Top End defence network could top the rest

A $4.9 million wide area network connecting 29 Department of Defence (DoD) bases, sites and headquarters in Australia's north is on track to go live in late July.

Covering the Top End from Broome in the west to Nhulunbuy in the east, the network is replacing the northern region's existing networks and is part of a pilot project to replace DoD networks throughout the whole of Australia.

Based on ATM technology, the network, known as Project Northern Exposure, is providing the northern region with a standardised, consolidated network to service around 2500 regular users. Officials said the network will also have the capability to handle some 20 per cent extra users.

"Project Northern Exposure aims to bring Defence throughout the northern region a secure comprehensive wide [area] computer network with full e-mail and Internet connectivity," Wayne Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel, manager Defence Information Systems -- Northern Region, said.

According to Wilson, existing dedicated links and networks in the northern region will be "turned off" and replaced by the new network in a matter of weeks. "Where there were different systems, now we have a standardised network . . . e-mail connectivity between bases should be improved," Mike Herron, director of Defence Information Infrastructure, said.

"The whole idea was to come on to a standardised network so the patchy connectivity problems would go away.

"Clearly we are trying to create a network that can connect anywhere to anywhere," Herron said.

According to officials, prime contractor CSC and defence personnel are working on the implementation, which is part of the DoD's Year 2000 remediation project, known as Project Diary.

According to Wilson, Northern Exposure is being used as a model for the whole defence network.

"We are proving the ATM architecture and model," Wilson said.

"Defence has to make the decision whether to allocate resources, in terms of money, to roll out the network to the whole of Australia."

Like the northern region, Wilson said, the ATM network would replace dedicated links and networks throughout Australia.

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