IoT and Cloud Computing Gear Up for Military Duty

IoT and Cloud Computing solutions from the commercial world are becoming attractive to defense applications as virtualized computing and sensor networking take center stage.

Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing phenomena continue to skyrocket in the consumer, industrial and IT markets, the defense industry is eager to leverage whatever they can from those technologies. What gets confusing however is that the underlying parts of IoT and “the cloud” are pretty much the same things the U.S. military has been evolving toward for several years now. Case in point: the military has long been interested in perfecting ways to move data captured from a multitude of sensors and collecting it on a virtualized “cloud” network where it can be used from any remote location.

But instead of “IoT’ the military has been calling that “Net-Centric” operations for over a decade now. This network-centric idea includes programs to build joint architectures and roadmaps for integrating joint airborne networking capabilities with the evolving ground, maritime and space networks. Note that the military talking about a “Global Information Grid” long before terms like “the cloud” entered the mainstream.

Question of Terminology

The challenge therefore gets to be a little bit of identifying what products and technologies serve the needs of military cloud computing and military IoT even when the terminology may not include “cloud” or “IoT. In its basic sense an IoT network is a connection of sensors, embedded devices and systems. Military cloud computing was Mercury Systems’ motivation to re-entered the ATCA two years ago with its Ensemble HDS8613 dual Intel Xeon server-class processor ATCA blade and the Ensemble SFM8104 40 Gb/s Ethernet/InfiniBand ATCA switch. But there are many vendors in the military embedded computing industry that make high-density severs capable of virtualizing computing without using the word “cloud” in their market. There are many that make networking technologies that function like IoT gateways without using the term “IoT”. And there are numerous vendors expert in technologies that capture and aggregate sensor data and never use terms like “IoT Edge devices”.

One can’t get into the topic of network-centric technologies without including the role of Cisco Systems. The DoD has collaborated closely with Cisco in multiple core network and edge-implantations of the DoD’s networks including what is today called the DoD Information Network (DoDIN). Moreover, routing, switching, unified communications, and security technologies from Cisco enables all the wired and wireless (SATCOM) infrastructures necessary for the DoD’s global coverage. In addition, Cisco technologies are used in net-centric tactical communications programs in all branches of the U.S. Military. Among those programs are the Army’s Warfighter Information Network -Tactical (WIN-T); the Air Force’s Theater Deployable Communications (TDC); the Navy’s Automated Digital Network System (ADNS); and the Marine Corps’ Comm On the Move. Airborne platforms using Cisco technologies include the Navy P3 and TRITON Air Force AWACS, JSTARS, VIP Aircraft, C130s, and Global Hawk.

It can be argued that the desire to use gear from the IT and telecom industries driven the kinds of form factor choices used in some military programs. For example, the emergence of 1U rackmount servers in military vehicle mounted systems happened because system developers needed computing systems to work alongside 1U rackmount routers from Cisco and other comms gear from various vendors. Fast forward to today, and that idea has inverted itself: now Cisco’s-switching and routing technologies are being embedded into the box-level products of Cisco’s partners in our embedded computing industry.

Embedded Routing Technology

Along those lines, vendors including Curtiss Wright, Extreme Engineering, Elma and General Micro Systems offer a variety of board- and box-level system that provide the functionality of a Cisco router either stand-alone or now often integrated with many other mission computing hardware. The need for unwieldy rack-mounted gear becomes unnecessary when more rugged stand-alone box systems can provide the same functionality. An example along those lines is Extreme Engineering Solutions’ XPand6052 box level system integrates the XPedite5205: an XMC/PMC-based Embedded Services Router (ESR) router that runs Cisco IOS Software with Cisco Mobile Ready Net capabilities (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The XPand6052 system integrates an XMC/PMC-based Embedded Services Router (ESR) router that runs Cisco IOS Software with Cisco Mobile Ready Net capabilities.

Meanwhile there are several embedded computing technology companies that are aggressively pursuing the industrial IoT and Cloud Computing market segments alongside—many of which also play in the defense market. It remains to be seen whether or not those companies will have a leg up when it comes to applying IoT and Cloud Computing to military applications. Along those lines, WIN Enterprise last fall introduced its PL-81060, a high-performance server with dual Cavium ThunderX processors optimized as a Cloud and Data Center server (Figure 2). From the 64-bit ARMv8 server processor family, the dual Cavium ThunderX CN8890-2000 processors boast 48 cores each. The system provides up to Up to 24x 3.5 inch HDDs providing up to 240 Terabytes of storage and 4x 2.5-inch HDD/SSDs providing an additional 8 Terabytes of cache storage.

