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3 NASA Integrated Services Network INTRODUCTION NISN Services The NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) project NISN provides wide-area network (WAN) services to provides terrestrial networking for the agency. There are two support all the NASA mission directorates, all NASA cen- separate networks: a mission network, controlled out of ters and facilities, agency institutional activities, and indi- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and an institu- vidual projects and missions. According to the NISN project tional network, controlled out of NASA Marshall Space plan, standard services offered by NISN include video tele- Flight Center (MSFC). NISN does not provide or manage conferencing, voice teleconferencing, switched voice, mis- sion voice, routed data, and intrusion detection.2 NISN cus- the local on-site networks at the various NASA centers. The budget for NISN is $94 million per year. This cov- tom services include dedicated data links, high-rate data/ ers facility and circuit costs, as well as a workforce com- video, integrated services digital network, international com- posed of 25 civil service employees and about 250 contrac- munications, security services, and various services to sup- tors. The primary NISN workforce is located at GSFC (13 port NASA personnel in Russia. NISN also provides net- civil service employees and about 40 contractors) and at work integration and consulting services, including Domain MSFC (12 civil service employees and over 150 contrac- Name System service for the agency, NASA directory ser- tors) to operate the mission and institutional networks. NISN vice (X.500), communications management and information has a gateway at each of the other NASA centers, with a services, ad hoc communications service, and applications minimal staff typically consisting of a gateway technician services. and a customer service representative (CSR). A site’s CSR The mission network is a closed network, used for trans- serves as the interface between institutional network users at mission of flight-mission data between NASA ground sta- that site and NISN personnel at MSFC. tions and mission operations control centers. Accessibility to the mission network is tightly controlled, and the back- bone consists primarily of dedicated circuits. In contrast, the NISN Goals institutional network is open, providing such services as e- The high-level mission of NISN, as stated in the 2005 mail and access to the Internet. The rationale for maintaining NISN project plan, is as follows: two separate networks is the criticality of real-time mission data. Consequently, the reliability and availability require- Provide high-quality, reliable, secure, cost-effective tele- ments are more stringent for the mission network than for communications systems and services for mission control, the institutional network. For example, the amount of time science data handling, and program administration for targeted for problem resolution on the institutional network NASA programs and facilities.1 is 4 hours, whereas on the mission network it is 2 hours— An enterprise architecture (EA) is being established to and it is 20 minutes if a real-time mission is involved. How- ensure that information technology expenditures are aligned ever, the most significant difference in requirements for the with agency strategic goals. NISN will use the EA structure two networks is the requirement that the mission network to align NISN goals and services with those of its customers. must be “frozen” for a period of time before and during a mission, meaning that the network configuration is not to be 23
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24 REVIEW OF THE SPACE COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM altered during that time (e.g., no network upgrades are al- sions, while GLAST has not yet been launched. At JSC the lowed, and no changes can be made to any network services). committee spoke with representatives from the Space Sta- This is done to ensure that users will have a stable network tion Program and the Shuttle Program, two major users of platform to support their missions. SOMD space communications facilities. At MSFC the com- mittee spoke with some institutional network customers, as well as NISN personnel in charge of various aspects of the NISN Customers institutional network, e.g., advanced technology, security, NISN customers include all NASA centers and NASA video-teleconferencing, and customer service. The commit- headquarters, most flight mission programs and projects, tee spoke both with civil service employees and with con- other networks for space communication (the Space Net- tractors during all three of these site visits. At GSFC the work, Ground Network, and Deep Space Network), NASA committee toured the mission network control room, and at contractors, NASA international partners, academia, and MSFC the committee toured the institutional network con- other government agencies. trol facilities. The mission and institutional networks serve different sets of customers. Customers of the mission network are Formulation of the Project Plan NASA missions; key customers include the Space Shuttle, Space Station, and Earth and space science missions. Since Project Objectives the institutional network supports more general NASA ac- tivities, the customer base is much broader. Specific custom- The customer-focused nature of NISN is reflected in