Software-defined networking (SDN) is a flexible architecture model in which network functions are programmed automatically by a central controller as needs evolve. Widely used in civil applications, the technology is opening up new opportunities for the armed forces too.
AGILE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS FOR THE ARMED FORCES
In SDN, network functions are virtualised and can be programmed or reprogrammed by a central controller, which acts as the "brain" of the network. As data volumes and applications expand, armed forces can leverage this dynamic programming capability to meet growing demand but also to make their networks more versatile and more mobile, and ultimately to speed up the tempo of operations. Yet the conventional SDN model must be adapted to meet the specific requirements of military operations (multi-level security, capability to operate in distributed mode, dependability despite fluctuating data rates, etc.) in the home country and in overseas theatres alike.
Rapid deployment and redeployment
Time is of the essence in the tactical environment. During overseas operations, for instance, deploying and redeploying networks at lightning speed is essential to keeping communication systems running and maintaining a fluid chain of command, theatre-wide and between the theatre and the home country. Tactical networks are mobile by nature. They combine a vast array of equipment types and technologies from satcom and line-of-sight communication systems, to IP routers and more. In some cases, when bandwidth is saturated, armed forces might even make use of a local opportunity network.
With SDN, the software-defined controller does the heavy lifting, eliminating the need for manual network configuration. Using a pre-defined set of rules, the controller adapts quickly and securely to user service requirements and changing topology, keeping mission-critical lines of communication open at all times and freeing up the operator to focus on tasks where human expertise and judgement are the most crucial, such as deciding to switch rulesets as the needs of the mission evolve.
Keeping network traffic flowing
SDN can also yield dividends in the home country, where the context is entirely different. As Big Data, AI and other emerging technologies compete for network resources, SDN helps to optimise bandwidth use and improve the user experience. Conventional networks depend on static routing rules. With a software-defined architecture, the controller automatically re-routes traffic when the network reaches saturation, prioritising the most critical data flows according to pre-defined rules.
In short, with SDN, armed forces can effectively deploy and manage their networks to keep mission-critical applications and communication systems running - come what may.
Thales, a global industry leader, designs network architectures and applications that are specially tailored to the requirements of military operations.
3 reasons to choose Thales Software-Defined Networking solutions
1. Automated programming
Networks can be reprogrammed on the fly in line with the availability of fixed and mobile communications infrastructure.
2. Distributed control plane
Control is distributed according to network availability and bandwidth, improving network resilience.
3. Encryption-agnostic design
Network SDN optimises network traffic regardless of encryption technology.