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Networking Equipment - GovITwiki

Networking Equipment

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Introduction Computer networking is the engineering discipline concerned with communication between computer systems.

A computer network itself is a system of multiple computers connected together using a telecommunication system for the purpose of communicating and sharing resources.

The U.S. federal government was instrumental in providing funding and coordinating the engineering resources to build the first computer networks in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Today, governments around the world are spending more than ever on computer networking equipment.[1] Besides ongoing upgrades of government networks as government agencies work to improve security and share data, another major driver of this spending trend is renewed interest in voice over IP systems and video sharing.[2] This growth is expected to continue over the next several years [1].


History of Networking in Government

Today's computer networks use a technology called packet switching. It was developed from research in the 1960s sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), now called DARPA.

In packet switching, information is broken into small pieces, or packets. Header information is attached to each packet, showing where the data came from ad where it is supposed to be set by the network. These packets are forwarded from one computer to another until they arrive at their destination computer. they can be routed multiple different ways through a network, and each packet may take a different path, depending on the workload and availability of the machines involved. The receiving computer acknowledges receipt of packets. Packets sometimes can be lost by the system, so if acknowledgment is not received, the sending computer will resend a lost packet.

This is the technology used by today's Internet, so any discussion of computer networking must be closely tied to a discussion about Internet history.

According to a paper written in the mid 1990s by Vinton Cerf, on of the first engineers involved in the development of ARPAnet, the forerunner of today's Internet, "The earliest packet switching research was sponsored by the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which acted as a visionary force shaping the evolution of computer networking as a tool for coherent harnessing of far-flung computing resources. The first experiments were conducted around 1966. Shortly thereafter, similar work began at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK. In 1968 DARPA developed and released a Request for Quotation for a communication system based on a set of small, interconnected computers it called "Interface Message Processors" or "IMPs." The competition was won by Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), a research firm in Cambridge, MA, and by September 1969 BBN had developed and delivered the first IMP to the Network Measurement Center located at UCLA. The "ARPANET" was to touch off an explosion of networking research that continues to the present."

Even though the original development was sponsored by the military, a decision was made early in the process to keep the work unclassified and open, Cerf said, and to involve some ot the best known computer researchers of the time in the system's development. For this reason, no single company owned the Internet switching technologies, and the network was allowed to expand internationally.

The U.S. government allowed the Internet to go fully commercial in the early 1990s.

Current Situation

Networking, and network equipment spending is one of the fastest growing areas within Federal Government information technology budgets.

There is a strong move towards wireless systems in the government, but a large-scale push a few years ago to start moving toward city-wide or "municipal wireless" systems seems to have stalled. Such systems are expensive to construct and maintain. However there remains a strong interest in wireless systems in most cities. they are just seeking more practical solutions.

Some Common Procurement Methods

The following contracts have proven to be popular vehicles for government purchase of networking equipment:

  • National Institutes of Health contract - NIH ECS III
  • Defense Department contract - MDA11201D0004
  • Defense Department contract - MDA11202D0001
  • Homeland Security - HSSS0105C0020


It's likely that more Internet connectivity will be satellite based in the near future. In the spring of 2007, the General Services Administration has awarded Satcom II contracts to 24 communications companies. It's a five-year, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) agreement valued at $750 million.

IPv6 for Gov will have a significant impact on government network planning.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA is working with Silvus Communication Systems, a group formed via the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), to boost mobile ad hoc network technology (MANET). A $5.96 million contract calls upon the group to build and demonstrate multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) wireless communications technology for MANETs.


This page needs to be expanded. If you know about this technology area and how the government buys and uses this technology, please feel free to add to this page. Please make sure that all entries are free from political ideology and that your entries are factual and documented with external references.


[1] From estimates published by the [Manufacturers Association for Information Technology http://www.mait.com/homeitnews1.jsp?Id=328] [2] [Techwatch report http://www.fcw.com/vendorsolutions/techwatch/techwatch.pdf], page 2

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