The Army Expands Its Use of Cloud Computing

An officer with the 82nd Airborne Division calls in close air support during an exercise at the Battle Command Training Center.

U.S Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs

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An officer with the 82nd Airborne Division calls in close air support during an exercise at the Battle Command Training Center.

IBM is beefing up its cloud computing services with the Army to expedite the service's nearly 40 million logistics data transactions per day.

With several hundred thousand active-duty and civilian personnel and military bases all over the planet, the U.S. Army’s logistics challenges rival those of any organization on Earth.

The Army has secured the hybrid cloud computing services of IBM to bolster services provided by its Logistics Support Activity, responsible for some 40 million unique Army data transactions per day.

LOGSA, as it’s known, houses the Logistics Information Warehouse, serves as the Army’s storehouse for logistics data and also provides relevant business intelligence to ensure the Army’s material needs worldwide are met.

The Army migrated LOGSA to IBM’s on-premise hybrid cloud model in 2014. Today, IBM announced it will add new data analytics capabilities to LOGSA to maximize returns from the new cloud environment.

“This is an important logistics system that impacts the lives of soldiers every day,” Anne Altman, the general manager of IBM’s federal practice, said in an interview with Nextgov. “Cloud gives us the basis to apply new capabilities, which will continue to advance the value they are creating for their users.”

Altman said the Army’s hybrid cloud model allows it to better make use of the enormous amount of logistics data the Army collects. That, in turn, aims to provide sharper insights and better services to service members. Important logistics data like equipment inventories and movement are just a small sampling of the data points LOGSA is managing in the cloud.

“The Army not only recognized a trend in IT that could transform how they deliver services to their logistics personnel around the world; they also implemented a cloud environment quickly and are already experiencing significant benefits,” Altman said. “They’re taking advantage of the inherent benefits of hybrid cloud: security and the ability to connect it with an existing IT system.

According to IBM, LOGSA’s hybrid cloud model — which essentially connects its various on-premise IT systems and adds IBM’s capabilities to the mix — has slashed costs by 50 percent over its previous model. In addition, the new model is less prone to downtime, the company says.

“One thing we’ve seen is improved reliability in data operation,” Altman told Nextgov. “We were able to cut costs 50 percent and increase reliability form 99 percent to 99.999 percent.”

The Army has also been a progressive adopter of emerging information technologies, releasing a formal cloud computing strategy earlier this month.

Compared to its traditional risk-averse approach, the Pentagon has become more forward-thinking recently in adopting emerging information technologies. 

Meanwhile, after losing out on a $600 million Central Intelligence Agency cloud contract to Amazon Web Services, IBM has quietly built momentum in the federal cloud space, securing large contracts with cabinet agencies and pushing forward with a cloud data center thattargets Defense Department workloads.

Housed at the U.S. Navy-owned Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in West Virginia, the secure facility represents an interesting investment to watch.

IBM officials told Nextgov they are in the process of obtaining a provisional authority to operate for sensitive DOD workloads. What’s unique about the ABL facility is that it already has a NIPRnet connection — something few cloud services providers will have as they come to meet the Pentagon’s evolving cloud security requirements.  

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