The need for modernization In addition to the need for greater capacity, the agency had an urgent requirement for more robust hardware. It had hardened switches in place, but in a humid and dusty environment, those switches were proving insufficient.
“The cooling fans were too loud,” which threatened to become a battlefield liability, Kleinpeter said. “And it was a very harsh environment — very humid, very dusty, with a lot of particulates at times. The switches needed to run for extended periods of time with little to no opportunity for maintenance, and they were failing.”
The need for upgrades was apparent and urgent. Yet the agency faced a number of key hurdles. First, there were compliance requirements that complicated the procurement picture. The new solution would need to meet the standards of the Trade America Act (TAA), which requires a product to be either wholly grown, produced, manufactured or “substantially transformed” in the U.S. or a “designated country.” And the solution would need to be on the Department of Defense approved product list. The new switches would need to be hardened to withstand the harsh environment, with the ability to survive temperatures ranging from -40° C to 70° C with minimal maintenance. In
addition, the solution would have to satisfy a high bar when it came to the security of the physical devices. “They needed to make sure the switches were locked down with multitiered password protections,” Kleinpeter said. “They needed to know that no one without a very high level of security could make changes to the devices.”