Figure 2. The PL-81060 is a high-performance server with dual Cavium ThunderX processors optimized as a Cloud and Data Center server with up to 240 Terabytes of storage. The dual Cavium ThunderX CN8890-2000 processors boast 48 cores each.

In another example, in October Eurotech announced the EDCK 4001, a new Everyware Device Cloud Development Kit that bundles all the hardware and software needed to prototype, develop, test and integrate a complete IoT solution that bridges the gap between sensors, devices and the cloud. While targeted for industrial applications, it’s clear that there’s applicability to defense IoT implementations as well. The EDCK 4001 Development Kit lets users model their use cases starting from a realistic template that integrates all the key elements typical of an industrial IoT chain (Gateway, PLC, field devices, field protocols, cloud services). The EDCK 4001 Development Kit includes a ReliaGATE 10-11, Eurotech’s IoT Gateway for industrial applications, and a PLC connected to a demo board fitted with digital and analog controls. The kit provides all the Virtual Machine, Framework and middleware needed for an IoT implementation. It includes a trial license of Everyware Cloud (EC), Eurotech’s IoT Integration Platform. EC, which provides cloud-based access, visualization and management of the device, and additional services like data storage, analytics and remote software deployment and update.

Hyperconverged Virtualization

While a number of vendors have embraced the idea of coverage embedded computing, KALEAO has made it the centerpiece of its offerings. Last fall the company introduced its KMAX system that provides compute, storage and networking in an integrated platform. As a hyperconverged platform, KMAX dynamically defines “physicalized” computing resources and assigns them directly to virtual machines and applications, without unnecessary software layers (Figure 3). It uses an ultra-efficient lightweight hypervisor called a microvisor. The microvisor works seamlessly with hardware to orchestrate global pools of software defined and hardware-accelerated resources.

Figure 3. KMAX dynamically defines “physicalized” computing resources and assigns them directly to virtual machines and applications, without unnecessary software layers.

KMAX removes the performance overhead that is typical when layering applications over a virtualized, hyperconverged platform running on commodity hardware. The hyperconverged and orchestration functionality can be used to efficiency implement, deliver and manage cloud services, without incurring the typical virtualization compromise between agility and performance. The KMAX uses ARM 64-bit hardware to achieve low power consumption, data locality, high density and high performance. In terms of performance density KMAX provides 1536 CPU cores, 370 Terabytes of all flash storage and 960 Gbits/s in 3U Rackspace. KALEAO claims that’s up to 10 times the performance density than today’s typical hyperconverged offerings, blades and rackmount solutions.

Net Virtualization Solution

ADLINK Technology and Wind River—both separately with well-established backgrounds in the IoT space—recently teamed up to establish joint lab facilities in Shanghai, China and San Jose, CA, US, to promote the adoption of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). The Research & Development centers will feature Wind River Titanium Server software running on ADLINK’s hardware platform based on the Modular Industrial Cloud Architecture (MICA) open framework. The combination of technologies will offer a platform for software manufacturers, system device suppliers and service providers to test software rapidly through preliminary platform verification and system optimization.

Wind River’s Titanium Server is a complete, commercial NFV infrastructure (NFVI) software platform that delivers carrier grade reliability and performance for NFV applications. By integrating Titanium Server with ADLINK’s rugged hardware platforms, NFV can be achieved at the network edge or in the data center, providing users with greater opportunities to maximize the performance and capacity of their NFV implementation and reduce operating expenses.

ADLINK Technology
San Jose, CA
(408) 360-0200

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions
Ashburn, VA
(703) 779-7800

General Micro Systems
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
(909) 980-4863

Columbia, MD
(301) 490-4007

Extreme Engineering Solutions
Middleton, WI
(608) 833-1155

Charlotte, NC
(704) 235 4809

Mercury Systems
Chelmsford, MA
(978) 967-1401

WIN Enterprises
North Andover, MA
(978) 688-2000

Wind River
Alameda, CA
(510) 748-4100