Network design for a ship

Posted on 2004-09-28
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-07
Does anyone have any wiring diagrams or plans for wiring a ship.

The company that I work for have just bought a ship and they're looking into different ways of networking it. So that each cabin will have a couple of network points with possible wifi in the larger public areas.

The ship has some water tight bulk heads that you're not allowed to run cable through on the lower decks, so the cables will have to be dropped down from the decks above.

So far the idea is to run 1 ring through the ship vertically.
Run a ring on each deck that doesn't have water proof bulkheads but that means we'll need managed switches...

Any help or ideas are most appreciated.


Question by:Alidsmith

Expert Comment

ID: 12171497
What kind of bulkheads?  Steel?  How large a ship?  What kind of walls seperate the structures on the ship?

What about using wireless?  In that environment, it might be the better option, dpending on the makeup of the ship.
LVL 58

Accepted Solution

Pete Long earned 400 total points
ID: 12171546
What a top question :)

I see your reasoning - dont forget your max distances for Cat5, cause this sounds like a pretty big ship :) you will need to think about allocating space for comms gear (switches patch panels etc) as ship space is at a premium place them with the distance factor in mind


Author Comment

ID: 12171680
We're thinking of putting a fibre or copper back bone into the ship then running cat 5 off of it.

The loops that I described above would the backbones.

There is far too much steel to be running wifi to the cabin etc.. especially once the engines start and the ship moves.

The ship is huge, its an old car ferry that's going to be converted into a floating book fair. With network access going to different public areas for kiosks and full network access going to crew and office areas. Plus some of the ship board functionality might be run across the network as well.

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Assisted Solution

visualcoat earned 400 total points
ID: 12171886
Do the cabins Have phones? If So you could run cable parallel with the phones? I like wireless but not every one has it.

How about a tree topology it combines characteristics of linear bus and star topologies. It consists of groups of star-configured workstations connected to a linear bus backbone cable. Tree topologies allow for the expansion of an existing network, and enable schools to configure a network to meet their needs. It should also work with Ships??

Advantages of a Tree Topology
Point-to-point wiring for individual segments.
Supported by several hardware and software venders.

Disadvantages of a Tree Topology
Overall length of each segment is limited by the type of cabling used.
If the backbone line breaks, the entire segment goes down.
More difficult to configure and wire than other topologies.
5-4-3 Rule
A consideration in setting up a tree topology using Ethernet protocol is the 5-4-3 rule. One aspect of the Ethernet protocol requires that a signal sent out on the network cable reach every part of the network within a specified length of time. Each concentrator or repeater that a signal goes through adds a small amount of time. This leads to the rule that between any two nodes on the network there can only be a maximum of 5 segments, connected through 4 repeaters/concentrators. In addition, only 3 of the segments may be populated (trunk) segments if they are made of coaxial cable. A populated segment is one which has one or more nodes attached to it.

This rule does not apply to other network protocols or Ethernet networks where all fiber optic cabling or a combination of a fiber backbone with UTP cabling is used. If there is a combination of fiber optic backbone and UTP cabling, the rule is simply translated to 7-6-5 rule.
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Assisted Solution

PsiCop earned 400 total points
ID: 12171928
Watertight bulkheads are usually metal - either steel or aluminum (the latter is probably what doomed the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War). I doubt the environment is very conducive to WiFi.

I'd make each frame its own physical subnet, and locate the IDF for each frame in the center (about equidistant between the keel and superstructure, between the starboard and port sides, and between the watertight bulkheads of the frame).

The MDF I would put somewhere up in the superstructure, probably close to the ship's communications facilities room.

I'd probably use fiber from the MDF to each IDF, and copper from the IDFs to the cabins. Choices like this are dependent on the number of cabins per frame and total number of expected computer-using passengers (some people get aboard a ship to get AWAY from computers) and the services you want to provide. You might have multiple IDFs per frame.

You also want to isolate the passenger network from the ship operations network. No connection at all is best - if you have to have a connection, then firewall it all to hell. If your ship operations network is based on Windoze, I'd use TWO *NIX-based firewalls and create a DMZ with an IDS in it. You don't want the ship dead in the water because its Windoze-based propulsion control was crashed by Little Johnny in First Class (don't laugh - a US Navy guided missle cruiser was dead in the water off of the Virginia Capes a few years ago, when its Windoze-based propulsion control system blue-screened because someone entered a "0" in the wrong field - the risks of using a mickey-mouse OS like Windoze for critical ship functions).

You definitely want a managed switch environment. When Bob Clueless brings his laptop aboard infected with the latest Windoze virus, you want to be able to kill his network connection.

Expert Comment

ID: 12171974
Well if the ship is all steel then fiber is going to be the best bet here anyway, to reduce interference.  How many connections are we talking about?  I helped the Navy network parts of an Aircraft carrier before, and we typically used fiber for everything because of the interference from the structure.  We ran cables along pipes, between decks, and simply connected them all at a central point.  I didn't do a LOT of the work, but what I did do was complex and quite annoying.
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Assisted Solution

PennGwyn earned 400 total points
ID: 12174837
A ship is longer than it is wide or tall, so I'd run your network backbone more or less lengthwise.  A fiber ring, up one side and down the other and across both ends sounds like a good start.  Avoid the bulkheads by running it through conduit above the deck.

In each space between the bulkheads, then, you have a set of four choices:  (1) IDF at the ring to port, (2) IDF at the ring to starboard, (3) both with an optional transverse (could also be fiber) connection, or (4) no service in this space.  Individual cabins/compartments are fed from the IDFs, and somewhere you put an MDF with routing, servers, and network management.  Probably near the radio shack if you want to offer (satellite?) Internet access.


Assisted Solution

emuldong earned 400 total points
ID: 12191103
Here's an artcle about USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)  a 95,000-ton, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the US Navy.

LVL 34

Expert Comment

ID: 12639256
Fine by me.

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