As the Pentagon moves to link sensors to shooters on the battlefield, data transport and sorting through cloud storage will be critical. Before acting, they had to use three different systems to locate the enemy, make a decision, and locate friendly forces. Those soldiers would have benefited from a cloud environment with centralized data.
To provide warfighters with the data they need on the battlefield, Joint All-Domain Command and Control, a battlefield Internet of Things in which all platforms and sensors are interconnected, would necessitate distributed computing cloud-based networking.
"Cloud is vital to what we are trying to do — at least a hybrid cloud environment," said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Joint Chiefs of Staff director for command, control, communications, and computers/cyber and chief information officer.
"So, you know, whatever happens with JEDI is going to happen. [It's] obvious that we do not influence this situation. But, make no mistake about it, for the power argument, we're going to need enterprise-level capabilities to go after this for the warfighter we need. We can carry out the minimal studies and research that we are doing from where we are now. But I'm sure the solution will become more important as time passes."
Ki Lee, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, told C4ISRNET that JADC2 is "all about federated; it's about interconnected sensors." "So it's not about connecting servers. It is actually about connecting the sensors and platforms so that they form a network. But there are physics laws in terms of what you can process on the SWaP [size, weight, and power] of those different sensors, bandwidth, and latency so that tactical cloud would be the critical piece of the bridge."
Since it will bind separate databases of information, storing them in a kind of one-stop-shop where military members can go while trying to imagine the combat situation and prepare their movements, cloud storage can provide warfighters with the resources and information they need to make more informed decisions in more remote areas.
It's a dilemma that the department is attempting to tackle with the JEDI cloud, a ten-year deal worth up to $10 billion. Former DoD CIO Dana Deasy said in 2019 that cloud computing would address a significant challenge he witnessed soldiers face in Afghanistan: Before acting, they had to use three systems to locate the enemy, make a decision, and find friendly forces. Those soldiers would have benefited from a cloud environment with centralized data.
"There are tools that allow for real-time, informed decision-making at the pace of warfare. What is the foundation for this? It's a cloud. It is getting the data linked and in a location where I can run analytics on it in real-time or near real-time and make informed decisions to help warfighting missions," said Rob Carey, former Navy CIO, and deputy DoD CIO, now president of Cloudera Government Solutions.
Warfighters need tactical cloud computing, or access to cloud environments in remote areas on smaller devices such as tablets, to link sensors and shooters. According to Carey, this will enable soldiers at the lowest level of units, such as squads, to have cloud access and visibility equivalent to a division or regiment.
Cloud computing, for example, could provide soldiers or Marines on the ground with intelligence information that could guide battlefield behavior, he said.
"When we want to do call for fires, when we want to do stuff [where] people's lives are in jeopardy, or they're in danger, we want the knowledge right there so that they can make their own decision... at the level of the squad," Carey said. "That is what the cloud allows, access to the information."
The cloud can also provide access to other critical warfighting data at the edge, such as logistical or medical information. And, since the data will be stored in the cloud, the joint force will still access the most recent, up-to-date information.
"Once it's in the cloud, it's continuously changing when those applications are updated," said Mike Davenport, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.
According to Jeff Dixon, technical director for Crystal Group, remotely accessible equipment will also minimize the amount of cumbersome hardware that warfighters have to transport to the battlefield, a ruggedized hardware company.
"Allowing the cloud to do a lot of the heavy lifting seems to be the best solution for not burdening the guys at the tactical edge of having to carry infrastructure with them," Dixon said. "They are enabled by the cloud."
Using the cloud in a warfighting setting will also minimize the security vulnerabilities of systems interacting with other systems that haven't installed the most recent software. The Army, according to Davenport, has recognized this with a task command app that is now cloud-based.
"The Army has found out that if I just put... this mission command app on the cloud, those soldiers can access it directly," he said.