NATO, IBM working to show merits of IT integration in the cloud

Agencies could learn from NATO test cloud

NATO’s Allied Command Transformation is working with IBM to explore and demonstrate how cloud computing can consolidate and integrate technology for command and control programs.

An on-premises cloud will be used to test and develop network solutions for command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance projects, NATO and IBM officials said.

The lessons learned from the NATO testing environment would most likely be beneficial to U.S. agencies considering all the ramifications of moving applications to the cloud, the officials said.

Like their counterparts at many government agencies, NATO officials are struggling with budget reductions and overlapping data center capabilities. As a result, many are viewing the cloud as a way to reduce IT operational costs and improve efficiency. In addition, as part of the Obama administration’s cloud-first policy, over the next 18 months, agencies must move three applications to the cloud, a computing model in which shared resources, software and information are provided to users on demand.

The cloud computing project supports NATO's efforts to restructure the alliance to meet 21st-century technology challenges. IBM will develop the private cloud at the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Va.

Officials would not disclose how much the implementation will cost.


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NATO will start implementing the cloud infrastructure early next year with the goal of making recommendations to the organization’s acquisition community in summer 2011, said Johan Goossens, head of the command’s Technology and Human Factors Branch. That is when the next cycle of IT upgrades occurs in theaters such as Afghanistan. Officials want to be sure they are making the right recommendations, he added.

“Consolidation is appealing from an economic perspective,” Goossens said, adding that NATO is not only exploring the potential of private clouds but will also consider the viability of outsourcing IT capabilities to public cloud providers.

Forging interoperability between the IT infrastructures of the 28 NATO member nations will also be a key part of the cloud testing environment, Goossens said.

“You can imagine how hard it is to get these boxes aligned and talking with each other,” Goossens said. “Everyone is jumping on cloud computing as a cost saver. It is very important for us to see what works and what doesn’t work.”

NATO will focus on application interoperability — how the various partners’ databases should align so analysts can find that crucial bit of data to thwart a terrorist attack.

To that end, NATO’s facility in Norfolk has a more complex environment than it needs, Goossens said. The computing infrastructure includes Microsoft and Linux operating systems and virtualization hypervisors from Microsoft and VMware and the open-source Xen.

Goossens noted that 28 nations will never agree on the same hardware and technology. “We’ll see how well we can bring all this together,” he said, adding that IBM’s software works with a variety of hardware.

NATO will use IBM’s Service Delivery Manager software, which is part of IBM CloudBurst software that runs on the company’s blade server technology, said Ernest Herold, an IBM director responsible for work with NATO.

IBM recognizes that many organizations do not want to and shouldn’t have to rip and replace hardware, so Service Delivery Manager runs on top of any hardware platform, Herold added.

The tool is a pre-integrated software stack deployed as a set of virtual images that automate IT service deployment. It provides cloud-based resource monitoring and cost management.

In addition to building private clouds, IBM has established a Federal Community Cloud to meet the specific security requirements of the federal government and a Municipal Shared Services Cloud for state and local governments.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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