Big Data on the Battlefield Demands New Approach

Days before stepping down from his post last month, then Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning extolled the value of data and the need to exploit it during the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Executive National Security Forum.

“The military has enormous amounts of data,” Fanning said. Big Data “should be a natural sweet spot for us, an area where we can draw insights and solutions from industry and improve rapidly. What we need, and don’t have, is a comprehensive approach for using Big Data to derive a competitive advantage over capable, near peer adversaries.

“Big Data is particularly useful in the growing ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT);” yet, Fanning added, “so much of the equipment being developed for the [Department of the Defense] is not IoT-enabled, limiting the potential benefits of Big Data applications before the equipment even reaches the warfighter.” As a result, “operational military applications for Big Data lag far behind.”

Thought leaders with insight into modern electronics and the aerospace & defense (A&D) industry recognized, and sought to remedy, this technology gap well before Fanning gave voice to it. Enter hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI): a software-centric architecture tightly integrating compute, storage, networking, and virtualization resources in a single commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware rack, case, or box.

“The battle space is bleeding into the information space,” Fanning said in January. Modern technology and a willingness to harness it can turn it on its head, however. Hyperconverged infrastructure is bringing information – real-time actionable information – to the battle space.