NOAA’s Next Generation of Network Infrastructure
When it comes to gathering data, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is one of the most network-intensive agencies around.
“The network consists of a little over 2,100 locations,”Jeff Flick, the Acting Director of NOAA’s Enterprise Network Program Office, said on Federal Insights — EIS. “Just around 400 of those locations are manned locations.”
There are super-computing sites, which require low latency, high bandwidth-type environments, all the way down to remote sensors that require very little bandwidth. This presents a challenging environment for telecommunications, and Flick suggested the time has come to replace the current infrastructure at NOAA.
“Some of the technologies are, I don’t want to say archaic, but they’re very resilient, because we’ve had them for so many years,” he told Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “But with the TDM retirement, we are, you know, we’re being forced to upgrade various legs of those pathways to more modern technologies, which force the evolution of sensory technology as well.”
TDM stands for time division multiplexing “the older, copper infrastructure that is being retired by the carriers,” he said. In the future, NOAA is looking to move into wireless opportunities where that’s available.
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“Some of the locations where we have these remote sensors are not densely populated areas, which means they’re, you know, low priority for wireless coverage,” Flick said. “So we’re looking at, you know, if needed satellite technologies at this point have advanced and the cost have been reduced enough where that might be a viable solution for some of the remote locations or looking at alternatives: low bandwidth, low frequency.”
He said that the industry is trying to retire electronics that support older technologies, and transition to fiber or other access methods.
“In many cases, the need for additional bandwidth is there. We need more information, our sensors are more advanced and collect additional information. But in many cases, we still only need a very small amount of bandwidth,” he said. “Our needs have grown exponentially when it comes to some of the large data movement requirements. But we’ve moved that on to fiber and build infrastructure to support that. It’s these low bandwidth sensors that are the real challenge.”
But modernization means more than technology — it’s about management as well. Networking as a service, or managing one’s own own network infrastructure and voice telecommunications all varies from within each organization.
“It’s really the opportunity to simplify it for them, you know, let them focus on their mission. But we’re allowing a lot of that decision still to be made at the mission level,” Flick said. “And my focus is really making sure that we have the right type of support structures, contracts, and technical resources available to support them.”
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