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Air Force taps IBM for secure cloud

Big Blue wins Air Force contract to provide security cloud environment able to support and protect defense and intelligence data around the world.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

IBM has a tall order from the U.S. Air Force--create a cloud network that can protect national defense and military data.

Big Blue announced Thursday a contract from the Air Force to design and demonstrate a cloud computing environment for the USAF's network of nine command centers, 100 military bases, and 700,000 personnel around the world.

The challenge for IBM will be to develop a cloud that can not only support such a massive network, but also meet the strict security standards of the Air Force and the U.S. government. The project will call on the company to use advanced cybersecurity technologies that have been developed at IBM Research.

"Our goal is to demonstrate how cloud computing can be a tool to enable our Air Force to manage, monitor, and secure the information flowing through our network," said Lieutenant General William Lord, chief information officer and chief of Warfighting Integration for the U.S. Air Force, in a statement. "We examined the expertise of IBM's commercial performance in cloud computing and asked them to develop an architecture that could lead to improved performance within the Air Force environment to improve all operational, analytical, and security capabilities."

To meet the challenge, IBM's own researchers, software engineers, and cybersecurity experts will work with military personnel and government agencies to build up the strong level of network security required. The company said it would employ "stream computing" analytics, a technology that will let the Air Force continually monitor and analyze all data running through the network for any signs of a threat or failure.

Sensors would deliver real-time data on the health of the cloud-based network, helping the Air Force to instantly respond to a cyberattack or other problem. IBM said it would also employ autonomic computing, through which the network could constantly change its performance and responsiveness on its own without the need for technical staff to intervene.

Security has been a challenge in the world of cloud computing, with survey after survey quoting business users who see it as the number one fear of keeping their data in cyberspace. Cybersecurity also made the news in Washington this week. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Cyber Security Research and Development Act. White House Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair warned the Senate on Tuesday that the U.S. is under severe threat of growing cyberattacks unless it beefs up its security defenses.