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Communications Government Networking The Military IT Hardware

The IT Containers That Went To War 65

1sockchuck writes: Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough. In the mountains of Afghanistan, helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets. UK vendor Cannon recently spoke with DataCenterDynamics, sharing some of the extreme challenges and lessons learned from deploying portable data centers for military units in deserts and mountains. The same lessons (except, hopefully, with a lower chance of being shot) would apply in lots of other extreme enviroments, too.
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The IT Containers That Went To War

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  • what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hjf ( 703092 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2015 @10:14AM (#50062979) Homepage

    I don't understand why you would need a datacenter in a war zone.

    Assuming you're able to get it running, what are you going to connect it to anyway? What is it going to do?

    • Re:what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aelanna ( 2695123 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2015 @10:21AM (#50063025)
      The modern military does a lot of computing. Computer systems keep track of the positions of troops and vehicles, and intelligence units constantly monitor and analyze signals that might be enemy communications. It doesn't surprise me that things like mobile data centers are a thing.
      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        I don't think you understand the raw processing power of a modern CPU, maybe even combined to a GPU. You can have gigaflops of performance running on battery, in a laptop computer.
        That's why this thing makes no sense to me.

    • The vendor was Canon, who is widely known for making imaging and copying devices. I can understand them dropping a bunch of DSLR's for surveillance, but I can't imagine why they would need a copier.
      • by Fusen ( 841730 )

        No, it was Cannon. A British company that has only existed for 30 years.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No, it was Cannon. A British company that has only existed for 30 years.

          Of course they'd drop cannons into a war zone! Artillery has been proven in combat for hundreds of years.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Crunch bitcoins for the locals?

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      The "Internet of Things" concept may be new to our households, but the military has been using it for as long as they've had wigwams waving their little flags around. For military commanders, access to accurate, comprehensive data is an extreme force multiplier.

    • The article talked about having units in Camp Bastion which was in a war zone and was a camp that could hold 28,000 people. It handled the logistics for Afghanistan and was a major staging area. They would have needed a lot of computing power there to manage logistics, telecommunications, aircraft control, running a city, in addition to planning military operations.

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      How about remote control centres for drones without having high latency connections? I don't know where drones are controlled from, but I imagine there are advantages in reducing the distance to the targeted areas.

    • by drizuid ( 444751 )

      I don't understand why you would need a datacenter in a war zone.

      Assuming you're able to get it running, what are you going to connect it to anyway? What is it going to do?

      I participated in the standing up of an MPLS blackcore network with 5+ other "internets" (the one you know as the internet is one of many) using this mpls black core as a transport network. The amount of IT infrastructure in the middle of nowhere rivals that of many fortune 500 companies.

      while heat and reliable electricity remain issues, cisco gear can run at temperatures up to 130F reliably.

  • These last 13 years have made the place so safe and secure and fun for the whole family, haven't they? Well, as long as the opium pipeline remains open, there's not much else to worry about, I suppose. After all, that is why we are there [bbc.co.uk]...

  • Docker vs. LXC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Tuesday July 07, 2015 @10:58AM (#50063273)

    Reading the title, I was expecting a Docker vs LXC flamefest...

  • I expected this to be about software containers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 07, 2015 @11:04AM (#50063325)

    "Clearly, logistics is the hard part of fighting a war."
    - Lt. Gen. E. T. Cook, USMC, November 1990

    "Gentlemen, the officer who doesn't know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless."
    - Gen. George S. Patton, USA

    "Bitter experience in war has taught the maxim that the art of war is the art of the logistically feasible."
    - ADM Hyman Rickover, USN

    "Forget logistics, you lose."
    - Lt. Gen. Fredrick Franks, USA, 7th Corps Commander, Desert Storm

    "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics."
    - Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980

    "I am tempted to make a slightly exaggerated statement: that logistics is all of war-making, except shooting the guns, releasing the bombs, and firing the torpedoes."
    - ADM Lynde D. McCormick, USN

    "Because of my wartime experience, I am insistent on the point that logistics know-how must be maintained, that logistic is second to nothing in importance in warfare, that logistic training must be widespread and thorough..."
    - VADM Robert B. Carney, USN

    "Logistic considerations belong not only in the highest echelons of military planning during the process of preparation for war and for specific wartime operations, but may well become the controlling element with relation to timing and successful operation."
    - VADM Oscar C. Badger, USN

    " in its relationship to strategy, logistics assumes the character of a dynamic force, without which the strategic conception is simply a paper plan."
    - CDR C. Theo Vogelsang, USN

    "Logistics is the stuff that if you don't have enough of, the war will not be won as soon as."
    - General Nathaniel Green, Quartermaster, American Revolutionary Army

