CenturyLink To Provide DoD’s Internet2

A map of the DREN network circa 2004. Given the relatively slow pace of military buildouts, this map is likely still somewhat accurate.

Network provider CenturyLink has won a $750 million contract from the Department of Defense to network the latter’s sites together as part of the military equivalent of Internet2.

The contract calls for CenturyLink to connect as many as 150 DoD locations nationwide with a dedicated high-speed fiber-optic network, with speeds ranging from 50 Mbits/s to up to 100 Gbits/sec. Given that the contract also calls for the telco to deploy Ethernet, IP and optical services, it’s likely that the 50-Mbits/s threshold is a per-user basis, with site-to-site communications in the gigabit range.

It’s all part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (DoD HPCMP), which aims to solve complicated and time-consuming problems with massively-parallel computing and very high-speed networking. The HPCMP program was formed in 1992, with the aim of connecting what had been separate facilities and test labs developed and maintained by the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

That network is known as the Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) network, which currently uses an OC-48 optical network providing 2.4 Gbit/s between facilities, according to the military. The network connects agencies such as the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), DoD Modeling & Simulation Office, Joint Forces Command, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency in much the same way that the Internet2 network provides the opportunity for collaboration between major research organizations, passing data back and forth at speeds up to 100 Gbits/s.

The DREN research network also participates in DoD security efforts, including the Tier 2 DoD Computer Emergency Response Team, and will presumably use the network to advance those capabilities further. “DREN is an essential component of our program, connecting defense researchers located throughout the country with the department’s supercomputing resources,” John West, director of the HPCMP, wrote in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with our new partners as we work together to provide new DREN services and capabilities to our community.”

The contract to provide the “DREN III” is so-called indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that’s good for ten years with a minimum value of $750,000. Previous contracts have been awarded to AT&T, Verizon, and MCI, among others.


Image: Networking and Information Technology R&D (NITRD) Program (nitrd.gov)