Guantanamo Bay gets high-bandwidth makeover

Kenn Devine on creating an efficient WAN at one of the world's most controversial military facilities.

Because of the limited copper infrastructure at the base and because the copper is in poor shape, 512Kbps is the top speed BRSC can afford. But six of the sites have significant amounts of traffic that warrant larger connections, he says. So he looked around for WAN-acceleration gear that could make the 512Kbps connections behave as if they were larger.

He considered equipment from Peribit, now part of Juniper Networks, because it supported caching to speed up transfers. By the time the network was upgraded, though, Expand also had caching, and it made appliances for smaller connections for about 30% less than Juniper equipment would cost, he says. "Expand was designed more for a trickle," he says.

The Expand boxes make the 512Kbps links seem like 2Mbps pipes, with some spikes in throughput where they behave like 11Mbps links, he says.

BRSC had trouble getting the data center Expand box to take in all the branch traffic and feed it directly onto the satellite, so it installed a second Expand box there. Traffic flows from one Expand Accelerator to the other via a Layer 3 ProCurve gigabit switch, into an IPSec VPN tunnel created by Cisco ASA5510 router and over the satellite link.

Both the VPN tunnel and the Expand optimization tunnel are terminated in Virginia Beach, where traffic bound for the Internet is decrypted and dropped onto dual T-1 Internet access lines.

Devine says that with the company's WAN and LAN settled, he is focusing on better management of endpoints by locking them down and tightening up on who has administrative access. Using Citrix thin clients will allow him to centralize most applications at the Guantanamo Bay data center, making maintenance simpler.

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