Defense agency prepares to upgrade research network

DISA will look for a contractor to make a high-speed system connecting scientists to supercomputers even faster.

The Defense Information Systems Agency on Monday took the first step in procuring a high-speed system to connect 4,300 scientists nationwide to six Defense Department supercomputer centers.

In its request for information, DISA said it expected the Defense Research and Engineering Network III contract to serve more than 200 points inside and outside the continental United States, at varying degrees of bandwidth. Today, the network operates at speeds from 45 megabits per second to 2.488 gigabits per second, making it seven to 350 times faster than a home Internet connection.

DREN also serves as the Defense test bed for the next-generation Internet based on Internet Protocol Version 6, which can provide far more Web addresses than the current IPv4, as it uses a 128-bit vs. a 32-bit address.

John Baird, DREN IPv6 deployment manager, said during a briefing earlier in November that as of 2005, the network supported end-to-end traffic using the new Internet protocol, as well as the strong Kerberos security protocol.

In 2009, DREN became one of the first networks to offer Google services such as alerts, search capabilities and G-mail, using IPv6.

Worldcom, which Verizon acquired in February 2005, won the previous DREN contract in April 2002, after a fierce bidding battle that included two protests. The DREN II deal was worth $450 million over 10 years.

DISA said it plans to issue on or about Dec. 17 a request for proposals for DREN III, expected to be worth at least as much as DREN II.

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