The federal government is riding the beginnings of a tectonic shift in computing architecture — one that will put smarts and storage out at the network’s edge. Current cloud infrastructure places applications and storage on distributed servers accessible anywhere.
Driving the change are 5G networks that promise improved data throughput and lower latency.
“Reality is based on computational capacity at the edge of the tower and the ability to move apps in that infrastructure from tower to tower,” says Steve Wallace, systems innovation scientist, emerging technologies at the Defense Information Systems Agency.
Edge Computing Lets Feds Make Use of Data Faster
Edge computing could make it possible to deploy an Internet of Things device; add artificial intelligence, computation and storage; and take the action far from the center of the cloud. That’s important on the battlefield, where disruptions in communications are unacceptable.
Another driver is the plummeting cost of sensors, leading the military to push for systems that integrate and track reams of data coming directly from war fighters and their equipment as well as smart munitions.
The Army has an Internet of Battlefield Things Collaborative Research Alliance to fund work with industry and academia, as do the Air Force and Navy. “An industrial switch has computing power right on it,” says Joe Beel, a senior defense strategist at Cisco Systems. “You can take temperature, vibration and speed information constantly.”
Essential to it all is a distributed computer architecture that puts processing and storage at the source, says Beel. “The volume of data is so massive now that you can’t just send everything off to the cloud.”
MORE FROM FEDTECH: The Army is exploring smart city Internet of Things tools.
Edge Computing Yields Benefits for Feds
Dell is partnering with Microsoft’s cloud/edge-based Azure platform and working with the Air Force, Marines and Army Special Forces on predictive maintenance and logistics. IBM is also working with DOD on predictive maintenance for vehicles.
Microsoft is assisting the U.S. Department of Agriculture on collecting next-generation farming data from soil and weather sensors as well as drones, satellites, tractors and combines.
“There’s so much spatial variability in a field that we need the data to help us provide site-specific solutions,” says USDA Research Ecologist and project leader Steven Mirsky.