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IBM Builds NATO a Private Cloud for Intelligence Work

Many of us use the cloud to store music, pictures, and important files, but few individuals or businesses could benefit from cloud computing as much as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) military command center in Virginia. The center is responsible for organizing NATO Network Enabled Capability (NNEC), or the organization's ability to leverage an IT infrastructure from the strategic level down to tactical levels. Now IBM is easing NATO's IT operations in Virginia into a private cloud that could eventually help the organization smooth out command, control, surveillance, and intelligence projects, and improve decision-making on the ground.

"Cloud computing is ideally suited for [NATO]. It takes the disparate capabilities of 28 nations and brings them together in  an efficient, effective, and less costly fashion than might otherwise be the case," explains Ernest J. Herold, the NATO account manager for IBM global business services. The Virginia center, Herold says, is oriented towards setting standards for the military forces of alliance. Cloud computing could "test, evaluate, configure and reconfigure different technological capabilities to see how they work together."

If all goes well in Virginia, IBM will open the private cloud up as a resource base for other agencies in the NATO alliance, and eventually, the cloud could be used in the field.

For example, at NATO headquarters in Afghanistan, commanders may receive information from a number of different sources: full-motion video from a drone overhead, radar information from a ground-based unit, and voice reports from human scouts on patrol in the area. At the moment, these information streams don't communicate with each other; they have to be evaluated separately. "In a cloud computing environment, a  commander can take that information and automatically present it in a variety of fashions to make faster and better decisions," says Herold.

IBM will complete NATO's private cloud in Virginia in January for an undisclosed sum. Initial results will be evaluated by the summer, at which point IBM hopes that the organization will opt to expand its cloud capabilities. "We could open it up quickly," Harold Says. "It's a question of policy, not capability."

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.