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U.S. Navy Tests EC2 in War Games

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In the next few months, the U.S. Navy is expecting to make some major decisions about their future IT infrastructure.  The Navy is currently in the process of a major computing overhaul designated as the Naval Networking Environment 2016 (NNE 2016), and recent architectural paradigms including SOA and cloud computing are being suggested for full scale implementation by several high-ranking officers.  In particular, the CANES (Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise System) component of the NNE 2016 is where the decisions about new computing strategies would be implemented.  The Navy has already begun experiments with Cloud Computing in disaster relief and war games.  

Navy Chief Information Officer Rob Carey was one of the first people to propose cloud computing within the Navy.  Carey says that cloud computing should be the next logical step to make Naval computing more effective.  He suggested that CANES would be the best program to leverage cloud computing.  Although servers probably aren't the main things weighing down Navy boats, the CANES program is expected to reduce the footprint of physical infrastructure on ships through virtualization adoption.  CANES also includes an SOA subprogram to consolidate Naval applications.  The NNE 2016 is a significant transformational opportunity for the Navy, and Carey believes that the Navy must take advantage of emerging technologies.  Garrison environments are the best places for the Navy to test cloud computing, Carey says.  There are several areas in the Navy where Carey thinks that cloud computing can be applied.  He has also outlined a business case to develop applications within a new cloud model for the Navy.

The Navy is already testing the cloud computing waters in disaster relief and war games.  San Diego State University manages a U.S. Navy effort for disaster relief response at InRelief.org. The website uses a Google cloud computing platform to provide a collaboration environment for disaster relief.  Cloud computing was also used during the annual Trident Warrior Naval exercise.  An experiment was run to see if a commercial cloud computing platform could actually be used at sea.  The simulated shipboard communications and network environment used Dataline, a cloud computing solution integrator, and Amazon Web Services.  A results summary showed that Amazon EC2's IaaS platform provided effective global connectivity to support potential Department of Defense (DoD) applications.  EC2 also successfully supported virtualization of resource-intensive applications and provided compute and storage capability that operated as expected.   The operations even worked under typical satellite impairment, and the shipboard network was not saturated. The test concluded that EC2 could be used to meet mission critical application and storage requirements.

There are some camps in the Navy that argue against the need for internet-scale solutions supported by cloud computing.  Critics also say that internal information domains need to be partitioned and segregated to ensure that new doors aren't opened for cyber attacks.  They believe that sea-based missions would prevent the Navy from ever relying on this type of shore-based information infrastructure.  However, cloud-supporters say that the Navy already relies on numerous external information sources in order to maintain contextual and situational awareness.  Shore-based information infrastructures like cable television news networks are very useful to Naval commanders at sea.  Cloud computing would also provide new collaboration and information sharing avenues.  Future Navy decisions about cloud computing could depend on how things play out for enterprises using cloud computing and SOA.

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