Network Simulation and Predictable Communications - Part One

As part of our Network Simulation series, today’s blog kicks off the important discussion around Predictable Communications and the value that this brings to your organization. 

Most users of mobile communications have experienced unexpected deterioration in voice quality, dropped calls, or frozen videos. While such unpredictability is a mere annoyance in the personal use context, the consequences can be severe in other contexts – mission-critical enterprise applications, battlefield communications, or first responders to a natural disaster or terrorist action immediately come to mind.   

Whereas perfect communications are difficult to guarantee in most contexts, predictable communications are often sufficient.  Perfect communications seek to offer an unachievable guarantee - that communications can take place under any and all conditions; in contrast, predictable communications offer a known quality of communication, under different operating conditions.  Thus, predictable communications can help anticipate gaps in communication quality and take appropriate mitigating actions.  

For instance, if a platoon commander knows the operational area where video or voice communications cannot be supported either due to terrain blockages or adversary activities, the mission plan can account for that gap.  Similarly, if she knows that loss of two or more relays in a given mission will result in the inability to maintain contact with forward operational units, back up measures can be deployed as soon as the first relay is lost.  

In the Maritime environment, undersea network planners need to understand how acoustic and optical propagation will be affected as a function of time of day and season to enable command and control of manned and unmanned submersibles.  The quantification of quality is context-dependent, but the ability to predict it is invaluable. 

The bottom line is clear; if a communication gap can be predicted, it can be anticipated, and its’ impact mitigated. 

Network simulations that accurately capture network dynamics can be a powerful tool towards meeting the objective of predictable communications for critical military and enterprise applications.   However, in order for a network simulation to do so, it must model the dynamic interplay between the specific communication protocol being used (e.g., TCP or UDP; Link-16 or TTNT), the type of application traffic that is transmitted (e.g., streaming video or file download or both), relevant environmental effects (e.g. urban terrain or rural terrain or space-based communication), and adversary activities (e.g. burst jamming or repeater jamming).   By incorporating these factors adequately in the model, communication and network planners and analysts can anticipate gaps in needed communication quality and deploy appropriate mitigation measures to assure the mission.

Written by Dr. Rajive Bagrodia. As founder and CEO of SCALABLE Network Technologies (SCALABLE), Dr. Bagrodia is a thought leader in the field of modeling and simulation, test and analysis, and assessment of the resiliency and impact of cyber threats on large scale networks.

Watch for our part 2 in our Network Simulation series where we will discuss how heterogeneity, scalability, and diverse application traffic are hallmarks of contemporary computer and communication networks.  We will explore the question “How do network simulations help network planners ensure that planned network deployments will meet these requirements?”

 

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