Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Tactical Cloud

When cloud computing first came in vogue, there was a rather serious discussion about the private cloud concept. The whole idea of cloud computing seemed to argue against implementing such a capability behind organizational walls. Although in some circles, the idea of a "private cloud" is being subsumed by the more acceptable "enterprise cloud", last week's discussions at the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium brought up a different cloud concept - the "tactical cloud".

Now before you shout foul, please hear me out.

First of all, the discussion was centered on how the US Department of Defense (DoD) could possibly leverage cloud computing technology. In the view of many, the development of a "private" or "enterprise" cloud for the DoD is a fait accompli. Besides, the DoD has multiple private internets (NIPRnet, SIPRnet, JWICS, etc.) so private clouds seem like an appropriate evolution. Enterprise clouds, however, seemed to overlook the need for military formations to simultaneously leverage this new IT approach and operate independently. Individual units could combine their IT infrastructure virtually using cloud computing concepts. One use case hypothesized the use of high fidelity tactical simulations in faster than real-time to help commanders better evaluate tactical options before committing to a course of action. This "tactical cloud" would also need to seamlessly reach back and interact with the DoD's "enterprise cloud" There could even be situations where the "tactical cloud" would link to a public cloud in order to access information or leverage a infrastructure-as-a-service. A naval formation seem to be the perfect environment for a tactical or "battlegroup cloud". Although each ship would normally operate their IT infrastructures independently, certain situations could be better served by linking all the resources into a virtual super-computer.

Even more interesting is the fact that the conversations quickly started addressing the tactical needs of police, firefighters, medical professionals and homeland security organizations. If the DoD could improve their operations with a "tactical cloud" couldn't these other operating units benefit as well?

So tell me. Is there yet another cloud formation to consider?