Military Applications of cloud computing

Throughout history‭, ‬technological advancements have been at the core of armies’‭ ‬combat readiness development‭, ‬surpassing the capabilities of the enemy‭, ‬increasing operational efficiency‭, ‬improving the quality of military commanders‭’ ‬decisions‭, ‬and enhancing awareness‭, ‬communication‭, ‬and connectivity in field conditions‭. ‬These requirements have a profound impact on the structure of tactical communication networks‭, ‬leading to the need for agile infrastructure‭, ‬and high-bandwidth communications that are flexible and consistent to achieve secure connectivity‭.‬

Cloud computing has become a prominent topic of interest in recent years as a tool of technological advancement‭, ‬to the extent that it has been referred to as the‭ “‬emerging model of the past five years‭,” ‬the‭ “‬promising computing platform‭,” ‬and the‭ “‬dominant technology for the next ten years‭”. ‬

Furthermore‭, ‬many discussions have arisen regarding the new opportunities it can bring to markets‭, ‬the benefits it can provide‭, ‬and its potential for software development‭.‬

The underlying concept of cloud computing dates back to the 1960s when John McCarthy envisioned that‭ “‬computation may someday be‭ ‬organized as a public utility‭.” ‬

Moreover‭, ‬the modern features we see today in cloud computing were reviewed in Douglas Parkhill’s book published in 1966‭, ‬titled‭ “‬The Challenge of the Computer Utility‭”. ‬

These features include flexibility‭, ‬availability as a public utility‭, ‬and online availability through the Internet‭. ‬

In addition‭, ‬cloud computing experts in the U.S‭. ‬Army are increasingly collaborating with their counterparts in the Air Force and Navy to access business data and battlefield information‭, ‬even in remote locations‭.‬

The Concept of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services‭, ‬including servers‭, ‬storage‭, ‬databases‭, ‬networks‭, ‬software‭, ‬analytics‭, ‬and‭ ‬intelligence‭, ‬over the Internet to provide faster innovation and more flexible resources‭, ‬and reduce size which helps reduce operational costs‭, ‬efficiently manage infrastructure‭, ‬and scale according to mission needs and objectives‭. ‬

Cloud computing could also be defined as an infrastructure where computing power and storage are managed by remote servers accessed by users through a secure internet connection‭, ‬where desktop or laptop computers‭, ‬mobile phones‭, ‬touch screens‭, ‬and other connected devices are used as access points to operate applications or view data hosted on the servers‭. ‬Cloud computing is also characterized by its flexibility‭, ‬allowing service providers to automatically adjust storage capacity and computing power according to user needs‭.‬

Cloud Computing‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬From Meeting Rooms to the Battlefield

Military spending remains one of the largest and most important sources of technological advancement in the world‭. ‬One of the latest transformations revolves around cloud computing technologies and how intelligent systems are driving the defence industry forward‭. ‬Due to its rapid deployment and integration capabilities‭, ‬cloud computing has become capable of transforming modern military operations‭, ‬allowing decision-makers to plan successful missions in the most challenging environments in the world‭. ‬

Alongside instant data sharing‭, ‬flexible security protocols‭, ‬and advanced machine learning‭, ‬cloud computing now represents a global trend in military research‭.‬

The private sector paved the way for cloud computing‭, ‬and the US Department of Defence‭ (‬DoD‭) ‬capitalized on the available solutions and started to build the infrastructure for cloud computing nearly a decade ago‭. ‬The US Armed Forces pioneered these modernization efforts to provide data to both combat and non-combat units within the military structure‭, ‬achieving long-term efficiency‭, ‬effectiveness‭, ‬and cyber security goals‭.‬

Amidst a major transformation of the US Army’s approach to acquiring‭, ‬building‭, ‬and delivering technological capabilities to the‭ ‬theatres of combat‭, ‬there lies a cloud-based infrastructure called‭ “‬c Army‭” ‬at the heart of these plans‭. ‬

C Army enables communication‭, ‬tool delivery‭, ‬and sensor data‭, ‬allowing commanders to have a clear digital picture of the battlefield and make faster decisive decisions‭. ‬

