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CHIPS Articles: SPAWAR and 6th Fleet Modernize Coalition Information Sharing with M-DRIVE Hyperconverged Platform Implementation

SPAWAR and 6th Fleet Modernize Coalition Information Sharing with M-DRIVE Hyperconverged Platform Implementation
By Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Public Affairs - April-June 2019
SAN DIEGO - The United States' current norm for military operations is to conduct the day-to-day "fight" on the classified U.S. Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). But this creates strategic, operational and tactical challenges for our deployed commanders, especially considering that future operations will be organized around rapidly emerging coalitions composed of force elements from many nations.

The "stitching together" of coalition force structures will occur on rapidly configurable mission networks created to support specific missions at various classification levels. This will enable commanders to easily share intelligence information, and to command and control coalition operations without SIPRNet restrictions.

To date, technology and hardware limitations have prevented rapid establishment of configurable mission networks. These limitations are disappearing.

In 2018, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Chief Engineer's Capability Engineering Department and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA)/U.S. 6th Fleet (C6F) implemented the first virtualized hyperconverged secret/releasable (SEC//REL) sharing capability aboard the C6F flagship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).

This effort supported the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander exercise communications and control requirements throughout Exercise Steadfast Cobalt 2018 and Exercise Trident Juncture 2018. These milestone events were the first proofs of concept to deliver simplified operations for the warfighter while providing the ability to communicate with multiple mission partners simultaneously while afloat.

"This was a real game changer!" Navy Capt. Ramberto Torruella, Director of Communications and Networks for Commander Naval Forces Europe, Africa and 6th Fleet stated. "Not only did this give the commander greater flexibility, the technology did it with a smaller footprint and with less power. This is definitely something that would benefit the entire fleet."

The technology used to support these exercises is known as the Maritime Dynamic Reconfigurable Virtual Environment (M-DRIVE) platform, a commercial off-the-shelf technology that will enable enhancements to SEC//REL communications components of the Consolidated Afloat Networks andEnterprise Services (CANES) program. The M-DRIVE provides dynamic mission configurable networking to U.S. ships and ashore locations. Today, the M-DRIVE operates outside of CANES (afloat) and CANES Maritime Operations Center (MOC) Variant (CMV) (ashore) boundaries. Once the M-DRIVE can be accredited and implemented as a program of record, it will be integrated into CANES and CMV capabilities to support Navywide coalition operations.

"An integral part of SPAWAR's mission is to speed capabilities to the fleet while ensuring appropriate technical rigor. M-DRIVE is one of those transformative technologies that will provide the fleet with mission configurable networks supporting a 'fight tonight' scenario with coalition partners," said Matt Shadeed, who is dual-hatted as the SPAWAR lead engineer for Navy alignment to the Mission Partner Environment (MPE) and the DoD Chief Information Officer MPE chief engineer.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is IT infrastructure completely defined as software. Imagine a completely virtual data center, with all the servers, storage, networking gear, switches, routers and firewalls existing only as software in a single server. The architecture hyperconverges the data center into a single server, meaning that HCI can run on any commercial off-the-shelf server. This provides tremendous savings in maintenance and security costs while additionally saving on weight, power and cooling.

M-DRIVE's hyperconverged architecture allowed CNE-CNA/C6F to rapidly respond to changing network demands onboard USS Mount Whitney throughout 2018. Throughout the Europe and Africa area of operations are numerous NATO and non-NATO mission partners that the Navy needs to be able to exchange information in an efficient manner on short notice. The M-DRIVE effort will provide real-time flexibility to meet those critical requirements that previously involved the removal and replacement of hardware, directly impacting response time to unplanned events. The theater commander's options have been broadened by this technology, enhancing the Navy's abilities both warfighting and building strong relationships between our partners.

SPAWAR, in coordination with the DoD CIO MPE chief engineer, is collaborating at the enterprise level to accredit and standardize these capabilities for use across Navy and DoD multinational information sharing stakeholders. Future integration of these technologies can provide secure cloud hosting cross domain access solutions for advanced command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems throughout DoD services, agencies or combatant commands.

In 2019, EUCOM, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and 6th Fleet will continue to lead coalition operations with M-DRIVE enhanced coalition capabilities supporting exercises including: Austere Challenge, Steadfast Cobalt and Trident Jupiter.

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Rijeka, Croatia (Feb. 12, 2019) Lt. Cmdr. Gary Putta, left, Commander 6th Fleet Electronics Material Officer and a team of engineers from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command pictured with the M-Drive on board the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) during a maintenance availability in Rijeka, Croatia. The team was on site to install the Multinational Partner Environment (MPE) mission network to enable the ship’s participation in the multinational exercise Austere Challenge 2019. Team members pictured from left to right: Putta, Michael Conway, Jose Perez, Alex Zarama, Greg McKaige and David Weeks.  U.S. Navy photo by Ens. Joshua Nach/Released
Rijeka, Croatia (Feb. 12, 2019) Lt. Cmdr. Gary Putta, left, Commander 6th Fleet Electronics Material Officer and a team of engineers from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command pictured with the M-Drive on board the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) during a maintenance availability in Rijeka, Croatia. The team was on site to install the Multinational Partner Environment (MPE) mission network to enable the ship’s participation in the multinational exercise Austere Challenge 2019. Team members pictured from left to right: Putta, Michael Conway, Jose Perez, Alex Zarama, Greg McKaige and David Weeks. U.S. Navy photo by Ens. Joshua Nach/Released
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