military AI

COMMENTARY

Accelerating information availability to support mission-critical decisions

A special ops team spends 12 hours on a secret reconnaissance mission in a remote location. They use a drone to capture coordinates and record video that downloads to a server in the team’s Humvee. At the end of the mission, the team shelters in a cave where there is no communications link to send the collected intelligence from the server back to base for analysis. Reconnecting will have to wait until sometime the next day when they can travel to where a signal is available. Meanwhile, the enemy doesn’t stop; but responsive action hangs on analyzing the collected data.

This scenario, and hundreds like it that confront warriors and decision-makers throughout the Defense Department, are daily occurrences. Massive amounts of mission-critical data are collected at the computing edge, wherever that happens to be. The proliferation of sensor-driven internet-of-things devices found on connected equipment -- ranging from airplanes to air conditioners  --increases the amount of available data exponentially.

Edge technology is essential to tactical applications, but there are limits to edge device capabilities. For instance, data actively collected at the edge must be backed up, but is limited to each device’s unique storage capacity. Typically, device-level storage management follows a first-in-first-out (FIFO) approach. As soon as capacity is reached, older data is deleted to make room for what’s new. For troops distributed far and wide, perhaps for days at a time, that constraint can limit mission fulfillment.

Using data in strategic defense requires access to the bigger picture. Specific edge data can be a critical puzzle piece in a greater context, so it must get shared back to the core processing center as quickly as possible. That’s often an arduous process. Relying on slow VPN connections, physically shipping external media or using good old-fashioned “sneaker-net” means proper data consolidation and analysis can take days or weeks. Yet that analysis is needed to build a more accurate picture and enable holistic decision-making to support mission goals.

Reducing time to data value

New advanced technologies change the dynamic. File solutions combined with object storage technology allows defense units to host data at the edge so it is accessible to whomever needs it, while copying the data to the core processing center in real time.  From there it can be tagged, categorized and shared with other groups to perform analytics that are needed to inform decisions, much faster.

Object storage is a private cloud technology that easily integrates with public cloud, enabling deployment of a hybrid cloud architecture with seamless data movement between the two.

Leveraging artificial intelligence capabilities, object storage can help with strategic plans for greater cloud migration while protecting controlled unclassified information or other sensitive data on the object itself.

Because of the scalable design, object stores can hold almost endless amounts of data for long periods of time. As the dataset becomes larger and more comprehensive, algorithms and analytic models run against it get better, revealing ever more accurate trends.

That offers distinct advantage for any number of use cases, like gathering intelligence, collecting performance and maintenance data from a jet fighter or planning logistics for materiel distribution. The possibilities are almost endless.

Driving operational modernization

When deploying object storage technology, data sent to the core remains accessible; any portion of it can be restored as an active working dataset if needed. That’s helpful in reducing edge storage requirements, since most edge data is only used for a short time. Reducing the edge footprint creates a host of new options to change operational models.

First, there is the physical aspect of reducing equipment and eliminating the need to protect backups in-field (think, no more rotating tape). That greatly simplifies the warfighters’ operational stance.

It also enables agencies to maximize their use of powerful new 5G connectivity. Growing volumes of data at the edge are only strategically useful if they can be effectively transported to the core and viewed by decision-makers across multiple sites; 5G enables that at scale. This is especially valuable for high-performance workloads that DOD leaders must manage.

Faster data access means faster time to action

Advanced weaponry and agile adversaries mean warfighters and commanders face more lethal challenges than ever. The right data can literally make the difference between life and death. By enabling data at the edge and fast analytics at the core, DOD leaders will be armed with the best information available to enable mission-critical decision-making, wherever the mission takes them.

About the Author

Gary Hix is CTO at Hitachi Vantara Federal.

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