the ers include NASA missions (transmitting data to the users project objectives stated above. According to the NISN once it has reached the ground), employees at the various project plan, the goals and objectives of NISN are consistent NASA centers, and NASA’s academic and international with NASA’s strategic plan, as “the NISN network resource partners. provides the means for the NASA Mission Directorates to fulfill the NASA agency strategic goals of Strategic Man- agement, Delivery of Aerospace products and capabilities, ASSESSMENT and the generation and communication of knowledge be- NISN is fundamentally an operational organization, pro- tween NASA and other agencies and institutes in the United States and International Partners.”6 In addition, NISN ob- viding terrestrial networking services to the agency. Hence, any review of the NISN component of the SOMD space com- jectives clearly support the overall goals of the SOMD space munications program must be based on customer assessment. communications program goals. In the conduct of this review the committee spoke with cus- tomers of the mission network and the institutional network, Project Deliverables as well as NISN employees responsible for the operation of both networks. The committee also obtained copies of vari- Customers of the mission network at GSFC indicated a ous documents that govern project activities and responsi- high level of satisfaction with services provided by NISN, as bilities, such as the NISN project plan3 and various cus- well as the Space Network. Space communications person- tomer agreements.4 nel (including NISN personnel) work closely with mission The committee spoke with several customers of the personnel throughout the mission process, from mission in- NISN networks during site visits to NASA’s GSFC, MSFC, ception through launch and operations, to ensure that mis- and Johnson Space Center (JSC). At GSFC the committee sion communication requirements are met. The GSFC space spoke with NISN personnel affiliated with the mission net- communications personnel explained their procedure for in- work control room, customers from the Science Mission teraction with mission personnel. Several agreements docu- Directorate, and space communications personnel who in- ment the process. They include a detailed mission require- terface with mission personnel to develop evolving mission ments document, a network operations support plan, and a communications requirements. These discussions included project service-level agreement, which is the defining docu- representatives from two space science missions: the Hubble ment that governs the relationship between NISN and the Space Telescope and GLAST (Gamma Ray Large Area mission. Specified in these documents are the requirements Space Telescope) and two Earth observation missions: Aura NISN is to meet for both voice and routed data services, and Aqua. The committee also spoke with the Earth Science along with start and stop dates for each identified service. Mission Operations network manager, who indicated to the Once a mission becomes operational, daily discrepancy re- committee that his group is responsible for about half of the ports identify any problems. Each problem is assigned a dis- NISN mission network requirements.5 The discussions crepancy report number, and the problem is tracked to clo- probed interactions between space communications repre- sure. Most discrepancy reports are closed within the day. sentatives and science missions throughout the mission pro- The process summarized above reflects close coordina- cess, as Hubble, Aura, and Aqua are all operational mis- tion between mission personnel and the communications
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25 NASA INTEGRATED SERVICES NETWORK team from the inception of a mission, so that communica- cuss network outages, weekly staff meetings, monthly fi- tions requirements are well integrated into the planning pro- nancial and contract reviews, monthly status reports to the cess. All customers that the committee interviewed agreed SOMD space communications program, monthly reviews of that the process works well and that they are satisfied with requests for changes to policies and processes, and annual the services delivered by NISN. reviews to map NISN services to customer needs and to plan Requirements for the institutional network are more future directions. general, because of the open nature of the network. NISN Reviews with customers include annual reviews of re- maintains a memorandum of understanding with each NASA quirements and budgets; quarterly video teleconferences to center, which specifies services to be provided to that center. brief customers on ongoing NISN activities and on new and As previously noted, the customer service representative at modified services, and to solicit customer feedback; and an each site is the interface between institutional network users annual customer forum. These customer forums, typically at that site and NISN personnel at MSFC. attracting about 250 attendees, provide a valuable opportu- nity for customers to interact with NISN and with each other. Customers of both the mission and the institutional networks Performance Metrics can share their experiences, compare their networking re- The NISN project plan specifies key performance indi- quirements, listen to presentations of new technologies, meet cators that are used to evaluate NISN services. These indi- in birds-of-a-feather sessions, learn about