smart military base

Army LOGSA leverages private cloud for logistics

The Army is stepping up the pace of its march to the cloud with a continuing deal with IBM for cloud services, software development and cognitive computing across its Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA).

The 33-month, $135 million LOGSA contract will help the Army improve readiness by tracking, analyzing and disseminating logistical readiness information through the organization.

“We have 70,000 users around the world leveraging our software. If we did not have the cloud, all of those users would have to have downloaded our software apps," LOGSA Commander Col. John Kuenzli said. Without the cloud, we would have to have many more servers at those locations to satisfy demand.”

Greater cloud utilization is enabled through increased virtualization and the use of AI and cognitive computing analytics from systems such as IBM’s Watson computer, said Tim Kleppinger, IBM’s vice president and senior client partner for Army and Marine Corps global business.

The effort is designed to organize data more efficiently and to speed up commanders' decision-making ability.

One analyst said emerging advances in AI, cloud computing and analytics such as those offered by Watson and private cloud migration bring previously unprecedented advantages to data management.

“The cloud allows you to bring previously isolated forms and sources of data together, allowing you potentially to draw new insights,” said Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Given rapid advances in private cloud computing, Kuenzli said, the Army is able to create economies of scale. For instance, the use of cloud-enabled common software applications allows the Army to utilize one software license and make it available to everyone at the same time.

IBM says the new deal extension, which builds upon a 2012 contract, will build upon existing Army savings of $15 million per year in operational costs due to data consolidation and storage efficiencies.

“We are leveraging virtual machines and cloud computing in an infrastructure that allows us to pay as we go. We get cutting edge cloud computing capability without having to own all of the infrastructure,” Kuenzli explained.

Overall, the Army system, operated by Army Materiel Command, operates two petabytes worth of data on large equipment inventories and repairs, such as those needed for combat vehicles, helicopters and trucks along with vast amounts of smaller items from small arms inventories to software and data services.

“We enable users to go in and out of a system within a very small technical footprint. We make all of that available 24-7 to Army users with system access,” Kuenzli said.  

Enabling greater interoperability, data-sharing and faster network access can shine a spotlight on double-edged security issues. In one sense, streamlining information can make data less dispersed and varied, therefore making it easier to protect. At the same time, some raise the concern that fewer points of access could avail potential intruders an opportunity to launch a more targeted attack and enable them to reach, and potentially cause damage, deeper into networks.

IBM developers emphasize that private cloud computing, such as LOGSA, applies particular risk management framework security controls for the entire IT enterprise. Improvement methods can replace legacy IT security standards, IBM said.

“Cloud computing arguably aids with cybersecurity, as it allows users to see patterns and anomalies that might not be as easy to find otherwise,” New America’s Singer said.  

The entire effort seeks to actualize the open architecture framework to quickly leverage and integrate new algorithms and analytical techniques.  In addition, it parallels sweeping DOD efforts to reduce hardware footprints across the IT enterprise and maximize interoperability.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is a former editor of Defense Systems.

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