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Engineering the Total Ship (ETS) 2010 Symposium Author: Lee Zimmerman Team SPAWAR National Competency Lead for Net-Centric Engineering and Integration (5.2) Title: An Overview of C4ISR Technology Innovations to Support Mission Flexibility in Naval Platforms Abstract This paper provides a survey of C4ISR technology innovations from the recent past, the present day and the near future and how they support the concept of mission flexibility. Technology areas covered include the evolution of computer server hardware and software, the evolution of client-side computer hardware, the evolution of application software and the application user interface, innovations in networking and innovations in communications. In addition to addressing mission flexibility, the paper will point out the implications for ship design and total ownership cost of these technology innovations. Distribution Statement: Approved for Public Release, Distribution is Unlimited An Overview of C4ISR Technology Innovations to Support Mission Flexibility in Naval Platforms INTRODUCTION In today's net-centric Navy, with the wide range of operational missions a unit may be asked to perform, C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems are as essential as propulsion and weapon systems to the design of a ship. Fortunately, changes in C4ISR system functionality can normally be made just in software, and even required hardware changes are relatively simple compared to other ship's infrastructure modifications. However, there are many areas where adoption of new technology can enhance platform flexibility and/or total ownership cost. This paper will provide an overview of C4ISR technologies being introduced today, or planned to be introduced in the future, that can achieve those goals. For the purposes of this paper, the term "C4ISR" means the collection of systems used for command and control, shared situation awareness, collaboration, communications, intelligence data collection and processing, and supporting IT functions like supply and personnel applications. It explicitly does not mean weapon systems or ship control systems, though many of these same technology introductions have, or will, take place in those areas as reliability and real-time processing concerns are addressed. SHIP AS DATA CENTER If you consider how many of the day-to-day functions of a ship involve general purpose computers - supply, personnel, keeping sailors connected to their families, training, command and control - it's not surprising that ships have, in effect, become floating data centers. In the last 25 years use of general purpose, or commercial off the shelf (COTS), computers on-board ships has gone from nowhere to everywhere. The original computers on ships were UYK-7s and other custom built hardware dedicated to single systems. These were followed by expensive workstation-class hardware that was more flexible and affordable, but still relatively expensive and dedicated to single systems. In parallel with this evolution in tactical systems, increasing numbers of personal computers came on-board to automate support functions. Today, we can perform any C4ISR function required on a general-purpose personal computer and these are everywhere on the ship. This has led to new challenges - finding space and power and cooling and properly securing (physically and logically) all these computers. The CANES Program One of the most critical programs in the US Navy today is the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program. CANES combines a move to industry best practices in providing a refreshed common IT infrastructure and continued support for the move to services-oriented applications. The CANES Common Computing Environment (CCE) replaces program-specific hardware with shared “blade” server hardware running virtualized servers. From a ship design point-of-view this offers two benefits. First is the use of common racks for the computer hardware to support multiple systems, as opposed to each system bringing multiple racks of program-specific gear with different dimensions and mounting requirements. This will result in equipment rooms that are uniform in design and modular in implementation filled with interchangeable processing and storage units sized to meet the overall resource demand instead of the demand for each individual system. The second benefit of blade technology in common racks is that it will reduce the need for "hot work" to swap out racks during yard periods since the servers and storage can be upgraded in place by sliding in new blades or disk drives. The Blade Server form factor packages multiple CPUs onto a plug-in module about the size of two hard cover books laid end-to-end. These blade modules slide into chassis that allow for up to 128 multi-core CPUs in a single rack enclosure. Each new generation of computer hardware gets faster and more energy efficient. The higher density and more energy efficient technology being used by CANES has the potential to reduce the space and power required for shipboard servers at the same time it expands processing power and storage capacity. Realistically, there are always demands for additional processing power for new operational functionality, so the use of blades and virtualization will, at a minimum, allow for increased computer resources in the same amount of space. If blade servers are the hardware side of the CCE, then virtualization is the key element of the software side. Virtualization takes advantage of the fact that most server hardware is dedicated to single function (for example a web server, database server, or application server) for security and reliability reasons. However, these servers not fully utilized - the server hardware sits idle for some significant percent of available CPU time. Virtualization makes it possible to run multiple servers in parallel on the same hardware so you can eliminate many physical servers. In addition, because the virtualized servers are now just very large computer files (server images), they can be moved from one physical system to another, reloaded instantly if a system has a problem, and quickly replicated if more capacity is needed for a specific server function. Therefore, in addition to more efficient use of server hardware, virtualization has the potential to provide robustness, scalability