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The U.S. Air Force has awarded IBM a contract to design and demonstrate a secure cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting defense and intelligence networks. The ten-month project will introduce “leap ahead” cyber security and analytics technologies developed by IBM Research into the mission-oriented cloud architecture.
The project will push the technology boundaries of cloud computing with an infrastructure design that not only supports large-scale networks, but meets rigorous security standards and the government’s Information Assurance guidelines for all networks. The Air Force’s network manages the operations of nine major commands, nearly 100 bases, and 700,000 active military personnel around the world.
“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,” said Lieutenant General William Lord, Chief Information Officer and Chief, Warfighting Integration for the Air Force. “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.”
IBM researchers, military personnel, software architects, analytics specialists, cyber security experts, and other federal agencies will work together to demonstrate an unprecedented level of security and network resiliency into the Air Force cloud design. Advanced “stream computing” analytics will be a key design component. This technology, coupled with sensors, monitors and other detection devices, would enable the Air Force to perpetually analyze the massive amounts of data flowing through its network and get fast, accurate, and actionable insights about possible threats, such as cyber attacks and network, system or application failures, while automatically preventing disruptions.
In the design, customized, executive-level dashboards will be used to deliver up-to-the-second information on the health and status of the network and facilitate decision-making. This instant access to information, for example, would enable Air Force officials to automatically shift the prevention environment based on rules-based protocols in the event of a cyber attack or network anomalies.
Autonomic computing will be another important feature of the cloud model. This automated functionality will enable virtual cloud services to be managed remotely and provide capability for the cloud infrastructure to constantly retune itself for optimal performance – without human intervention.
The Obama Administration has called for more extensive adoption of cloud computing in the federal government to improve information technology (IT) efficiency, reduce costs, and provide a standard platform for delivering government services. In a cloud computing environment, IT resources – services, applications, storage devices and servers, for example – are pooled and managed centrally. These resources can be provisioned and made available on demand via the Internet. The cloud model strengthens the resiliency of mission-critical applications by removing dependency on underlying hardware. Applications can be easily moved from one system to another in the event of system failures or cyber attacks.