    "Strategy and tactics provide the scheme for the conduct of military operations, logistics the means therefore."
    - Lt. Col. George C. Thorpe, USMC

    "Only a commander who understand logistics can push the military machine to the limits without risking total breakdown."
    - Maj.Gen. Julian Thompson, Royal Marines

    "There is nothing more common than to find considerations of supply affecting the strategic lines of a campaign and a war."
    - Carl von Clausevitz

    "In modern time it is a poorly qualified strategist or naval commander who is not equipped by training and experience to evaluate logistic factors or to superintend logistic operations."
    - Duncan S. Ballantine, 1947

    "The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics."
    - Fleet ADM Ernest J. King, in a 1946 report to the Secretary of the Navy

    "A sound logistics plan is the foundation upon which a war operation should be based. If the necessary minimum of logistics support cannot be given to the combatant forces involved, the operation may fail, or at best be only partially successful."
    - ADM Raymond A. Spruance

    "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics"
    - Sun Tzu

    "Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics."
    - Tom Peters - Rule #3: Leadership Is Confusing As Hell, Fast Company, March 2001

    "Logistics sets the campaign's operational limits."
    - Joint Pub 1: Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States

    "Logistics comprises the means and arrangements which work out the plans of strategy and tactics. Strategy decides where to act; logistics brings the troops to this point."
    - Jomini: Precis de l' Art de la Guerre. (1838)

    "Behind every great leader there was an even greater logistician."
    - M. Cox

    "Logistics ... as vital to military success as daily food is to daily work."
    - Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, Armaments and Arbitration, 1912

    "The essence of flexibility is in the mind of the commander; the substance of flexibility is in logistics."
    - RADM Henry Eccles, U.S. Navy

    "My logisticians are a humorless lot ... they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay."
    - Alexander

    • by GTRacer ( 234395 )
      Where on earth did you find this many military quotes about logistics?
    • Reminds me of the time some smartypants European country tried to take over the world, ended up deep in Russia with nothing but snow to eat or wear, having won every battle but with no supply chain. The enemy doesn't need to shoot you if you're dying of starvation/exposure.

      • Reminds me of the time some smartypants European country tried to take over the world, ended up deep in Russia with nothing but snow to eat or wear, having won every battle but with no supply chain. The enemy doesn't need to shoot you if you're dying of starvation/exposure.

        Yes. It's happened at least three times on a major scale. All attempts ended the same way. The principal difficulty of invading Russia are the vast distances over a largely featureless landscape with little of value to sustain the advance. The vast steppes are like the ocean, only you can't sail ships on them, and the roads and rail roads (depending time period) were and are bad or incompatible on purpose.

        Hitler in particular had the problem that since he promised a short and quick campaign, he couldn't sen

  • Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough

    Silly me, I thought it would only require attaching a parachute and gravity.

    • Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough

      Silly me, I thought it would only require attaching a parachute and gravity.

      The part that you're missing is "and have it land where you want it to." I know someone that use to work on parachuting supply containers, so I've heard about how difficult it is.

  • >> helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets

    There's something Brian Williams-y about this story. It seems like anything within visual range of rockets would also be within visual range of mortars. Why try to shoot the helicopters when everyone's on high alert? Why not just target whatever they dropped when things have settled down a bit?

    • Probably because the aircraft is more vulnerable beings its an easy target when close to the ground. Im sure the container itself has ground forces protecting it once its dropped off.
    • Seriously?

      The containers are dropped at a drop point near the bunker where they are needed. They're then dragged inside the bunker. Since the bunker is more mortar resistant than the helicopter, the enemy's best chance of preventing the system from being set up is to shoot down the helicopter.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Maybe it takes 3 minutes to set up a Vietnam era shoulder launched missile? They figure the Choppers are spotted on the way in and have to get out before the guys with the missiles are ready.
  • Perhaps just staying out of Afghanistan altogether would be best.
    • I am glad someone brought up the fact that we should be thinking about why we are even engaged in a war of aggression against a poor, nearly unarmed country on the other side of the world, rather than second guessing how the military delivers computers to the field. Questioning US militarism in such circumstances seems more important than discussing the details of battlefield IT. Americans seem a bit too comfortable with wars of aggression, to the point where they will discuss how to implement the details o

  • Are these things used for fire control? Are artillery spotters and forward air controllers communicating with these things?
  • Many years ago I heard a lecture from a Motorola representative where he discussed the types of communications equipment they deployed when various hazards were present. Some areas like Los Angeles required bullet resistant trailers and enclosures for cellular communications equipment.

What the gods would destroy they first submit to an IEEE standards committee.

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