Wisconsin Companies Help US Army Into The Clouds

For better gathering of intelligence in Afghanistan, the Army of the United States of America, in partnership with some companies in Wisconsin, is tapping the cloud computing services. The Army has awarded the $19.5M contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. for the computer services. The cloud will be used to remotely process, manage, and store data.

IEA Inc. of Kenoshia and Silicon Graphics International of Chippewa Falls provided 4 cloud nodes which will serve as network connection points. One of the nodes will be sent to Afghanistan in order to provide battlefield commanders the opportunity to make real-time analysis of all intelligence reports from all over the world. Col. Charles Wells, the Distributed Common Systems-Army program project manager, believes that the new acquisitions will save lives because intelligence reports since 2003 will be made available to the US Army through cloud computing.

The decision to use cloud computing technology in Afghanistan was spurred by an Army memo in July 2010 which criticized how the Army gathered intelligence. A prototype cloud node was launched in April 2011 at the Bagram Air Base in an attempt to change the way field personnel and analysts receive information. A system is being created to provide greater connectivity, faster hardware, more storage, and more computing power.

Each node has 228 servers with at least 1,800 CPU cores, 14 terabytes of RAM, and at least 1 petrabyte or 1,000 terabytes of disk storage. Each node also offers immediate analytics for intelligence messages and can store greater data than the Library of Congress. Because of cloud computing, the Army is expecting that the time required to analyze intelligence reports is considerably shortened in order to save the soldiers’ lives.

The cloud computing project is supported by 38 Wisconsin suppliers aside from IEA and Silicon Graphics. IEA will be providing cloud node cooling systems. Each node requires 3 weeks of assembly and the work includes installation of a security and fire detection system, humidity management, heat management, power system, and computer equipment. The codes are carried by a military aircraft to its safe location. A node’s work when hit by a disaster will be continued by another node found elsewhere. The node is also essentially useless to thieves.

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