the political climate and
status of policy also influence technology adoption and implementation. However, with a continued appetite for change
and architecture that is flexible, programmable and open,
the Army’s network of the future will be better equipped to
weather constant shifts in politics, policy and technology in
the coming decades.
Bill Lemons is the director of federal systems engineering at
Juniper Networks. The views expressed here are his alone.
contact: Bill Lemons, firstname.lastname@example.org
Juniper Networks operates Proof
of Concept labs, testing facilities that
provide open environments to ensure
that customers can access the best
demonstration resources possible.