and fail-over advantages that are critical in a military environment. In initial versions of CANES virtual server management will probably be manual and not very dynamic. Future version should provide more automated and dynamic virtual machine management and could eventually provide shipboard private cloud computing capabilities, which will be addressed later in this paper. CANES is about more than just hardware alignment via the CCE, it’s also about software alignment and the move to a services oriented architecture (SOA). In short, services based systems decompose large applications into small, reusable services that can be combined in different ways to produce useful work flows. When multiple systems convert to a services approach they can share services - eliminating redundancy - and provide a rich library of services that can be combined in creative ways. Services can be classified into core services, common services and application services. Core services provide fundamental functionality, like security functions, that are used by every workflow. Common services are things like a map display or track database service that while not used in every workflow, are useful in many workflows. Application services provide a more unique capability, like an ELINT correlation algorithm, that is specific to a single workflow. CANES provides core services and some common services, collectively known as the Afloat Core Services (ACS), while the other systems being built on top of CANES provide other common services and application services. The move to services based systems yields increased mission flexibility from the ability to recombine services - including mixing services that are hosted both on-ship and off- ship - to perform specific missions. This services approach, combined with the shared hardware environment provided by CANES, reduces the server count by elimination of redundant capabilities. For example, the initial version of CANES will allow three major programs of record to share the same database server instead of fielding three different copies of the same database on three different servers. Cloud Computing Cloud computing builds on the concepts of web services, services oriented architectures, consolidated data centers and virtualization to provide a computing environment where applications are delivered to the end user over the Internet and the user has no idea where the data or application are physically located. That might sound like a bad thing, but it frees the end user from maintaining up-to-date copies of applications and data on their local computer and from even being tied to a specific computer. For the service provider, it provides a degree of elasticity in their computing infrastructure that allows them to deal with outages and fluctuations in demand. In a cloud computing environment, redundant data centers filled with identical hardware running virtualized images of servers provides a flexible IT infrastructure that can scale up for increased demand, scale down for reduced demand and shift users to another server or host facility in case of an outage. This degree of flexibility requires applications that have been written to not care where they or their data are physically located and works as long as the wide area network connection is fast and stable. Fast and stable are not good descriptions for the off-ship connectivity most naval platforms enjoy, but there are still potential applications of cloud computing at sea. First, the elasticity aspect - total flexibility in where the application and data are physically located - could be useful on-board ship for distributing processing over multiple data centers for survivability and reconstitution of IT services after a casualty. Second, that same elasticity could allow us to get by with less total computing power on the ship if we can surge a pool of additional assets from system to system as they are needed, instead of having to provide the worst case (maximum load) processing capability for each system. Third, some non-mission-critical systems/applications can be hosted off the ship and “in the cloud” further reducing the on-board computing footprint. This could also work for even mission critical applications that are rarely used - they could either be quickly provisioned on the ship-board cloud infrastructure or accessed over the wide area network. INNOVATIONS IN MISSION SPACES Thin Client Devices like smart phones and the new tablet form factor computers have shown that you can pack a lot of computing power in a very small package with today’s technology. It’s to be expected that client or end user computing hardware will continue to shrink. Conversely, the displays for end user computers will continue to grow, so the problem will no longer be how to fit three computer towers under your desk but how to fit the huge display on your desk. There are several ways of implementing a thin client solution. The first is to centralize the client computer hardware in an equipment room and then have remote keyboards and displays for those computers in the operator spaces. This approach results in less heat, noise and demand for desk space in the operational spaces, but increases the amount of computer hardware in equipment rooms. Fortunately, that can be somewhat mitigated through virtualization and blade servers. The second approach is to use very small form factor client hardware. Increasingly, laptop computers are the primary system for end users resulting in power and space savings. In addition, there are very small footprint “desktop” computers available that make sense for the many users who don’t need extra video cards and disk drives. The third approach is what has traditionally been referred to as a hardware thin client – typically a low powered computer that runs as a remote client to a Windows application server located in the equipment room. The fourth option for thin client is to take advantage of the move to applications that run in web browsers to replace a traditional computer with hardware that only runs a web browser. There is no widespread commercial solution that takes this approach yet, but there are many Internet-connected devices – from cell phones to televisions – that show the potential for this approach. There are trade-offs in cost, performance and functionality for each of these approaches, but