IBM, NATO Collaborate on New Cloud Computing Project

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-12-22
 
 
 

IBM has a big new international project on its agenda as of Dec. 22.

Big Blue is going to show the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) how best to migrate wildly disparate computer systems to cloud computing, and the plan is for NATO to, in turn, take that information and promote more data sharing and cost efficiency among its 28 nation-state members.

The goals are the same as most virtualization initiatives: to save capital and operating costs, to use less electricity and to make systems run more efficiently on several levels. As one might imagine, this international effort represents a much larger challenge than a typical enterprise project.

NATO's Allied Command Transformation, in announcing that it has selected IBM for the strategic IT project it already has under way, wants to gain experience in improving data center efficiency and to increase data sharing by its member nations.

The IBM-powered initiative will enable the 61-year-old organization to plan, build and demonstrate a new cloud computing model that could be used to consolidate and integrate IT capabilities and deploy them for critical command and control programs.

For its part, IBM will develop a cloud computing system that will share a common operating environment across many mission processes. By aggregating and sharing disparate computing resources, from networks to servers to storage, the idea is for this cloud computing model to help the Alliance deploy IT capabilities more broadly, quickly and cost-effectively.

NATO's Allied Command Transformation group, based in Norfolk, Va., is charged with arranging and deploying future projects for NATO. Its IT section is headed up by Johan Goossens, director of ACT's Technology & Human Factors Branch.

"Every physical location in NATO basically has a mini-data center," Goossens told eWEEK. "Virtualization and cloud offer some good opportunities for us. We're looking at two [goal] aspects here: The first, of course, is financial. With dwindling budgets, we've got to do more with less. So the idea of consolidating data centers in clouds is very appealing."

Interoperability also a key goal

There also is an interoperability argument, Goossens said.

"There are 28 nations plus NATO itself as an overarching organization," Goossens said. "The way we do procurement and investment is very decentralized, and nations are very independent. So with technologies like virtualization and cloud around the corner, there was a real risk here of 28 nations doing things 28 different ways."

His group's mission, as Goossens sees it, is this: "Can we, in this federated world, which is chaotic at times, still capitalize on cloud computing to: a) save money and reduce costs, and b) improve interoperability, so that the data sets can be connected better than they are today?"

In doing the research for this project, Goossens came up with a rather surprising statistic.

"If you look at the personnel ratio in NATO, very often you see almost a 1:1 ratio between a support person and the number of servers we have. Whereas the industrial rates are completely different," Goossens said.

"So there's a financial argument as to why we wanted to look at cloud computing."


In this project, IBM is producing a small-scale case study so NATO can learn the right recommendations for future IT procurement.

"We're not looking only at on-premises private clouds, but potentially for outsourcing nonsecure activities to public clouds [services]," Goossens said.

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