Virtualized Naval Tactical Data System Interfaces over Ethernet

Navy SBIR 24.1 - Topic N241-048
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command
Pre-release 11/29/23   Opens to accept proposals 1/03/24   Now Closes 2/21/24 12:00pm ET

N241-048 TITLE: Virtualized Naval Tactical Data System Interfaces over Ethernet

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a capability for Ethernet-based Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS) interfaces to allow hardware abstraction of Interface Processor Computer Programs (IPCPs) to virtual machines.

DESCRIPTION: Currently AN/SQQ-89 infrastructure uses legacy hardware interfaces to connect. The Navy is seeking innovative solutions to replacing legacy hardware used in tactical systems with software defined solutions supported in an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) architecture. The IaaS architecture uses the latest release of VMWare / ESXi hypervisors with virtual machines running Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system (RHEL7 or later). Hardware abstraction in software will address the growing problem of hardware obsolescence and lowering installation, maintenance, training, and logistics costs.

AN/SQQ-89 is currently transitioning to an IaaS architecture that supports hardware abstraction (i.e., virtual machines (VM)) to improve fault tolerance, improve resiliency, and lower operational risk due to hardware obsolescence. The Navy is looking for innovative solutions as alternatives to legacy interfaces that can transition to an IaaS architecture. In the IaaS architecture, a VM can run anywhere in a cluster of compute nodes within the architecture. Legacy NTDS applications between Aegis Weapon System (AWS) elements on US Surface Ship combatants require specialized NTDS hardware that was designed in the 1950s. The linkages between applications are point-to-point (i.e., NTDS cable between two NTDS devices). NTDS MIL-SPEC interfaces and NTDS interface hardware are becoming increasingly harder to manufacture and to maintain. MIL-SPEC NTDS connectors and cables are very expensive. The cost of a typical NTDS cable may be more than $3K per cable.

Research and development (R&D) is in-progress to transition an NTDS interface application to a VM and evaluate the use of a special-purpose Ethernet-to-NTDS device (i.e., an IXI PowerNet device) to demonstrate the feasibility of VM technology for these interfaces.

The Navy is seeking innovative solutions to replace legacy hardware used in tactical systems with software defined solutions supported in an IaaS architecture. Hardware abstraction in software addresses the growing problem of hardware obsolescence and, lowers installation, maintenance, training, and logistics costs. The goal is to eliminate physical NTDS interfaces in favor of software-only, Ethernet based communications between NTDS applications.

The solution will provide software drivers that can be added to tactical operating systems such that no software changes are needed for the legacy NTDS application to work with the new drivers.

Solutions with enhanced CYBER-secure features are preferred. The ability to abstract NTDS interface applications to VMs reduces risk with hardware obsolescence and components that are in limited supply and increasingly difficult to manufacture. This solution will reduce development, logistic, and maintenance costs by eliminating physical NTDS hardware and cabling, thus saving tens of thousands of dollars per installation.

Commercial application for this technology will be limited as this interface protocol is used exclusively for DOD (NTDS - Navy Tactical Data System); however, the concept of developing Ethernet-based drivers to replace physical hardware can be extended to commercial use.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by 32 U.S.C. 2004.20 et seq., National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material during the advanced phases of this contract IAW the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), which can be found at Title 32, Part 2004.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Reference: National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual (NISP), 32 U.S.C. 2004.20 et seq. (1993). https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-32/subtitle-B/chapter-XX/part-2004

PHASE I: Develop a concept for NTDS over Ethernet designs. Demonstrate the concept meets the parameters in the Description and show the feasibility of NTDS interface communications between two servers.

Feasibility will be shown through analysis and modeling. The concept shall support as a minimum RHEL 7 operating system. The government will provide specific details describing changes that will be required to support the NTDS-over-Ethernet with connections to legacy servers. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype NTDS over Ethernet solution for testing and evaluation based on the results of Phase I. Demonstrate the prototype meets requirements and parameters in the Description. The prototype will be assessed by the government subject matter experts. Develop procedures for installation and integration.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. The final product will be the VM-based NTDS over Ethernet that can be extended to support all AEGIS combat system elements on all surface ship combatants. The design of VM-based NTDS applications shall be adapted to current and future AN/SQQ-89A(V) ACB and AEGIS baselines. Future NTDS development efforts will be software development specific as the need for physical NTDS hardware for NTDS interface applications transitions to NTDS-over-Ethernet. Validation and testing will be performed with AN/SQQ-89 integration team and various AEGIS certification authorities.

The potential for dual-use with other Navy developers involved with NTDS interface application development is tremendous. Virtually all Navy systems include NTDS interface hardware. The transition to Ethernet-based NTDS will slowly eliminate the need for these devices. Innovations and development of drivers for transition from physical hardware to Ethernet-based communications may be applied to other communications protocols. Commercial industries that can use this technology include computer and network system builders and any company that has integrated legacy hardware in their networks infrastructure.

REFERENCES:

  1. Carter, Michael. "Designing for forward and backward compatibility is key to managing obsolescence." IXI Technology, 6 March 2023, https://ixitech.com/white-paper/designing-for-forward-and-backward-compatibility-is-key-to-managing-obsolescence/
  2. "PowerNet™ NTDS to Ethernet Converter." https://ixitech.com/product/ntds-ethernet-converter/
  3. "Navy Fact File: AN/SQQ-89(V) Undersea Warfare / Anti-Submarine Warfare Combat System." https://www.navy.mil/Resources/Fact-Files/Display-FactFiles/Article/2166784/ansqq-89v-undersea-warfare-anti-submarine-warfare-combat-system/

KEYWORDS: Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS); AN/SQQ-89 infrastructure; hardware obsolescence; Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Cyber-secure; NTDS connectors and cables


** TOPIC NOTICE **

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