Defense/Intelligence and Petabyte-Scale Problems
The ability to collect and/or generate data from forward-deployed systems in tactical environments today is unlike anything previously possible. The amount of data generated by sensors including video, radar, electronic warfare systems, and communications systems, on platforms including manned and unmanned aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles has grown exponentially over the past decade. At the same time, the desire and need to provide this data real-time to forward-deployed warfighters across the theatre has also become apparent.
Historically, forward-deployed systems provided data to headquarters elements for processing and data fusion (the combining of data from multiple sensors to form a complete tactical picture). However, the volumes of data generated today far outpace the capacity of the current tactical network infrastructure. Additionally, both physical and cybersecurity threats to the resiliency of these tactical networks have dramatically increased. As stated in the Marine Corps “Strategy for Assured Command and Control” (March 2017), “Currently, Marine Corps C2 systems and applications do not adequately support evolving warfighter needs and expanding cybersecurity requirements.”
When considering the number of and variety of tactical data sources, it is not an exaggeration to characterize today’s tactical environment as a “petabyte-scale dataset” problem. Simply increasing the capacity of current C4I networks will not solve this problem – the data set size and the number of nodes that need the data are increasing too rapidly. The alternative is to process the raw data on-site and network the results of the processing across the theatre and to the command elements. Such an approach also has the advantage of increasing data security by allowing the raw data to be kept in encrypted, secure storage devices rather than networking it across the battlefield. Our next blog in this series will explore how to balance these data processing demands with the physical footprint, power, and cooling constraints of this environment.