USAF Taps IBM for Cutting Edge Computing Technology
The commercial IT sector has been using “cloud computing” for a number of years. Cloud computing is a term that describes how large scale computer infrastructure can tap the power of the Internet to perform complex tasks.
Cloud computing allows computer users to realize efficiency and cost savings by using shared IT resources such as applications, storage devices and servers that are delivered as services over the Internet.
The US Air Force wants to tap this technology for its complex IT needs. An obvious problem for the Air Force is the security of accessing information from remote locations not on its secure servers. The Air Force has tasked IBM to come up with a solution to this problem…
IBM announced Feb 4/10 that the USAF awarded the company a 10-month contract to design and demonstrate a secure cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting defense and intelligence networks. The contract was awarded under the Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-2 – Services (ITES-2S) contract vehicle; IBM’s ITES-2S contract number is W91QUZ-06-D-0010.
Lt. Gen. William Lord, Air Force Chief Information Officer and Chief of Warfighting Integration, explains the purpose of the project:
“Our goal is to demonstrate how cloud computing can be a tool to enable our Air Force to manage, monitor and secure the information flowing through our network. We examined the expertise of IBM’s commercial performance in cloud computing and asked them to develop an architecture that could lead to improved performance within the Air Force environment to improve all operational, analytical and security capabilities.”
The Air Force’s network manages the operations of 9 major commands, nearly 100 bases, and 700,000 active military personnel around the world.
IBM said that “stream computing” analytics will be a design component of the Air Force cloud computing architecture. This technology, coupled with sensors, monitors and other detection devices, would enable the Air Force to analyze the data flowing through its network and get insights about possible threats, such as cyber attacks and network, system or application failures, while automatically preventing disruptions.
To improve network security, IBM is designing executive-level dashboards that would deliver information on the health and status of the network, enabling Air Force officials to automatically shift the prevention environment based on rules-based protocols in the event of a cyber attack.
Another design component is autonomic computing, which will enable virtual cloud services to be managed remotely and provide capability for the cloud infrastructure to retune itself without human intervention.
David McQueeney, IBM Federal’s chief technology officer, explained how the technology could benefit troops in the field:
“The work we are doing is work to understand what you would have to do to the state of commercial cloud computing to advance it so that it could have the confidence of military commanders… There are designs that have been discussed for cloud infrastructures that could be deployed in a mobile environment or an in-theater environment. It would not be something that an individual warfighter would carry around with him or her, but it certainly could be deployed at a frontline post in the field with a smaller footprint than you might use back in a data center.”
There have been other efforts to introduce cloud computing into the US military environment. One Defense Information Systems Agency effort, called the Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE), enables DoD users to obtain IT applications and services through the DoD network for a fee.