Bahrain migrates GDN to broadband network

The Government of Bahrain is embarking on an upgrade of its data network. The three-phase project will migrate the government data network (GDN) to an Ethernet and fibre-based broadband network.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  October 27, 2002

I|~||~||~|The Government of Bahrain is embarking on an upgrade of its data network. The three-phase project will migrate the government data network (GDN) away from the current mixture of Frame Relay, ISDN and leased lines that connect its 150 sites, to an Ethernet and fibre-based broadband network.

“The new proposal, [which uses] Ethernet broadband technology, does not really change the topology of the network, but it introduces extra bandwidth to cater for [the] government’s changing requirements in the wake of e-government in the Kingdom,” explains Mohammed Al Amer, director of computer services at the Central Statistics Organisation (CSO), which is responsible for spearheading the project.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain is actively developing applications in order to make [its] services more effective and efficient. A high bandwidth networking and technology infrastructure is a prerequisite for the launch of e-government applications,” he adds.

To upgrade the network over the next two years, CSO has partnered with the island’s monopoly PTT, Batelco. Working in conjunction with CSO, Batelco has drawn up a revised network blueprint to convert the GDN to a multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) and virtual private networking (VPN) environment.

It will be based on Cisco Systems kit and the MPLS will be used in the core to differentiate and streamline traffic types and provide the foundation for future voice over IP (VoIP) and video services. When completed, the network will provide connectivity of up to 100 M/bits/s in some cases, but more frequently a minimum of 10 M/bits/s.

“The bandwidth capacity will be increased [by] more than 24 times compared to its present capacity, which [currently] ranges from 512 K/bits/s to 2 M/bits/s,” predicts Al Amer. “It will [also] be possible to transfer [all] forms of data, such as voice, video and multimedia, at high speeds. The government-wide e-mail system and internet connections will also become faster and more efficient,” he adds.

The revamped network design has been developed in conjunction with Cisco’s local office and its channel partner, Schlumberger. Each government site will be connected by Batelco’s Single Mode Fibre Optic core network using distribution switches and customer premise equipment (CPE) with Gigabit optical interfaces.

To deliver the MPLS-VPN environment, Batelco will deploy a Metro Ethernet Switching architecture based on Cisco Catalyst 3550 switches at the network edge, combined with the Cisco ONT 1031 (optical network terminator) within customer sites. Cisco’s 7600 and 7200 Series internet routers are being deployed at the broadband aggregation layer.

The vast increase in bandwidth will support the government of Bahrain’s move towards the application service provider model. Currently, the Ministry of Finance & New Economy already acts as an ASP to the rest of the government by hosting centralised Oracle Financial applications. The Civil Service Bureau is poised to emulate the ministry when it goes live with a pan-government Horizon HR application. “When this happens the demands on the network will increase,” says Al Amer.

||**||II|~||~||~|The upgraded network will also provide greater management control. CiscoWorks 2000 sits at the heart of the management layer and Cisco’s Ethernet Subscriber Edge Solution Engine will be deployed to manage the fibre-end points on government sites. “Then underneath we’re probably going to use HP OpenView and Netware Node Manager,” explains Tony Cartwright, manager, solutions, Batelco.

The management layer serves a dual role, simultaneously monitoring the network and generating data for Batelco and CSO to manage its service level agreement (SLA). Under the terms of the SLA, if Batelco fails to fulfil certain performance criteria, either in terms of uptime, network throughput or service requests, the PTT is subject to penalty clauses, including paying money back to the client.

“There are a number of management tools all running on that platform, which will give Batelco a service management and network management view. It will also give the customer a network management view. Hopefully, we can use these tools not only to measure the network performance, but also the SLA performance,” says Cartwright.

In addition to the availability of greater management information, the virtual private network design should enable both greater security and management control.

“Even though the upgrade is mostly about bandwidth, the management control is also going to be very important,” says Al Amer. “Previously, Batelco had been like a black box, however, we get much greater transparency through the system, so we are able to analyse traffic and pinpoint possible threats and improve security,” he adds.

Security concerns have to be shared between both organisations. Currently, the CSO is using HP OpenView to manage its edge routers and IP addressing schemes. “[Batelco] will be managing the core IP addressing schemes, so there is a degree of transparency between us,” says Cartwright.

“We are using VPN technology to do partitioning on their network as a totally private network running on a sort of semi-public network. The security has to be shared between us,” he adds.

To reinforce the network security, CSO has been developing its own security policies and procedures. The government agency has worked with EDS to develop a comprehensive security strategy that covers everything from high end policies to “the nitty-gritty of anti-virus and firewalls,” says Al Amer.||**||

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