Quest for the humvee-mounted mobile data center for the battlefield edge

By John Keller
Posted by John Keller

SAN DIEGO, 30 Jan. 2013. One of the chief goals of today's military electronic systems development is a full data centers featuring servers with virtualization software capability, fast Ethernet connectivity and reliable wireless networking that is small and rugged enough to fit in the back of a military utility vehicle like a humvee.

That ultimate goal might not seem so far away, however, based on exhibits this week at the AFCEA West 2013 conference and trade show in San Diego.

One of the primary challenges to designing a rugged data center for the edge of the battlefield, however, is size and weight. Today's servers can be big and heavy, and that's often before they're ruggedized sufficiently for military vehicle use.

Still, the rewards of a full data center for the forward edge of the battlefield are many. The military command post of today is data-intensive to say the least. Here warfighters must receive, process, and disseminate terabytes of sensor data, keep track of where friendly and hostile forces are, interface with rear-echelon commanders, and even manage unmanned vehicle missions.

To do that takes mountains of computing power, and sometimes more than can be brought safely and efficiently to the edge of the battlefield. Without this capability, forward-deployed warfighters have to rely on command posts in the rear by often-unreliable and delay-prone military communications links.

Yet military rugged server manufacturers like Dell Inc., in Round Rock, Texas; Crystal Group Inc. in Hiawatha, Iowa; and Themis Computer in Fremont, Calif., are rising to the task of tomorrow's rugged data center on the edge.

Themis, for example, is showing the Intel-based RES-Mini rugged server for mission-critical military, industrial, and commercial applications in rugged conditions, as well as the RES-HDS 2U server, which ultimately may lend themselves to the data center in a humvee.

These servers feature military-grade shock resistance and thermal cooling, and can fit in spaces smaller than a standard rack. The computers, furthermore are half the size of their nearest competitors, says Michael Schneider, vice president of federal and business development at Themis.

The size and weight of these rugged servers is attractive for military designers who are right up against their size and weight budgets, Schneider says.

Among the enabling technologies of these small rugged servers are the latest generations of the Intel Core i7 microprocessors, which offers several computing cores on each chip. This capability can offer big data analysis on the edge of the battlefield.

The incredible shrinking rugged server will not end with the current generation. Themis is working on redesigning the RES-Mini and HDS servers to fit in a small-form-factor Nano ATR Cub -- a rugged server that will measure less than 200 cubic inches with ruggedization and cooling built in.

This kind of development in the future not only could yield full data centers in humvees on the forward edge of battle, but perhaps also full data centers in armored combat vehicles like main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Then we'll be talking about the IT guy who's earning combat pay.

Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

December 17, 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

December 10, 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

December 3, 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

November 26, 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

November 19, 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

November 12, 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

November 5, 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

October 29, 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

October 22, 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

October 15, 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

October 7, 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

October 1, 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

September 24, 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

September 17, 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

September 10, 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

September 3, 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

August 27, 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

August 20, 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

August 13, 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

August 6, 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

July 30, 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

July 23, 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

July 16, 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

July 9, 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

July 2, 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
file

All Access Sponsors


Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Connect with Us



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE