‘Great success’ of OCONUS edge computing test gives army momentum to tackle next tactical cloud

The military is moving closer to fulfilling its ambitions to deliver cloud services to the tactical edge after a pilot test delivering edge computing to Guam was described as a “huge success” by the Army’s Chief Information Officer, Raj Iyer.

February’s test lays the groundwork for the military’s cloud-building program at commandos outside the continental United States (OCONUS).

“The First Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, made it part of one of their…

READ MORE

The military is moving closer to fulfilling its ambitions to deliver cloud services to the tactical edge after a pilot test delivering edge computing to Guam was described as a “huge success” by the Army’s Chief Information Officer, Raj Iyer.

February’s test lays the groundwork for the military’s cloud-building program at commandos outside the continental United States (OCONUS).

“The First Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, made it part of one of their experiments to show how they can take command on the go using edge computing devices and then link back to data stored in the enterprise cloud,” Iyer told Federal News Network† “And it showed that [this capability] was not only much more resilient than the existing solutions they had, but also the performance, reliability and latency [were] much better than anything they were used to. So technically we know it can work.”

The First Corps was able to perform mission command functions from a C-17 Globemaster III across the Pacific en route to Guam and later from a naval vessel. The idea is to distribute command and control functions across a series of nodes, rather than centralized in one place, to remain mobile and less of a target for opponents.

Building on the success of the OCONUS cloud edge computing test

Now, Iyer said, the military is looking at how to cement the test-use case as part of its institutional processes and operations. Over the next 18 months, the Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) will conduct approximately 40 exercises to test this functionality, discover best practices and fix potential vulnerabilities.

After building a foundation with OCONUS, the next step will be to take mission commands and warfare functions to the tactical edge and make them cloud-native, as part of the military’s ongoing modernization efforts, Iyer said. Because there is a fundamental difference between OCONUS cloud and tactical cloud, he said.

“An OCONUS cloud essentially runs a commercial cloud, for example at an army base in Germany or Camp Humphreys in Korea,” Iyer said. “These would essentially be military installations. And then we just work with a commercial cloud service provider like Google or Microsoft or Amazon, and then have them come in and essentially set up compute and storage, and then run it as a service for us.

That has the advantage that those services operate on sovereign land and the military has to circumvent data sovereignty rules, he explained. “Having these OCONUS cloud locations at military posts ensures that we meet those requirements to have control over our data.”

Those demands call for a different business model. The military provides the physical infrastructure such as floor space, cooling and electricity, and the cloud service providers provide, deliver and manage the technical infrastructure. The agency is currently working with the Department of Defense to set this up in both Germany and Korea as a joint asset as these will be the first programs of their kind in DoD, Iyer said.

Army focuses on tactical cloud needs

A tactical DoD cloud, on the other hand, should be able to operate in more austere environments. For example, it could be satellite communication. Or it may also require a unit to be supported en route. Therefore, developing tactical cloud capabilities should also include the additional elements of SATCOM connectivity and transportation, Iyer said. That is what the pilot program with USINDOPACOM and First Corps is aimed at.

In addition, this work requires collaboration between DoD, including from the Defense Information Systems Agency and the other military branches, because tactical cloud edge computing typically supports combatants’ commands, he said.

“We meet and talk about this regularly to make sure we don’t do duplication,” Iyer said. “Because the brain relies on something as complex as this, there just isn’t that much. And so we want to make sure we leverage all the expertise that we each have in our departments.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.