This New, Scalable Disaster Recovery Solution Can Help Cities Weather Storms

Cell towers going down in storms is nothing wireless carriers can't handle these days.

Cell towers going down in storms is nothing wireless carriers can't handle these days. Thanagon_thekob / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Ewing, New Jersey police cruisers rolled with Pertino software and Cradlepoint hardware before the latter acquired the former earlier this week.

Crippling storms that take down wired networks and sever much-needed access to applications have many local governments shopping for a scalable disaster recovery solution.

Hurricane Katrina put Boise, Idaho-based Cradlepoint on the map in 2005, wiping out a number of local governments’ wired networks. Just over seven years later, Hurricane Sandy further impressed upon them the need to be agile and spin up emergency, wireless networks quickly.

The 4G LTE networking solutions provider has been out to Long Island, New York, 14 times in the last two-and-a-half years looking for ways to address different disaster scenarios with an overlay network.

This past week, the company announced its acquisition of Los Gatos, California-based Pertino—adding software-defined networking capabilities for more scalable infrastructure.

"If you look at network landscapes they're evolving; enterprise networks are dealing with mobile like tablets and cellphones, and [the Internet of Things] is also putting stress on networks,” Ken Hosac, Cradlepoint’s vice president of development, told Route Fifty in an interview. “Increasing the uptime of your network is very, very important because a lot of networks can’t scale.”

Aside from reducing network costs, the pairing of Pertino software with Cradlepoint hardware preserves access to local governments’ increasing array of cloud-based applications should a wired network go down.

Enterprise networks can be extended to vehicles with the IBR1100 modem now found in buses in New York City, ambulances in London and police cars in Ewing Township, New Jersey, northwest of Trenton.

Prior to the acquisition, the Ewing Township Police Department used Pertino and Cradlepoint independently in its police cruisers.

First came Pertino and its virtual private network (VPN), which was installed on squad car computers to secure the transfer of criminal justice information to a police database.

Within a year, Ewing police were also using Cradlepoint modems, which can be managed remotely from a browser.

The products work so well together because of their cloud-managed philosophy to making things work, said Ewing police System Administrator Matt Rosidivito in an interview.

“When I first got the message the two were merging, I went to a coworker and said it made a whole lot of sense given the combination of the hardware and software that they provide,” he said. “It is sort of its own scalable disaster recovery solution because the software is hardware agnostic, and you have land-level connectivity because Cradlepoint modems can connect out to cellular providers.”

Major carriers like Verizon have 18-wheelers that serve as mobile cell towers that can drive into a severe storm if wired networks go down.

The partnership also takes tedious work out of day-to-day tasks for often-undermanned local government IT departments facing backlogs. Officers can run license plates from their cruisers, easing the workload of police dispatch.

The two companies’ networks autoconnect upon rebooting the router, and if the local data center experiences problems, users can switch between three network options for optimal performance.

While Ewing hasn’t experienced any functional changes since Pertino’s acquisition, Hosac promised tighter integration of cloud-based controls in the first half of 2016 and distributed edge computing further out for preprocessing data.

IoT devices are increasing the number of network connections from people, buildings and vehicles, public safety being one of the fastest growing segments—especially with the rise in police body camera usage.

Previously, officers often carried easily breakable 3G USB sticks, but Cradlepoint’s latest solution separates the network from devices themselves so they’re not burdened with connectivity.

In terms of scale, as many as 500 networks can be spun up in a day—handy in an emergency and with the rise of IoT.

“Traditional networks connect branch offices, but with IoT you may have 50,000 endpoints you need to do that for, said Craig Elliott, Pertino’s CEO. “This allows for us to scale up and down in ways we haven’t had to consider in the past, so IoT is going to be interesting.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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