Choosing a Networking System

November 03, 2014 | BY: Mike Southworth

Network System Factors to Consider

Mission-critical defense and aerospace applications ride on the power and effectiveness of IP networking. The following considerations will help you choose the right networking solution for a specific program.

Switches and Routers
Ethernet switches and routers form the core of networking systems. Switches connect devices on a local area network (LAN) on ground vehicles or aircraft. They enable computing and sensor devices to communicate and share information on-board. These devices may include a mission computer, flight computer, video camera, weapons system, Ethernet-enabled radio or a wireless device.

Routers form the next layer of network connectivity. Switches often plug into routers to share information outside the vehicle or aircraft to a wide area network (WAN) via a tactical radio, satellite modem, or other wired/wireless backhauls. This networking facilitates communication across applications and between vehicles in aerospace and defense platforms.

Switches and routers vary greatly, providing the functionality and performance required by an application. Switches vary in configurability as well, from simple, unmanaged plug-and-play devices to fully managed, configurable devices. They also vary in speed, level of security, ruggedness and number of ports for connecting to other devices, cards, sensors and processors.

How fast do you need connections to be?
Ethernet networks traditionally start out at speeds of 100 MB/s or 10/100 Ethernet, but demand has been moving toward Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), providing 1,000 MB/s, and even 10 GbE.

The types of connections - copper or fiber optic - are another important choice that requires a balance of budget and functionality. Depending on the application, each has advantages and disadvantages.

Fiber optic transmits data over long distances and provides greater data security than copper. In addition, fiber optic delivers less signal loss and is more resistant to electromagnetic interference (EMI).

On the other hand, copper may cost less and resist damage better than fiber optic. Many systems use both, playing to each medium's strengths: copper for onboard communications and fiber optic for high-speed applications and network-to-network communication across distance.

Ruggedization and SWaP
As defense and aerospace applications typically operate in extreme environments, ruggedization of networking systems is essential. Their design must take into account the conditions of their deployed environment, such as electromagnetic interference, dust, water, temperature extremes, vibration, humidity and high altitude.

Another critical decision is the selection of networking systems of reduced size, weight and power (SWaP) consumption to promote greater efficiency and performance of defense and aerospace applications, including unmanned vehicles.

To find the best solution for your networking system needs, contact a Curtiss-Wright representative.

Mike Southworth

Author’s Biography

Mike Southworth

Senior Product Manager

Mike Southworth serves as Senior Product Manager for Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions where he is responsible for the Parvus small form-factor rugged mission computers and Ethernet networking subsystem product line targeting Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP)-constrained military and aerospace applications. Southworth has more than 15 years of experience in technical product management and marketing communications leadership roles. Mike holds an MBA from the University of Utah and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from Brigham Young University.

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