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Hanscom studies clouds for combat

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is studying how cloud computing could safely provide data to users who need it, even in degraded environments, like those encountered by ground troops in combat. (Department of Defense graphic illustration)

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is studying how cloud computing could safely provide data to users who need it, even in degraded environments, like those encountered by ground troops in combat. (Department of Defense graphic illustration)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Hanscom is working with the Massachusetts Open Cloud to test methods for secure data management of the combat cloud.

 

The Cloud Analysis and Modeling Prototype, or CAMP project, uses the relief efforts staged following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as a model for major military operations in which many users require access to multiple tiers of information hosted on an open cloud. The three areas CAMP tests are: secure data transactions; providing information during degraded access periods; and how to ensure each type of user can discover only the information they need.

“We’re building some knowledge here,” said Tony Janeczek, engineer in charge of the CAMP project. “Cloud computing has advanced so much in just the last few years, and the military is hardly using any cloud applications right now.”

By reaching into the archives for details on the military response to Katrina, Janeczek helped build a scenario to run on the MOC, testing military use of a cloud environment without putting any current, sensitive information at risk.

Founded in 2014 and physically located about an hour west of Hanscom, the Massachusetts Open Cloud is a collaborative project between five Massachusetts universities, with the assistance of industrial partners. The goal of the MOC is to develop next-generation cloud technologies, able to efficiently transport and store vast amounts of data generated by government activity and academic research.

The MOC is headquartered at Boston University, and its physical cloud resources are housed in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Existing MOC research is almost all open source and accessible to the public; however the Air Force has agreed with MOC managers to keep any military-specific results of the year-long Katrina study. 

“This feeds directly into the combat cloud initiative,” said Janeczek, referring to an Air Force Chief of Staff effort to link combat weapons systems and sensors onto a scalable, secure and durable network. “The research we’re doing is just the seed, so that we know what is possible when dealing with the complexities of cloud computing in a combat-like environment.”

According to MOC representatives, building the project on the response to Katrina, rather than direct combat scenarios, frees the project from concerns about sensitive information and demonstrates the value of the technology for civilian use cases.  

 

“We believe that the Air Force represents a leading-edge customer, but one which represents the needs of a much larger security-sensitive community,” said Dr. Orran Krieger, a Boston University professor of electrical and computer engineering, and MOC lead. “The United States military probably cannot afford to have thousands of computer stacks sitting around idle, just waiting to be used. We’re already working on one more project for IARPA, (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) and hope that we can prove the usefulness of a research platform like this with the CAMP study. Hopefully we can safely piggyback some of the military computing and storage workload onto private servers. With this project, we’ll help provide security protocols for the future. ”

 

The period of performance for the MOC cloud computing research contract is one year, at a cost of $600,000.