Mustang supercomputer (AFRL)

AF Research Lab launches shared classified supercomputing

To accelerate the pace of research and prevent adversaries from leveraging the military's knowledge and expertise, the Air Force Research Lab broke ground on a new facility at the DOD Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The first “Shared Above-Secret Department of Defense High Performance Computing Capability” will feature four supercomputers that will be available to researchers across the Defense Department and other federal agencies. Three of the systems -- Voodoo, Shadow and Spectre -- will be dedicated to classified work. The newest machine, Mustang, was powered up in December and will initially handle unclassified workloads but will be elevated to higher classification levels as efforts mature, AFRL officials said.

Mustang is a $15 million Hewlett Packard SGI 8600 with 56,448 computing cores.

In 2016, DOD's High Performance Computing Modernization Program investigated the demand and options for above-secret shared supercomputing and recommended AFRL procure three above-secret systems and a large unclassified HPC system running the same architecture for testing above-secret applications at the unclassified level when possible. It also called for high-performance network connectivity solutions for above-secret traffic, preferably on the Defense Research and Engineering Network backbone, which is approved for encrypted above-secret traffic.

"The ability to share supercomputers at higher classification levels will allow programs to get their supercomputing work done quickly while maintaining necessary security," DSRC Director Jeff Graham said. "Programs will not need to spend their budget and waste time constructing their own secure computer facilities, and buying and accrediting smaller computers for short-term work. This new capability will save billions for the DOD while providing additional access to state-of-the-art computing.”

The classified systems will be housed in a new secure addition to the DSRC. Mustang will be installed in a separate unclassified wing with other non-classified high performance systems, according to WDTN news.

“AFRL has been at the forefront of the effort to establish this capability for the DOD,” Graham said. “It shows our commitment to advancing computational tools being used to support the warfighter."

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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