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Tactical Network Configuration (NETCONF)


OBJECTIVE: The objective of the Tactical Network Configuration (NETCONF) SBIR is to promote the development of applications using the emerging NETCONF standard for use within tactical wireless network deployments. DESCRIPTION: Several of the most significant soldier needs rely upon improved and sustainable networking. Example significant soldier needs include: a) Mission Command, b) Actionable Intelligence, c) Medical Assessment and Treatment, etc. Each of these require reliable, robust, easy to operate and manage communications and information networks. Critical to performance of the networks is the development of a common and extensible configuration management capability. Currently, common configuration management of multiple tactical radio networks is non-existent in Department of Defense (DoD) tactical networks. This results in highly complex, diverse, non-interoperable and expensive network management systems. To alleviate similar issues in enterprise networks, a new Commercial Standard called NETCONF [1] (for Network Configuration) is emerging. The purpose of this topic is to investigate, adapt and mature this emerging commercial standard for military applications due to a) the large commercial base supporting the initial development of NETCONF and b) the NETCONF framework which allows for modification/enhancements for additional capabilities and features. However, NETCONF commercial development focus is currently on operation primarily in high bandwidth, fixed infrastructure networks with stable behaviors. This is contrary to the highly dynamic, mobile, low-bandwidth and intermittent networks typical of tactical military Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANETS) [2]. This effort will bridge gaps in current NETCONF technologies. Significant gaps include a) a reliance on a TCP-based transport layer with suspect performance in Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANETs) [2] and Disruption Tolerant Networks (DTN) [3], b) an inability to scale to the configuration of thousands of small footprint radio devices, c) inability to push common redundant configuration code based upon a reliable multicast like capability similar to Negative ACKnowledgement (NACK)-Oriented Reliable Multicast (NORM) [4] or DTN, and d) a security model which has not been vetted by the DoD. This effort will stimulate development of a new class of NETCONF capabilities addressing the following enhancement metrics: Resilience to high network latency and loss, Decreased bandwidth consumption per managed radio (the configuration management overhead should be no more than 10% of the typical radio channel of 100 Kbps), while maintaining Type 3 encryption capabilities, and Additional authentication mechanisms, e.g., identity verification services, RADIUS authentication services or others. The final product will be improved NETCONF Open Source code, enhanced for tactical deployments, along with supporting documentation. This will allow the DoD to simplify management of tactical networks, leveraging the new NETCONF technology coming from the commercial sector. PHASE I: It is expected that the product of the SBIR at the end of Phase I will be a study recommending plans for improving the NETCONF protocol, including an architecture and design approach, recommended Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs), security and transport layer, for operation in a tactical MANET environment. PHASE II: It is expected that the product of the SBIR at the end of Phase II will be enhanced Open Source NETCONF software based upon an existing 2012 Open Source NETCONF code set, tested in a government laboratory (to be specified later), performing per the metrics previously listed and developed in accordance with new Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards. Associated with the code should be documentation on its design, structure, operation and configuration. PHASE III: During this effort, the subject technology may be applied to both commercial and military systems. Collaboration with military system developers and/or DoD personnel with systems requirements is highly encouraged. A Phase III military transition would be the integration of this technology into, e.g., WIN-T network operations, in order to simplify configuration management and reduce costs by reducing the number of required management systems. A Phase III commercial application would be the use of this technology in simplifying operations and management of Mobile Network applications riding on smart phones, hand-helds or vehicular network-based systems. REFERENCES: 1. Enns, R., Bjorklund, M., Schoenwaelder, J. and A. Bierman,"Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF)", Internet RFC 6241, June 2011. 2. Elmasry, G.,"A comparative review of commercial vs. tactical wireless networks", IEEE Communications Magazine, Volume 48, Issue 10, October 2010. 3. Fall, K.,"DTN: An Architectural Retrospective", IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications, Volume 26, Number 5, June 2008. 4. Adamson, B., Bormann, C., Handley, M. and J. Macker,"NACK-Oriented Reliable Multicast (NORM) Transport Protocol", Internet RFC 5740, November 2009.
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