updates or changes cators include standard performance parameters such as to NISN policy and processes, or just meet with NISN team network reliability and availability, as well as management- members. oriented performance indicators such as percentage of time that security incidents are resolved within 2 hours. Quanti- Connections to the Broader Community tative goals are specified for each performance indicator; if satisfied, these goals would ensure excellent service to the NISN leverages developments within the commercial customer and excellent value for the agency. The complete networking community. The circuits for both the mission table is available in the NISN project plan.7 network and the institutional network are provided commer- NISN personnel within the mission network control cially via the U.S. General Services Administration’s Fed- room at GSFC monitor the performance of the network on a eral Technology Service contracting mechanism. This strat- 24-hours-per-day/7-days-per-week (24/7) basis and have di- egy of using the federal government contracting mechanism rect access to the service providers. A circuit map provides ensures the best possible price for NASA, since under Fed- the means for a quick visual check on the status of the links. eral Technology Service regulations vendors cannot charge When an operator sees that there is a degradation of service lower prices to any non-governmental entity than the prices on the link, he calls the service provider and the problem is quoted in their government bids. Currently AT&T provides addressed immediately. the mission network, and Qwest recently won a contract to The institutional network is also monitored 24/7 at provide an upgraded institutional network (the WAN re- MSFC. There are redundant control facilities at MSFC. In placement network). The mission network is undergoing a case of severe weather, such as a tornado watch or warning, technology upgrade this year, with AT&T replacing some a bunker-like control facility will accommodate a reduced obsolete equipment at no charge to NASA. This indicates a staff to ensure that the network remains operational. A fur- relationship that is beneficial to NISN. ther option for maintaining operation of the institutional net- NISN maintains a small civil service staff. Contractors work is off-site telephone capabilities, including the ability perform the majority of the work, with the skeleton civil to manage the network from GSFC. This careful planning service staff retaining the management and decision-making for contingencies heightens the availability of the institu- responsibilities. The civil service staff sets policy, deter- tional network, which is vital to the everyday functioning of mines network requirements, architects the network, and the agency. monitors contractor activities; contractors operate the net- work. Although there are multiple contractor companies, both contractors and civil service employees at GSFC and Review Mechanisms MSFC assured the committee that all NISN employees work Numerous reviews of NISN are conducted throughout together as a unified team. NISN civil service and UNITeS the year. Some are internal to the NISN project or the SOMD (Unified NASA Information Technology Services is the space communications program, and others are conducted name of the primary NISN contract) contractor personnel with customers. The NISN project plan provides a complete appear to work in close partnership, and the UNITeS perfor- list;8 a summary is included below. This National Research mance rating for each 6-month period has consistently been “excellent.”9 According to NISN management at MSFC, any Council committee review is apparently the first external review of NISN. issues that arise are resolved immediately, precluding the Internal NISN reviews include daily meetings to dis- need to be included in the 3- or 6-month reporting structure.
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26 REVIEW OF THE SPACE COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM Finding: Further outsourcing for the NASA Integrated Ser- evaluated and prototyped in the laboratory prior to possible vices Network appears to be infeasible, without negatively deployment on the operational networks. The network impacting the project, since network circuits are already testbed for this work includes laboratories at MSFC, GSFC, provided commercially and the civil service staff is minimal. the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Glenn Research Center, and Ames Research Center. Since only a few of these laborato- ries are funded by NISN, this activity is heavily dependent Methodology on the mutual interest of and cooperation from other groups. NISN project activities appear to be carefully planned As a further complication, in the past NISN focused on and executed. There is a well-defined process for NISN per- evaluation and prototyping of future technologies in the 3- sonnel (as is true for space communications personnel in to 4-year time frame, relying on the NASA Research and general) to work with mission personnel over the course of Education Network (NREN) group to investigate longer- mission development and operation, to determine communi- range technology development. Over the past couple of cation requirements and to ensure that these requirements years the NREN focus has shifted to supporting the Colum- are fulfilled after the mission is launched. The mission net- bia supercomputing facility at NASA Ames Research