New Cisco Router Points To Growing Tactical Mobility Opportunity

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The goal, according to Cisco, is to extend top-of-the-line networking needs, from voice to video, to workers in public safety, transportation, construction, mining, defense and other harsh and heavy-duty field environments while eliminating on-site configuration hassles.

Those types of conditions, also known as mobile ad hoc networks, allow field personnel to stay in contact with command censors, perform advanced networking functions in the field, and adapt to changing orders.

"Our defense customers, first responders, heavy construction and so forth require a small form factor with the right size, weight power and mobile ad hoc networking capabilities to help them in certain operating environments," said Brad Boston, Cisco senior vice president, Research & Advanced Development, in an interview with CRN. "They are in situations where normally, they'd either have no infrastructure or that infrastructure is partially damaged."

The new router, known as the 5940 Embedded Services Router, establishes a scalable mobile network with onboard hardware encryption. It includes four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and pre-loaded Cisco IOS software and Mobile Ready Net capabilities. Physically, it is a 3U CompactPCI router card -- about the size of a 4-x-6 inch photograph -- available in both air- and conduction-cooled versions. Each version meets MILSPEC requirements.

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The key is not only the form factor but the scalability, said Murray Duff, mobility programs manager at Cisco. It relieves field personnel of having to configure networking equipment to stream video or connect for voice and data services or perform other mission-critical functions, and is intended to work with any vehicle that "flies, walks, drives or sails."

"None of these tactical operators have a networking expert to put in every vehicle," Duff explained. "So the network has to be smart enough or intelligent enough to reconfigure in this environment without the benefit of a CCIE sitting there. Ad hoc networks don't necessarily rely on existing infrastructure."

Tactical mobility is an emerging hot spot for solution providers, Duff said -- especially those who can cater to environments and industries as varied as heavy mining, chemical transportation and military defense. Given its Cisco IOS compatibility, Duff said, the 5940 will be appealing for solution providers who already work with these types of customers in Cisco-heavy infrastructure and mobility deployments.

Defense and first responders are typically the markets most served by tactical mobility solutions, he added, but as field mobility gets more common, there'll be an even greater need in commercial and more mainstream environments, too.

"I'm amazed at how quickly these are moving into commercial vehicles," Duff said. "Partners will help deliver these capabilities to vehicle fleets, and there will be a lot of addressable demand going forward."