they will all lead to reduced physical footprint providing flexibility in how a space is configured to support a mission. They can also lead to decreased system administration demands and increased security by reducing physical access and application footprint. Some of these solutions offer added security advantages because there is no local disk drive, making them also suitable for multi-level security solutions. Mobile Devices Navy personnel have been using personal digital assistants in limited applications since the Palm Pilot and their use continues with smart phones, like Blackberries, today. Two innovations - tablet computers and wireless networks on ships - will lead to increased use of mobile devices. A table form factor computer, like the Apple iPad or proposed Android OS systems, on an unclassified wireless network is a sufficient solution for most of the administrative, training and personal computing needs at sea. A mobile device incorporating HAIPE or other security technology with access to a secret level wireless network could support even many operational mission needs. Use of mobile devices increases access to computers for all personnel without the need for dedicated offices or computer labs. Because they lack a full traditional computer operating system and desktop applications, mobile devices have some inherent security and administrative cost advantages over desktop computers, as well as their own unique security risks. The use of wireless networks to support mobile devices is a similar mixed blessing, resulting in increased flexibility and convenience but additional security considerations. User Interface Advances The replacement of CRT displays with LCD displays that has largely already occurred on ships has resulted in space, weight and power savings. The next revolution in display technology will be the move to large touch screen displays. The increased screen real estate and intuitive direct manipulation of the user interface elements should increase user productivity. In addition, we will see the move from dedicated physical interface elements, like buttons and knobs, to virtual controls on the touch display. This will allow for lower cost and greatly increased flexibility because any operator position can be built from off-the-shelf hardware and instantly configured for any role. Conceptually you could fill a Combat Information Center with ten identical operator positions that could be dynamically reconfigured from weapon consoles, air traffic control and C2 positions while underway to logistics and communications positions while docked supporting a disaster relief mission. Decoupling specific operator functions from fixed positions also provides a degree of flexibility that supports fighting and operating a ship under adverse conditions. For example, if there is extensive damage to a key operational space, workstations in other spaces - or even mobile devices - can temporarily be assigned critical functions. Application Software Evolution Navy and DoD software systems started out as stand-alone systems that didn’t talk to other systems. Eventually these systems started to be connected with each other via point-to-point interfaces. When the Navy embraced the concept of net-centric operations, a deliberate effort to more freely share data among systems resulted in the widespread adoption of web-services interfaces to software systems. These web services interfaces provide a standard way for any user or system to access data - resulting in fewer unique interfaces that have to be maintained, increased data sharing and the potential to present the same data through a variety of user applications. The next step in the net-centric evolution is the implementation of services-based systems which is done today through the use of a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). Services based systems break large applications down into smaller applications called services. Typically there will be overlaps in the functionality provided by services from system to system so systems can either choose to use, or are forced to use, services developed by others to provide common functionality. Over time, instead of monolithic systems that have to be fielding whole, integrators end up with a collection of services to choose from that can either be selected at design time (to meet certain functional requirements) or provided to end users who can dynamically compose collections of services to meet their specific work flow requirement. A parallel evolution is the movement from “heavy” applications to lighter end user applications via web interfaces. For example, the increasing use of a web version of the Common Operational Picture (COP) by many users instead of having only a limited number of users view the COP on dedicated GCCS-M workstations. In the commercial world, this trend includes organizations replacing their Microsoft Office applications with cloud based software-as-a-service solutions like Google Docs. Web interfaces will continue to evolve and provide functionality that looks more and more like tradition “heavy” client applications by embracing technology like the new HTML5 standard. A new approach to building user interfaces, called “widgets”, is gaining traction in the Navy and DoD. Widgets are small applications that focus on doing one thing, for example being a map display, a tabular text display or a live video feed. Widgets can be connected to various data sources and combined on the user’s desktop to create a custom presentation of information that supports the user’s specific needs. For example, a user doing a maritime domain awareness watch might select a widget that shows AIS (Automated Information System) reports in a tabular text display so he can easily sort them by various parameters. He might then add a map display widget and connect the AIS table to the map to see the tracks on the map. He could then pick another widget from the widget library that shows the extended track history of any vessel selected on the map and another that shows live video from a sensor for a vessel of interest. Working this way an operator or analyst could create a mission specific information management system tailored to their specific needs on-the-fly. NETWORKS AND COMMUNICATIONS Network Convergence An aircraft carrier can have over 50 different networks. That's a lot of cables