If there is one trend that seems certain, it is that terrorist groups and other American enemies will continue efforts to expand their activities, influence, and attacks around the globe- and in particular in remote geographies where little infrastructure exists for defending against this type of adversary. This poses a growing technical challenge for DoD and national security agencies; the ones who need to position war fighters and other elements of our defenses at the outer edges of our logistical capabilities.
We refer to them as government endpoint users, whether members of the military or civilian contractors- who need to have their enterprise services with them wherever they are located. Whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, the front lines in Africa, Malaysia, or the Philippines, on board transport ships, or even safely ensconced in the nearest embassy. An edge capability has become a necessity in 2018, as these types of deployments have become more common.
For front line team members, this edge requirement means allowing them to build off of their existing enterprise capabilities. For users who typically work outside of a centralized environment, the challenge is being able to do their work even in the face of lost communications or power. An edge capability still allows for voice, video, Sharepoint, transport, and active directory services- even when normal communications go out. In conflict zones, communications blackouts are not uncommon, and access to a cloud-like environment is absolutely essential if they are to continue working toward mission success.
Given these challenges, agency executives must recognize the difficulty in delivering enterprise capabilities to remote locales, where hostile elements exist in close proximity. They must identify the types of equipment that can operate in the face of power and communications interruptions, as well as an inhospitable battlefield environment. That means technology that is small, “rugged-ized”, and maximally portable so that a one or two-man team may set up, carry, and maintain it in any situation:
- Small – It needs to be easily transportable whether in a car, airplane, HUMV, MRAP, or other mode of transportation. Not only does it need to satisfy space limitations; whether it be in the trunk of civilian vehicle or in the overhead compartment of a commercial airliner, it also cannot occupy valuable storage capacity needed for other essential equipment needs, such as food, water and weaponry.
- Adaptable – It must be a universal receiver of power. It should be operable from battery power, AC or DC. It should have the ability to tap into any available power source in any environment.
- Rugged – It needs to be exceptionally tolerant of real-world battlefield conditions, including extreme temperature, blowing dust, humidity, impact shocks, and the normal abuse incurred when riding in the back of your typical militarized transport.
- Easy to Use – It needs to be practical for easy set-up and for quick redeployment. It must be easy to maintain in austere conditions, including conditions discussed earlier. This means being able to quickly remove the servers for dust removal and maintenance, and for reinstalling quickly without disrupting service.
In the end, it’s about having a hyper-converged device that delivers high availability, that’s easy to set-up, and that fits the typical two-main boxes that the military currently utilizes, while tapping into any power source on the vehicle or wherever it is deployed, and a built-in battery source for power outages – in other words, the real-world conditions that U.S. forces, both military and civilian, are finding themselves in today’s dangerous world.