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milCloud 2.0 breaks down storage barriers, leverages backup data for analytics

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Warfighters and decision-makers at the Defense Department need access to their data at the speed of relevance. That is, data is not much use to them if they can’t access it in time to complete the mission. That’s one of the reasons the backup and restore capability is one of the most important in the Defense Information Systems Agency’s milCloud 2.0.

“Backing up and restoring your data in a timely manner enables you to be successful with the mission,” said Jim Matney, General Dynamics Information Technology’s vice president of DISA and Enterprise Services.

milCloud 2.0 offers infrastructure-as-a-service, storage, compute, networking and virtualization, but it goes beyond just that. It’s a holistic solution, a final destination for archiving data both for immediate use and for compliance purposes.

“We want DoD mission partners to have the ability to restore when they need to at the unit level, but then also support their additional requirements such as long term storage and records management requirements,” Matney said.

And milCloud 2.0 allows defense agencies to run analytics on archived data that would usually be too costly to access. Long-term backup storage data can also serve double duty as a mirror image of the production environment.

“When you run a large query against a database, that’s going to impact performance against the production environment,” Matney said. “The data that you use for your backup capability can also be able to be used to perform data analytics.”

New advances in storage technology included in milCloud 2.0, such as Intel’s Optane Technology, are breaking down barriers in storage to make that possible.

Currently, there are four tiers of storage, dictated by the speed of the drives the data is stored on. Hot storage is where data used constantly is stored. It uses the fastest drives, but is the most expensive. Warm storage is for data that is used regularly, maybe a few times a week or once daily. Cold storage is data that’s rarely used. And glacial is data that’s only kept for compliance reasons, and uses the slowest drives.

“I think we’re on the verge of an information revolution, when we break down those data storage tiers, and now we free up the data so that we can provide real information from it,” said Darren Pulsipher, chief solution architect at Intel. “I think we’re right on the verge of that happening over the next few years.”

Because milCloud 2.0 uses Intel’s Optane Technology, which is 1000 times more dense and 100 times faster than standard NAND technology, and its mean time to failure is so far out, it doesn’t play into the equation. That allows milCloud 2.0 to combine storage tiers into a single storage function.

This means backup data that would ordinarily go into glacial storage can now be accessed as easily as if it were in hot storage. This lets the DoD run analytics on its backup data while it sits in storage. And with that much data available for analysis for the first time, what kind of solutions could be discovered?

“If an agency were to have maintenance records for the last 50 years, all digitized, all sitting there. What if that was in a storage that was easier to access?” Pulsipher said. “And now I could do a better job at predicting how long something has to be in for repairs, how often it does preventive maintenance. There’s so much information out there that we’re not utilizing today.”

And because that data is in milCloud 2.0 instead of glacial storage, it’s able to be backed up and restored faster and easier as needed by the mission, with no ingress and egress charges that would usually accompany a public cloud offering.

That’s especially useful for DoD, as its assets are designed with the expectation of heading into dangerous or denied environments. But leadership needs access to the same data whether the individual units are available or not. Having backup storage somewhere other than the tactical edge means the adversaries can’t deny DoD leadership the data they need.

“Having that long term archiving enables you to be able to restore or recover your data to a certain point in time to still effectively support a mission,” Matney said.

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