and network infrastructure to install and maintain and a lot of networks to keep secure. This is also one of the areas where there is an overlap between the role of the various programs and Systems Commands, so it is a technical and organizational challenge being addressed by the Naval Networking Environment (NNE) 2016 initiative. Ultimately, it may be possible and desirable to have a single highly redundant, multiple security level, quality-of-service managed network that supports every device with a digital interface on the ship. For now, there are several technology trends that provide benefit today and move us towards that goal. These include: - Replacing copper network cables with smaller, lighter fiber optic cables. - Increasing the speed data travels on the network - from 10 megabits-per-second to 100 megabits-per-second and even to gigabit-per-second between servers. - Shifting voice and video from dedicated analog circuits to digital distribution. This not only simplifies the cable plant but also provides increased flexibility by allowing any signal to end up in any space and by potentially eliminating dedicated voice and video hardware separate from end user computer systems. - The increasing use of digital connections to link analog components - either through the use of analog-to-digital converters or by leveraging the increasing amount of digital hardware in "analog" systems. The elimination of every unique cable dedicated to a single system reduces weight, space and complexity and makes the ship that much more survivable - if you can keep the single digital network operational. Communications Enhancements Even the largest naval platforms are bandwidth constrained with connectivity that can be described as “DIL” - disconnected, intermittent and limited. This is due to limits on how many antennas you can fit on a ship, the limited numbers of military communications satellites and how hard it is to keep an antenna on a moving platform pointed at a satellite. On US ships the C4ISR community has already implemented several technology innovations to help with the DIL problem. These include: - Shifting most communications to digital communication that can travel over any radio frequency (RF) path. With the addition of a communications router like the Automated Digital Network System (ADNS), communications can flow over a variety of RF paths based on defined priorities - taking advantage of the lowest cost or highest bandwidth or all communication systems available. - Implementing data compression at the application and/or communications stream level. Future innovations will include: - Making applications smarter about what data they need to get on or off the ship through knowledge management, data replication, data deduplication, data staging and data caching technologies. - Implementing high-bandwidth line-of-site communications. Work at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, for example, allows line-of-site communications at WiFi network speeds using a small array of low cost Rotman lens antennas. - Fielding air breathing communications relays (UAVs or airships) that support over-the-horizon communications. - Employing cryogenics to enhance receiver sensitivity and efficiency. THE FLEXIBLE MISSION SPACE...AND THE FLEXIBLE SHIP Bill Deaton's paper 'Developing Reconfigurable Command Spaces for the Ford Class Aircraft Carrier', also presented at the Engineering the Total Ship 2010 conference, talks about the physical approach to making C4ISR spaces easy to reconfigure. Physical reconfigurability is enabled by, and must support, the IT resources that make a space functional - including large shared displays, client computers, and communications. The C4ISR technology trends and innovations discussed in this paper support this level of reconfigurability, making it almost as simple as arranging the furniture, hanging the large screen displays and setting up the workstation displays and client hardware to create a new mission space. This was actually done in a matter of hours for the CVN 78 Decision Center Reconfigurability Demonstration in 2006. The increasing use of thin client user interfaces to applications means that any operator position can be instantly configured for the specific operator and mission. Finally, for the many functions that require less group interaction, security and screen real estate, anyone with a mobile computer and wireless access will be able to be productive most anyplace on the ship. Mission flexibility is essential for any Naval platform. Our warfighters are called upon to perform a wide variety of missions, often simultaneously, and the ship can’t normally return to port to shift from one mission to another. Fortunately, C4ISR functional flexibility shouldn’t require material changes to the ship…if the correct infrastructure elements discussed in this paper are in place. Also fortunate is that C4ISR hardware technology advancements, largely driven by industry, have the added advantage of potential total ownership cost reductions even as they provide more flexibility and power. At the same time, SPAWAR and other providers of Navy C4ISR software systems will continue to evolve those systems to provide the level of functional flexibility required by the Fleet. Author’s Information Lee Zimmerman Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center Pacific 53560 Hull Street San Diego, CA 92152-5001 619-553-4046 firstname.lastname@example.org Lee Zimmerman is the Team SPAWAR National Competency Lead for Net-Centric Engineering and Integration. He is responsible for developing the workforce and technical processes and standards to implement platform-level and system-of-systems engineering, including those for implementing Services Oriented Architectures. With over thirty years experience in C4I system development, Lee has worked projects that span 6.2 R&D to ILS support for operational systems and in domains as varied as national intelligence, information operations, information assurance, command & control and force protection. Lee graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from California State University Long Beach in 1983. Lee joined SSC SD's predecessor organization (NRAD) in 1983 and at the same time received a direct commission in the Naval Reserve where he served from 1983-1991.
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