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From left, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions IT Network Engineers Alan Chafin, Kyle Garner, and Nicole Arnold complete the configuration of 800 computer network switches in dozens of buildings across the Savannah River Site.
From left, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions IT Network Engineers Alan Chafin, Kyle Garner, and Nicole Arnold complete the configuration of 800 computer network switches in dozens of buildings across the Savannah River Site.

AIKEN, S.C. –The future of cybersecurity was brought to reality at the Savannah River Site (SRS) with a hardware upgrade that replaced 800 computer network switches in dozens of buildings across the site and the installation of new, cutting-edge security software. The multi-year project was completed nearly a year ahead of schedule.

A network switch is an essential component used as an interface between a computer, server, or computerized hardware, such as a printer, plotter, and other peripheral equipment. Through a company or sitewide data network, a computer user sends and receives email and accesses the internet.

Alan Chafin, network engineer with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the management and operations contractor at SRS, managed a team of SRNS information technology (IT) personnel assisted by several subcontractor employees. They used innovative thinking and strategic planning to compress the project schedule.

Project management carefully coordinated outages with SRS organizations that were heavily reliant on IT equipment. This was crucial to avoid lost productivity and delayed completion of application-based tasks. Affected systems included payroll processing, employee benefits, and security programs.

“We began this project about two and a half years ago for several reasons, primarily because we wanted to proactively replace the switches before age-related maintenance issues appeared,” Chafin said. The improved switches recognize and harness new security software that older switches could not support.

“This is a game changer,” said Henry Longley, SRNS lead network engineer. “The new software, called Identity Services Engine or ISE, requires a new way of thinking in order to fully understand the immense and versatile capabilities it offers SRNS IT. Moving to ISE software is like moving from black-and-white television to virtual reality. It has that kind of potential impact to radically improve our ability to defend our data network and defeat attacks.

“We are really excited about the nearly limitless potential, which is so great it’s difficult for us to fully grasp at this time,” he added.

SRS utilizes Defense-in-Depth cybersecurity, which means layers of security are in place to protect computer systems and data. IT employees continually work to identify and patch vulnerabilities on network equipment, in order to maintain this defense strategy.

“DOE recognizes this project as a significant accomplishment,” said Lewann Belton, chief information officer, DOE-Savannah River Cyber and Information Technology Division. “Everyone involved in completing this project is to be commended.”

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