Feb 02 2016

Army Turns to Tintri's Storage Solutions to Keep Drone Pilot Trainees Flying

How the U.S. Army’s Joint Systems Integration Laboratory used storage to improve training.

Drone pilot training is slightly more complex than playing Xbox.

Soldiers chosen to participate in the U.S. Army’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program go through a rigorous training process supported by the U.S. Army Joint Systems Integration Laboratory (JSIL), which develops and maintains the software used for training.

This process includes creating virtual environments for pilots to test in, and the more the situations resemble the real world, the better prepared the pilots can be. Creating and storing these training environments requires a lot of computing — something JSIL was not prepared for.

“The storage we used simply could not handle the workload,” said Rory Hamaker, lead systems administrator and infrastructure architect at Ameritech/SED, a civilian contractor to JSIL. “We were built for capacity, but not for speed. It was taking us several hours, if not days, to load environments for training.”

Those delays were unacceptable for JSIL and a huge burden on the IT staff. The number of complaint tickets was continuing to rise, and more importantly, soldiers were not always able to get the training they needed.

Finding a Partner in Tintri 

To fix the problem, JSIL turned to Tintri’s VM-Aware hybrid storage platform as the foundation for its training program, which relied heavily on a virtual infrastructure. What started as a proof-of-concept trial quickly evolved.

“Within a month, we had pushed all our storage over to Tintri and never looked back,” Hamaker said.

Hamaker said JSIL's computing environment speed increased 220 percent and a number of other tasks' speeds improved at least 100 percent. The number of trouble tickets decreased from about 20 a week to almost none.

Most importantly, the amount of time needed to install a new training environment drastically dropped as well, with times more than halved in many cases.

“The environments we create are very specific,” Hamaker said. “They get incredibly detailed to help pilots train for a specific mission. The goal is to simulate the real world the best that we can and that was becoming hard to do. We needed a storage solution that enabled this to happen. What used to take us several hours to set up, we can now do in just a fraction of the time.”


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