The US Army established the Army Cloud Management Agency in 2019‭ ‬as a relatively new organization focusing on cloud computing efforts for the Army‭. ‬

Its areas of focus include cyber security‭, ‬modern software development‭, ‬data improvement‭, ‬business system development‭, ‬process adaptation‭, ‬global expansion‭, ‬and the expansion of cloud offerings for the Army‭. ‬

The increasing dialogues between the Army‭, ‬Air Force‭, ‬and Navy come as the Department of Defence strives for joint command and control across all domains‭, ‬envisioning rapid and accurate information exchange through land‭, ‬air‭, ‬sea‭, ‬space‭, ‬and the internet‭.‬

Cloud computing is considered the cornerstone of this ambitious infrastructure‭, ‬and researchers expect a‭ “‬very close integration‭ ‬between peers in the naval‭, ‬air‭, ‬and land forces and their respective cloud infrastructures‭.” ‬

The military views cloud services and widespread secure usage as key components for the broader modernization of their networks‭,‬‭ ‬computers‭, ‬and collaboration‭, ‬thus the Army’s Cloud Computing Agency focuses on formulating those plans‭.‬

Paul Puckett‭, ‬director of the Army Cloud Management Agency‭, ‬stated that the agency’s priorities focus on identifying the true opportunity in the tactical realm to leverage cloud computing‭, ‬then embarking on delivering truly mission-critical leadership as a service to the Army‭. ‬The mission will drive significant investment in understanding and leveraging cloud computing capabilities outside the United States‭, ‬linking the institution and tactical domains together within a unified network to create a global digital infrastructure‭. ‬

The agency’s efforts align with the Army’s digital transformation plan‭, ‬which outlines how the service uses technology to change‭ ‬the way it conducts operations and combat‭. ‬

Consequently‭, ‬Packett said‭, “‬The cloud will truly become the global digital infrastructure on which this mission is primarily executed‭, ‬as promised by the Army’s Chief Information Officer‭, ‬Raj Iyer‭, ‬through technology policy transformations‭, ‬primarily through the recently issued Digital Transformation Strategy and the Unified Network Plan composed of subcomponents‭.‬

Cloud infrastructure is a key element in many other modern defence strategies related to data‭, ‬software updates and joint visions of command and control across all areas for which the Army shares some responsibility‭.”‬

What’s the role of Cloud Computing in Defence‭?‬

Defence agencies worldwide perform various functions ranging from intelligence gathering and field operations to disaster relief‭ ‬and collaboration with allies‭.‬

The success of these operations relies on accessing accurate and comprehensive data promptly‭. ‬However‭, ‬the increasing volume and‭ ‬complexity of available data‭, ‬driven by technological advancements such as remote electronic sensing devices‭, ‬cybersecurity‭, ‬satellite surveillance‭, ‬and unmanned aerial vehicles‭, ‬create new challenges for defence agencies in managing and protecting information and effectively leveraging it in the digital age‭. ‬These institutions require significant increases in storage capacity and‭ ‬analytical processing power‭. ‬Cloud computing provides a way to manage mounting pressures and look towards the future‭, ‬paving the way for digital defence strength in the future‭.‬

Whether public‭, ‬government‭, ‬private‭, ‬or hybrid‭, ‬each cloud computing model brings its own set of mobile and analytics-based defensive tools and capabilities that have a place within a modern defence agency‭.‬

For instance‭, ‬the public cloud can be utilized for intelligence gathering or unclassified communications‭.‬

Furthermore‭, ‬cloud computing is already being adopted to varying degrees by governments worldwide‭, ‬and many defence agencies have cloud projects in the planning stages‭. ‬For example‭, ‬the U.S‭. ‬Department of Defence recently launched a series of cloud initiatives aimed at improving mission effectiveness and cybersecurity in its reengineered information infrastructure‭.‬

Simultaneously‭, ‬the UK Ministry of Defence has adopted a‭ “‬cloud-first‭” ‬approach and is deploying an online application for employees using the government’s G-Cloud program‭. ‬