Cen- work is monitored on a continual basis. Trouble tickets are ter. The resulting gap in technology evaluation within the typically resolved within a single day. If mission require- agency might be problematic. A major customer of the mis- ments change, communication requirements are revised ac- sion network indicated his concern about this issue when he cordingly. informed the committee of the “need to keep NREN or some Due to continuing interactions throughout all phases of cutting-edge, state-of-the-industry, group active and en- gaged with NISN.”11 a mission, there appears to be an excellent relationship be- tween space communications and mission staff. There are regularly scheduled opportunities for customers to provide Finding: The advanced technology prototyping and evalua- input into NISN project planning. The annual NISN cus- tion activities within NISN are limited, in terms of both man- tomer forum is a major such opportunity. Customer feed- power and testing facilities. back during the forum is a critical element in establishing NISN priorities and enhancing service offerings. Recommendation: NASA should reevaluate the role of the Also, according to the NISN project plan, NISN annu- advanced technology effort within NISN, to determine ally reviews existing customer requirements and solicits fu- whether activities in this area should be increased to allevi- ture requirements from NASA centers, programs/projects, ate the gap left by the NASA Research and Education and mission directorates. Finally, NISN maintains a memo- Network’s changing role. If so, additional funding would randum of agreement with each center outlining the man- likely be required for more personnel and expanded testbed agement and negotiation of requirements levied from NISN facilities. to centers, and from centers to NISN. Risk management is an important element of the NISN NISN management indicated that NISN would conduct project. The following categories of risk are identified in the more technology studies, such as a study of Voice over NISN project plan:10 Internet Protocol (VoIP), if funding were available. How- ever, safety and mission success is the highest priority. High • Cost, priority is also given to continuance of routine operations • Schedule, and data delivery, including provision of ongoing services • Human capital, and and payment of circuit and maintenance costs. In the event • Technical. of a budget reduction, lower priorities would include new initiatives, service improvements (e.g., replacement of obso- Risks to the NISN project are managed according to lete equipment), and technology evaluation. priority. The highest-priority activities are providing and maintaining network connectivity. Lower-priority activities Overall Capabilities include upgrading equipment and conducting evaluations of emerging technologies. In the event of a budget shortfall, the Facilities and personnel seem adequate to accomplish lower-priority activities will be affected first. NISN project objectives, as evidenced by the enthusiastic According to the NISN project plan, processes and tools support for NISN on the part of the mission customers inter- used for identifying, tracking, controlling, and reporting viewed by the committee at all three NASA sites. The com- NISN risks are specified in the MSFC Office of the Chief mittee met with several of the NISN civil service employees; Information Officer Organizational Work Instruction ISO1- they all seemed competent in their areas of responsibility. In OWI-008 for Information Technology Risk Management. addition, the mix of civil service employees and contractors NISN has a small advanced technology activity, staffed seems to work well. with approximately 2.5 employees. New technologies are NISN is able to attract candidates with experience when
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27 NASA INTEGRATED SERVICES NETWORK there are open positions, according to employees at GSFC. protocol several decades ago to support NASA space mis- In addition, new NISN employees at GSFC must satisfacto- sions) must be encapsulated in Internet Protocol packets for rily complete a certification process before they can conduct transmission. The ramifications of these requirements to sup- critical mission-network control-room functions by them- port legacy protocols are unclear. During its site visit to selves, further ensuring quality service from NISN. Johnson Space Center, the committee was advised that JSC The customers that were interviewed by the committee is in the process of eliminating all need for the 4800-bit uniformly expressed satisfaction with the services provided NASCOM data blocks from their missions. by space communications personnel, including NISN. For example, customers said that network reliability is good, that Finding: NISN continues to support legacy protocols instead problems are relatively infrequent, and that when problems of using only standard Internet protocols that would facili- do arise they are identified immediately and are resolved tate interoperability. rapidly. The committee heard no substantive customer com- plaints. Recommendation: NASA should conduct an agency-wide NISN is currently upgrading both the mission network study to determine trade-offs in continuing to support legacy and the institutional network. The mission network operates protocols versus updating individual mission equipment to at a lower bandwidth than the institutional network and typi- support Internet protocols. cally