The Top 5 Questions to Ask When Determining the Best Switch/Router Solution


The Top 5 Questions to Ask When Determining the Best Switch/Router Solution

Effective, powerful Ethernet networking is critical to today’s modern aerospace and defense applications. There are more choices than ever for MIL-spec network switch and router systems capable of supporting tactical intra-and inter-vehicle network architectures. System integrators and end users should have a clear understanding of their platform’s network requirements, as well as what is available on the market to satisfy these program requirements.  

A number of COTS network switch and router systems have been compared and contrasted in the Choosing a Rugged Ethernet Switch/Router Solution white paper to help answer the fundamental questions about network architecture that help guide the selection of rugged Ethernet switch / router Line Replaceable Units (LRUs). These include: 

  1. Does the mission platform need a switch, a router, or both and what is the difference between Layer 2 and 3 devices?

    Determining it the platform requires a rugged Ethernet switch, router or both is the first step in system definition. If communication is needed on a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN) or both, then a switch, router or both respectively will be required. The Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model of computer networking is explained to help the reader understand the difference between a Layer 2 and a Layer 3 device and the Curtiss-Wright networking subsystems are identified by which OSI network layer to which they correspond. 
  2. How many Ethernet ports and what speeds should the device support and what connectors are most appropriate?

    Port density, speed and connector requirements are important to determine from the onset. Inter- vs. intra- vehicle communications will impact these decisions due to the speed bottleneck encountered in vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Physical vehicle constraints and the program’s stance on future-proofing the program will help determine port density and connector choices. Port count, connectors and speeds for Curtiss-Wright networking subsystems are clearly mapped out to help the reader determine the best balance of budget and functionality for their application.  
  3. Should the network device be fully manageable or just plug-and-play?

    Understanding whether your MIL-Spec network device requires management, and to what level, also plays an important role in choosing the right solution. This paper outlines unmanaged switch advantages while providing a good overview of management protocols available for managed switches.
  4. What role does size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) play and how will it affect the number of LRUs needed?

    The advantages of reducing size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) of on-board LRUs is widely understood in the aerospace and defense industry and is quite relevant to rugged networking systems. A detailed SWaP comparison of Curtiss-Wright networking products is included to help the reader understand the multitude of configurations available. One of the ways to optimize SWaP-C is to combine multiple functions into a single device. Combining computational processing, LAN switching and IP traffic routing in a single box not only reduces SWaP but also simplifies system integration. For example, Curtiss-Wright’s DuraDBH-672 Digital Beachhead system combines scalable, rugged multi-function computing and networking into a single device. Other similar devices are reviewed in detail from a SWaP-C perspective.