These investments are part of a broader trend among government entities seeking to harness cloud capabilities‭. ‬A survey conducted by Accenture found that the majority of organizations‭ (‬82%‭) ‬worldwide identify cloud technology as a key component of their IT‭ ‬strategy and that 75%‭ ‬already implement or use at least one cloud application‭.‬

Accenture Defense Services has identified six comprehensive reasons behind the adoption of cloud computing by defence agencies and its continued rapid pace in the coming years‭:‬

1‭ ‬Stronger IT Security and Cyberattack Resistance‭: ‬To achieve maximum operational security‭, ‬defence agencies have historically built‭ “‬isolated‭” ‬systems‭, ‬with different branches of the military having completely separate resources for IT‭, ‬however‭, ‬cloud computing can enhance security by reducing the risks of individual errors or vulnerabilities while ensuring consistent security standards across the entire organization‭.‬

2‭ ‬Doing More‭, ‬Faster and Cheaper‭: ‬Defence agencies already recognize the significant benefits of speed‭, ‬cost‭, ‬and agility offered by cloud technologies‭, ‬including continuously aligning storage capacity with current needs‭. ‬The cloud can also provide skilled‭ ‬IT personnel to perform higher-value activities by assisting in the automation of complex and repetitive tasks‭.‬

3‭ ‬Seamless Global Data Exchange‭: ‬Traditionally‭, ‬defence agencies have sought to avoid sharing data with external parties‭, ‬however‭, ‬cloud computing can facilitate secure data transfer across missions and between forces and allies‭, ‬thereby enhancing the ability to respond quickly and effectively while improving interoperability‭, ‬collaboration‭, ‬and operational efficiency‭.‬

4‭ ‬More Secure and Efficient Supply Chains‭: ‬Defence agencies manage complex and critical supply chains that integrate with mobility‭, ‬analytics‭, ‬and advanced sensing technologies‭. ‬Cloud computing can significantly improve the efficiency and security of these‭ ‬processes‭, ‬providing unprecedented control and visibility into the supply chain and reducing the risks of counterfeit goods and‭ ‬equipment‭.‬

5‭ ‬Enhanced Situational Awareness‭: ‬In the future‭, ‬a combination of cloud‭, ‬mobility‭, ‬and analytics will elevate situational awareness to a new level‭. ‬Data will be collected‭, ‬shared‭, ‬and accessed from a wide range of sources and devices before it is entered into portable cloud containers to support informed decision-making on the battlefield‭. ‬Ultimately‭, ‬this data can be used to improve situational awareness for defence agencies‭, ‬whether at headquarters or satellite locations‭.‬

6‭ ‬Integrated Global Identity and Access Management‭ :‬The addition of advanced biometrics to the already robust combination of cloud‭, ‬mobility‭, ‬and analytics will enable defence agencies to automate and integrate identity and access management on a global scale‭.‬

All defence forces are taking steps to ensure the existence of a unified identity and access management to enable reliable access to information securely by individuals and partners across operational‭, ‬support‭, ‬and business domains‭. ‬For instance‭, ‬the ability to verify someone’s identity in real-time from anywhere in the world will enhance speed and security across all forces and geographic areas‭.‬

Cloud Computing Applications in Defence

Defence organizations have been building cloud computing infrastructure for nearly a decade‭, ‬with the US military at the forefront of these efforts‭. ‬This will ensure that data is available to both combat and non-combat organizations within the military structure‭, ‬as the private sector has paved the way in cloud computing and defence ministries have benefited from available solutions‭.‬

Global Data has identified 9‭ ‬key applications of cloud computing in defence‭:‬

1‭ ‬Mobility‭: ‬Mobility equals survival in modern warfare‭. ‬Staying alive requires continuous movement of mechanized‭, ‬armoured‭, ‬airborne‭, ‬and reconnaissance units during deployment and operation stages so that they can survive and win battles‭. ‬This is particularly important when the enemy has advanced command‭, ‬control‭, ‬communications‭, ‬and intelligence capabilities‭, ‬enabling the detection and engagement of friendly forces‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬front systems should provide cloud capabilities to units at a highly mobile tactical level‭. ‬This is directly related to the features of the communication infrastructure available in each service‭, ‬therefore‭, ‬any plan to combat advanced cloud computing must first address any obstacles in the field of communications‭.‬

