The Department of Defense is deep in the process of becoming a data-driven organization. While it has no shortage of data already at its disposal, in order to protect the national interest and deliver on the mission, it must put that data it already has to work and be able to absorb a rapid influx of new data from arrays of new sensors and other data gathering devices.  In much the same way as the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the commercial world by collecting data from sensors, a similar evolution is occurring in the military, particularly in the field of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

In a recent white paper from C4ISR, Kirk Kern, CTO of NetApp U.S. Public Sector noted the similarity between IoT and ISR and how sensors gather data.  However, he also pointed out that the rapid increase of these data-gathering sensors will present some challenges for the Department of Defense as they transform into a data-driven organization and turn the raw data into actionable intelligence.

Kern noted that “…information should be searchable by any appropriate individual. It should be visible to the right people and, once appropriately classified, it should be seen by all. Right now, that tends not to happen. There tend to be custom-built solutions, especially in ISR. Compatibility is a problem. Data portability is a problem.”

Military leaders, including Alan Hansen, Chief for the Intel Systems and Processing Division of Army CERDEC’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, are hampered by systems rigidity, which leaves them unable to put the data to work and, just as importantly, share that data not only within an organization or division, but also between branches of the military.  Shared Hansen, “Right now, if I have a new data type, say from a new sensor, it becomes very challenging to exploit that data… We need information systems that can adapt to these new data types as they become available.”

DoD IT leaders recognized that in order to fully embrace a data-driven mission that portability and interoperability needed to become priorities, along with information security when building the next-generation of data management infrastructure. To accomplish this, the DoD has fully embraced a hybrid cloud environment, but has added one more essential item – data fabric.

Kern describes data fabric as a “…framework where information lifecycle management [that] combines with data synchronizers to move data to and from the cloud, while storage occurs at the edge to facilitate localized processing through hyper-converged appliances. Rather that treat these disparate aspects of data management as discreet tasks, everything is woven into a seamless whole. All of the different threads work together.”

What this combination of next-generation data management technologies enables is the ability to combine intel and security into all phases of the data lifecycle. Moreover, “The data fabric concept proposes aligning governance, data privacy, data sovereignty and other key controls to ensure uniform data protection protocols. As a single, standardized data management and storage solution, the data fabric delivers security across different architectures and platforms, a necessary feature in an environment of convergent ISR data,” as Kern explained it.

But while the theory is intriguing, the practical application is inspirational. Capt. Gisele Bonitz, SSC Pacific’s commanding officer, noted that in building this next-generation data management infrastructure the DOD is able to”…ensure that we understand the warfighting environment, that we anticipate the warfighters’ demands, and that we continue to push ourselves to discover new and innovative ways to provide C4ISR and space solutions for the warfighters, before they even know they need it.”

Learn more about how the DoD is embracing its data-driven future. Download the full white paper from C4ISR here