Modern technology gives us many things.

Energy’s Nevada National Security Site’s Network 2025 vision laying the foundation for the future

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Chris Rankin, Nevada’s chief information officer and information technology director, likes to say that the technology network is the foundation for his agency’s future.

Rankin, who has spent more than 38 years at the NSS, should know how important a scalable, flexible and modern network is for the agency, whose mission is to support the country’s nuclear weapons, provide emergency response capabilities and training.

“I always look at IT as an assistant there. “There’s literally nothing in our business that doesn’t involve IT,” Rankin said Ask the CIO sponsored by Extreme Networks. “We build relationships, we work to be good communicators and at the core of that, for me, are people’s processes and technologies. Technology is turning into productivity. I believe that IT is an integral part of every aspect of the NNSS business. “

The challenge for NNSS is that the current network is made up of fiber, copper, a microwave and other legacy technologies such as P25 for a two-way radio.

That’s why Rankin launched the Network 2025 vision to upgrade this key element and solve big problems.

“We knew we wanted to get a very flexible, high-capacity, wide bandwidth, always-on base, so that if the business changed, we could quickly and effectively support that more often than not, I want to be in a position you don’t have to ask, it’s just part of the process, “he said. “The strategy was to start with the idea of ​​the end. What does this look like? We focused on what improvements we need to make in the two-way radio system? We have many towers that exist and what shape these towers are in, so you are actively making some assessments. What are our biggest risks? We started talking to them. We looked at our microwave system, which was all analog, and some very outdated things. “

Rankin said Network 2025’s vision outlines how NNSS will have a foundation that meets its needs today and in the future. He said it means taking advantage of 5G deployment software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) and 100 gigabyte Ethernet connection.

“We evaluated our optical transport network so that the basics of the fibers and we knew we had areas where the fiber was just old and when it got old, it broke and broke. We tracked this down to find out where we should apply the resources first, and then we began partnering with our optical solutions provider, ”he said. “We knew we had to bring this into the 21st century. He developed this vision and then began to lay the elements in it so that we could create this foundation, which was solid. “

One of the first and most significant changes was the start of the process of moving NNSS to a 100 gigabyte connection from a 10G connection. Rankin said the upgrade will begin to address some of the data and latency issues.

“The pandemic has shown us that we need to be able to be many scalable and flexible. “We already knew that we wanted to switch to a self-healing network, that if there was a break in our hair because it was old, it would automatically redirect,” he said. “This is a multi-spectrum system that uses the entire spectrum, so we are actively acquiring and deploying an entirely new optical backbone for the site, which will allow us to make up to 100G per customer with a total maximum bandwidth of 400G from this site in north Las Vegas. and then you will be able to upload it to our remote sites. “

Rankin said NNSS is also taking full advantage of the cloud. Switches to Microsoft Office 365 and reduces its dependence on local or on-premises data centers.

He said upgrading to its Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) is a perfect example of where the cloud will play a bigger role in its network modernization efforts.

“We will start using a hyperconverged network on our VDI system,” he said. “We’re actually going to install this in [vendor’s] facility relative to our data center. We have a local data center here in North Las Vegas, and we also have a data center 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. We try to keep this localized for some of those activities and experiments that take place there. With these many data centers, this is the foundation of this super high-speed network, so optical connectivity is vital. That’s why we put a lot of effort into this in advance, because we need this foundation that allows the installation of the VDI system and the hosting of classified and unclassified data of the class. “

Rankin added that another effort is to replace its end-to-end network and core network technologies, which will allow things like network access control provide more security to the mission areas.

“We used Network Access Control (NAC) every time we installed new technology. First we call it NAC, so when we install and replace the switch, well, it has NAC. We know exactly what devices need to be connected to it. It increases our security stance, “Rankin said. “With the site’s modular data center, we make extensive use of both the VDI system and our storage and archiving. It was very convenient for us to be able to use these sites because when you work on disaster recovery and often people in different facilities, they have a problem because they do not have enough distance between their primary and secondary data center. So they have to do something different and often move to the cloud. This network and these basic elements will allow us to put our disaster recovery on the site so that we can minimize some costs there. The key is that you need to have these foundations and these basic layers in place. While we are improving this to speed it up, today we have good service, but with the upgrade we are moving to great service.

Learning objectives:

  • IT targets the Nevada National Security Department’s energy department website
  • The current state of the network
  • The roles of SD-WAN and the cloud
  • The industrial perspective

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