2‭ ‬Electronic Warfare Concealment‭:  ‬Information technology systems emit electromagnetic signals‭. ‬The larger these signals‭, ‬the higher the likelihood of the target being attacked‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬ships‭, ‬aircraft‭, ‬other major platforms‭, ‬and most importantly‭, ‬command sites‭, ‬need to be able to continue operations uninterrupted while hiding from enemy surveillance‭. ‬The best way to achieve this is by hiding within the existing electromagnetic noise in the environment‭. ‬The US Army addresses this by using Wi-Fi in command centres and is researching the use of Light Fidelity‭ (‬LiFi‭) ‬in the future‭, ‬which relies on Light Emitting Diode‭ (‬LED‭) ‬technology to transmit data between different information technology teams‭.‬

3‭ ‬Security‭: ‬Security in defence is crucial due to the sensitivity and importance of the data that can be stored in the cloud‭. ‬However‭, ‬security in contested environments‭, ‬such as the battlefield‭, ‬differs for several reasons‭, ‬the most important of which is‭ ‬the lack of fixed infrastructure‭. ‬Consequently‭, ‬forces rely on different wavelengths for data transmission‭. ‬This gives the enemy‭ ‬not only the ability to intercept and access the data but also the capability to jam and disrupt the transmission‭.‬

4‭ ‬Standardization‭: ‬Military forces need to develop the necessary branches‭, ‬mission command systems‭, ‬and applications that allow them to exchange information without obstacles‭. ‬However‭, ‬this process can be slow and costly‭, ‬as communication protocols evolve to include the latest advancements‭. ‬Furthermore‭, ‬upgrading communication infrastructure on major platforms is expensive and time-consuming‭, ‬especially when this capability is not taken into account during the initial design‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬military forces must wait for platform‭ ‬replacements to obtain newer designs with advanced communications and standardized command and control interfaces‭.‬

5‭ ‬Localization‭: ‬Due to data security concerns‭, ‬military organizations initially developed their own cloud solutions for infrastructure that would be under their physical control‭. ‬This is also related to the limited geographic deployment of data centres by‭ ‬service providers‭. ‬Once service providers invest in building data centres within client borders‭, ‬cloud computing expansion becomes faster‭.‬

6‭ ‬Coalition Operations‭: ‬Expanding the use of cloud computing at the tactical level creates coordination problems among allied forces‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬the latter must expand their cooperation by creating common interfaces and approaches‭, ‬solving any access-related issues arising from technical specifications in their communication systems and operational approach‭, ‬to ensure the effectiveness of their procedures‭.‬

7‭ ‬Data Analysis‭: ‬Since data is at the core of cloud computing‭, ‬an increase in data analysis requirements from sensor devices should be expected‭. ‬In other words‭, ‬sensor devices or the core systems that integrate them should perform part of the overall analysis on board before sending it to another command and control node‭, ‬where other users can conduct further mission-relevant analysis‭.‬

8‭ ‬Virtualization‭: ‬When it comes to sharing data between modern and legacy systems‭, ‬multi-core processors and virtual simulation‭ ‬can help run old and new encoding systems while providing separation between different functions for security reasons‭.‬

9‭ ‬Size‭, ‬Weight‭, ‬Power‭, ‬Cost‭ (‬SWaP-C‭): ‬Size‭, ‬weight‭, ‬power‭, ‬and cost remain essential elements in the design of systems and subsystems‭. ‬The increase in data volume will lead to an increase in the size and weight of systems and platforms‭, ‬as well as an increase in their computational power‭, ‬resulting in higher cooling and power requirements‭. ‬All of this will increase costs for the end user‭.‬●

Military Applications of cloud computing

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