BBN Technologies demonstrates disruption-tolerant critical data communications network

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., 29 September 2006. BBN Technologies has been awarded $8.7 million in funding from the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the second phase of its Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) program.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., 29 September 2006. BBN Technologies has been awarded $8.7 million in funding from the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the second phase of its Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) program.

The DTN system to be built by BBN will be capable of sending and receiving data reliably, even when stable end-to-end paths do not exist. BBN was awarded the funding after successfully designing and simulating the network architecture in the first phase of the DARPA DTN program.

"The U.S. Military's network needs are becoming more complex than traditional TCP/IP networks can handle," says Tad Elmer, president and CEO, BBN Technologies. "The DTN we simulated delivered 100 percent of the transmitted data under the worst-case network disruptions, where the traditional end-to-end TCP/IP approach broke down completely and delivered no data at all."

Under the parameters of the program's second phase, BBN will create a robust deployable system prototype and demonstrate Disruption Tolerant Networking capabilities in a military-relevant vehicular network environment.

The current Internet model of locator-based access relies on strong connectivity to naming, caching, and search infrastructure to deliver data successfully. In contrast, the system BBN will build will provide disruption-tolerant content-based access to information.

A key aspect of the DTN is its ability to communicate opportunistically using episodically or intermittently available links. In the first phase of the project, BBN successfully organized information into bundles (a concept developed by the DTNRG, an Internet Research Task Force Working Group) rather than packets.

Bundles are routed through "custodians" that augment the capabilities of traditional routers by persistently storing the bundles and then advancing the bundles to the next available node en route to their destinations.

This routing may require novel methods of advancing the information, such as using unmanned aerial vehicles to carry message traffic when there is an obstacle in the path — whether it is geographic or structural — or in the presence of an enemy threat. The result is a network that functions in the changing and unpredictable environments where reliable communications are most challenging and most critical.

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