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The US military is turning to Dell to solve its virtual logistic struggles.
An army marches on its stomach as Napoleon stated, but soon, it will also be marching on its computing power. In Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, one of the first things he established in his line was ovens to cook bread for his troops. As he progressed further and further in his campaign, these ovens would have to be torn down, brick by brick, and moved further up the line, and reassembled. While this process has been dramatically expedited with the adoption of modern transportation and preservatives, a new, potentially cumbersome, logistical requirement has now surfaced: providing computing power to the troops.
Your office, home, and car aren’t the only things becoming more and more dependent on computers by the day. Even America’s sharp end of the spear is going digital. We’ve all seen the footage of drones in gathering intelligence and engaging hostile forces. We’re also seeing glimpses of average foot soldiers equipped with touch screen mobile devices, HUD goggles, access to drones, and automated weaponry. The future of the US military will be highly integrated with computers.
However, to power this movement is another part of the logistics game which the military is figuring out. Unlike the massive, state of the art data centers located in sunny California, the military needs that computing power in its most rugged and hostile theaters. Dell’s idea, fly it out to them.
On July 17, 2012, Dell uncovered its Dell Tactical Mobile Data Center, a transportable container which can sustain up to 3g’s during movement in the air. Upon deployment, this 100 foot wide container will be airlifted to the battle site to bring more virtual support to the troops. With the potential of carrying 10,000 pounds of hardware, this pod can bring plenty of fire, er, computing power to the field. It’s also outfitted with temperature, humidity, and airflow controls. Battery backups are able to run off of structure or generated power. It even has fire suppression capabilities. There are also ports for connecting network and water for cooling. The container uses a clever camouflage, appearing to be a normal supply container so it won’t be targeted as a high-value asset.
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According to the description on Dell’s website, it designed the container with toughness in mind. It’s designed to handle being transported by means where the words “Fragile. Handle with Care” don’t mean a thing. Also with the capability to fully function in environments where most people would rather avoid such as remote forward operating posts in Afghanistan or ground zero of a natural disaster. And what data center would be complete without some scalability. While the military holds its position, this container is capable of holding its own and allows for the most scalable server architectures.
Dell isn’t the first to come out with a mobile data center. Google has started packing shipping containers with servers and storage equipment. Companies such as eBay and AOL have also dabbled in developing portable data centers. In fact, the armed forces aren’t the first to develop a mobile data center with Uncle Sam’s wallet. NASA, in their computer development operations, has also created a mobile data center, very similar to Google’s idea. What’s innovative about this data center is its ability to be quickly air lifted into combat zones and sustain 3g’s of force.
While this creation displays the classic innovation found in the American military, it is one of the first steps towards solving a logistical stumbling block that is found in modern warfare. Who knows what the future, cyber warrior will be using to power his computing operations? Much like how we compare Napoleon’s brick ovens to today’s M.R.E.s and parachute dropped field kitchens, our great, great grandchildren will probably look at our Dell Tactical Mobile Data Center the same way.