How the U.S. Military Is Using the Cloud
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
By now it’s well established how beneficial the cloud can be for businesses in the private sector, but what about the government? Or more specifically, can cloud computing end up benefiting the U.S. military in much the same way it has helped out private enterprises? It appears that many military and government leaders are answering an emphatic “yes” to these questions as recent history has shown. The U.S. military has made sure and steady progress in transitioning many of their operations to the cloud with more work still to be done in the years ahead. Military leaders see the cloud as another beneficial tool, one that can make formerly cumbersome and exhausting tasks much easier and more efficient. Based off of recent announcements, it’s clear that the military’s future lies in the cloud.
The U.S. military has taken great strides in adopting cloud computing. In August 2014, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), allowing the world’s largest cloud provider to handle and store the department’s unclassified data. Storage is certainly a common use for the cloud among businesses, so it should come as little surprise that the military would want to take advantage of this capability. This agreement between the DOD and AWS also extends to the department’s customers and private contractors, allowing them to use AWS’ GovCloud for storing and accessing information through DOD’s network. It’s important to note that AWS wasn’t just selected randomly by the military; Amazon had to meet a number of security requirements DOD established, even when handling unclassified information. As can be expected, security remains a top concern and priority for the military as they move to the cloud.
A more recent announcement also shows the military’s dedication to cloud computing. Logistics remains a frequent and formidable challenge for the army, especially considering the hundreds of thousands of personnel and numerous bases at home and around the world. For that reason, the army has adopted hybrid cloud computing services from IBM as a way to improve their logistics capabilities. This use of the cloud is expected to improve the services from the Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA), helping to collect and analyze the large amounts of data pertaining to the army’s logistics transactions. IBM’s hybrid cloud will provide big data analytics capabilities which aim to improve the insights and services offered to service members stationed all around the world. Combining big data and the cloud in big data as a service will help coordinate logistical efforts, identifying where supplies need to go and ensuring they get there on time. The move has already cut costs considerably on logistical operations while also improving reliability.
These decisions have been made in accordance with the U.S. army’s newly launched cloud computing strategy. The goal is to adopt cloud-based services as a way to achieve more long-term objectives such as reducing the military’s operation, ownership, and maintenance of hardware and IT functions. In other words, the military is pushing for goals similar to those sought by private businesses, and much like the results in the private sector, this will free the army to focus its attention and efforts on other aspects and needs that need to be addressed in a constantly changing world.
In a sense, some of these practices have already been put to use, and not just at military installations. Cloud computing has already seen action on the battlefield in the form of cloud systems for combat troops. The systems are able to analyze big data collected from multiple sources to provide a real-time picture of the battlefield, which in turn helps troops and commanders plan and strategize according to changing conditions. Cloud computing nodes were first used in Afghanistan in 2011, helping army leaders receive real-time intelligence. The hope is to make use of these systems more widespread and deployable in any situation.
Whether on the battlefield or at a military base, the cloud offers tremendous potential to the military. In much the same way cloud computing benefits companies, it can help the military improve their operational efficiency, interoperability with other partners, network security, and overall agility. The cloud may even have a hand in helping the military adopt new technologies more quickly. The U.S. military has seen the benefits of what is cloud computing and has taken the early steps into making it a part of their normal operations. It won’t be too long before the cloud is commonly used throughout the Department of Defense.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.