Defence firm Thales has taken Microsoft's Azure Stack and repurposed it for use in military field operations, to enable armies to keep their data secure while benefitting from working within a cloud environment.
Microsoft worked with the French contractor to integrate its 'cloud-in-box' platform with Thales' own connectivity, encryption, and end-to-end cyber security products, allowing armed forces to keep sensitive data within their own infrastructure.
“Together with Thales, we will be able to provide a flexible cloud platform with an unequalled level of security that will help overcome challenges within the defence industry,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft’s executive vice president and president of global sales, marketing and operations.
Providing a form of cloud connectivity in the field is not the most complex of operations, given it's fairly straightforward to package servers, network connectivity, compute and storage components into a portable and durable package – SAP has done this with onshore data harvesting and processing systems for the Extreme Sailing series.
But doing it in a secure fashion that keeps data within a military infrastructure but still enables developers to build apps and services on top of the cloud system, is more of a challenge.
Thales' Nexium Defence Cloud works around this by creating a “highly secluded” private cloud that uses the Azure Stack as a baseline system onto which Thales adds its security and connectivity technology. This keeps the data within the system either when it's at military headquarters or deployed to forward operating bases.
Given connectivity can be disrupted in conflict zones and operations theatres, the cloud can operate offline, giving it a degree of autonomy from the infrastructure based back at a military headquarters.
This level of flexibility is something Thales claims other secured defence clouds cannot currently offer.
In the future, Thales plans to boost Azure Stack with the Guavus Reflex analytic platform to allow for real-time in-the-field data analysis without relying on a connection back to HQ. This could make it easier for military forces to tap into sensor data gathered by field sensors or exchange data with mobile apps used by soldiers “augmented” with the latest technology.
The military industrial complex is vast and a lucrative market with a healthy appetite for technology, which both Thales and Microsoft could further tap into with the Nexium Defence Cloud.