lags in technology. Currently the mission network backbone consists primarily of multiple T1 (1.5 megabits The NISN institutional network serves the daily com- per second) links and some DS3 (45 megabits per second) munications activities of everyone at all the NASA centers links. The institutional network provided by Qwest, which is and hence operates in a less controlled environment than to be completed by the end of 2006, will be a fiber-optic does the mission network. A result can be that unexpected network with gigabit capacity. requirements are suddenly imposed on the network. For ex- The committee did see a significant amount of obsolete ample, a decision to locate all e-mail servers at MSFC led to equipment during the site visits, including a room full of a surge in traffic in and out of MSFC. This decision had not over-30-year-old patch panels for voice distribution on the been coordinated with NISN, resulting in a degradation of mission network. According to NISN management, other network performance. NISN equipment has gone beyond “end-of-life” designation As indicated throughout this chapter, the mission net- to “end-of-service” designation, meaning that the vendors work and institutional network are two separate networks, will no longer even service the equipment. This problem each provided by a different vendor. These networks are apparently is the result of a poorly structured contract under currently separate because of differing user requirements. the former Consolidated Space Operations Contract. NISN However, according to NISN management, the differences is well aware of the criticality of this situation and is cur- in requirements for reliability and availability between the rently working to upgrade this equipment in a prioritized two are becoming less important, since state-of-the-art net- manner subject to funding constraints. For example, NISN is work technologies are inherently very reliable. Apparently, currently enhancing voice capabilities for the mission net- the only remaining real difference is the need to “freeze” the work under the Mission Operations Voice Enhancement mission network around mission launch and operation. Us- project. In addition AT&T is upgrading switching equipment ing state-of-the-art technologies, it might be possible to com- in the mission network at no charge to NASA (as mentioned bine the two networks and still offer separate services by above), because the current equipment is so obsolete that it providing separate channels on the same network infrastruc- is more cost-effective for AT&T to replace it rather than ture, e.g., using separate wavelengths on a fiber-optic net- continue to maintain it. work, using Virtual Private Network technology, or using router technology. Using a single network infrastructure for Finding: The problem of having NISN equipment that is no the two networks might provide a more cost-effective solu- longer serviceable is being resolved by replacing outdated tion to satisfying user needs. equipment as funding allows. Finding: NASA’s mission network has more stringent re- Recommendation: NASA should structure future NISN sup- quirements for reliability and availability than does its insti- port contracts to ensure that critical equipment is updated in tutional network. However, given the improvements inher- an ongoing manner, with the minimum requirement being ent in state-of-the-art network technologies, any network that equipment will be replaced before vendors cease main- with such technology will satisfy the more stringent of the tenance. two sets of requirements, so that it is not necessary to differ- entiate between the two networks with respect to this issue. The NISN mission network is also required to support some “legacy” protocols for handling data. In particular, Recommendation: NASA should reevaluate the possibilities 4800-bit NASCOM data blocks (devised as a proprietary
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28 REVIEW OF THE SPACE COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM discussion during the NRC Committee to Review NASA’s Space for sharing a single network infrastructure for its mission Communications Program site visit to GSFC, March 13, 2006. network and institutional network. 6. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) Project Plan, December 2005, p. 6. NOTES 7. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) Project Plan, December 2005, pp. 38-39. 1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 8. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) Project Plan, Decem- Project Plan, December 2005, p. 45. ber 2005, p. 7. 9. Paschall, Elizabeth, NISN Project Manager, personal com- 2. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) munication, April 7, 2006. Project Plan, December 2005, p. 12. 10. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) 3. NASA, NASA Integrated Services Network (NISN) Project Plan, December 2005, p. 42. Project Plan, December 2005. 11. Knoble, Gordon, NASA GSFC Network Manager for Earth 4. Examples of customer agreements include memoranda of Science Mission Operations, presentation during NRC Committee agreement at the NASA center level, and detailed mission require- to Review NASA’s Space Communications Program site visit to ments documents and project service-level agreements at the mis- GSFC, March 13, 2006. sion level. 5. Knoble, Gordon, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Network Manager for Earth Science Mission Operations,