A Defense Innovation Unit project to link the Pentagon’s high-performance computers with cloud-based services could soon bring real-time, high-speed data processing to military users around the world.

DIU, whose mission is to help the U.S. Department of Defense better leverage commercial technology, worked with two computing firms on the 18-month effort: Rescale, headquartered in San Francisco, and Parallel Works, based out of Chicago.

The companies partnered with DoD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program, which is working to make decision-making tools enabled by supercomputers more accessible across the department — from researchers and acquisition officials to operators in the field.

The military uses supercomputers to quickly process large amounts of data that can be used to inform decisions or simulate complex scenarios. For example, a unit could use high-performance computing to understand how the weather forecast might impact a planned ISR operation. Or an engineer designing lighter body armor for soldiers could use it to research materials.

The Pentagon relies largely on physical computers — which are expensive to buy and maintain — to perform this work. Through the DIU effort, Rescale and Parallel Works demonstrated that they could provide these computing tools on the cloud, which means users don’t have to have access to a physical computer to take advantage of the capability.

“Researchers are [now] able to access cloud resources when appropriate to augment their work at on-premises centers,” Benjamin Parsons, chief technology officer for the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, said in a June 27 statement. “This has given them access to a wider variety of hardware, and the ability to scale resources beyond what is currently possible, all within one secure, easy to use, environment.”

Both firms are poised to receive production contracts later this year to scale their high-computing platforms to more users.

Matt McKee, Rescale’s chief operating officer, told C4ISRNET in a July 3 interview that cloud-based computing platforms have played a key role in the private sectors, which have used these tools to significantly reduce engineering cycle times for new product releases.

Those capabilities, he said, could change the way DoD develops, tests and fields new systems over the next three to five years.

“You’re seeing that type of thing reverberating through the private sector industry — so, how do we make sure that the U.S. government also has that agility,” he said. “We need to be able to incorporate everything new that is available to us and put all those resources to bear.”

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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