Military Protects Critical Data With RAID Solution
Reseller earns $7.5 million from military deployment of servers with RAID 5 (redundant array of independent disks) used in battlefield communications.
Technology Advancement Group (TAG) (Dulles, VA) was already working with the United States Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (MCTSSA) (Camp Pendleton, CA) when it was contracted to deploy servers for tactical communications in the battlefield. Since America was on the verge of war when the project began in November of 2002, TAG had only half of the time it usually needed to deploy its solution worldwide. Following a successful implementation, TAG continues to work with the government agency and is planning for future projects.
Meeting Strict Military Standards
Since communication in the field is crucial for MCTSSA, it needed reliable communications systems that would withstand harsh environmental factors, reduce downtime, and keep mission-critical data backed up. MCTSSA was using a single board computer with one hard drive and one processor. This was leading to problems with downtime and lost data. "If MCTSSA lost a hard drive, it would lose all critical data because it lacked a RAID [redundant array of independent disks] component. MCTSSA had only one processor, so if it went down, all communications went down," says Pete Aviles, regional director, TAG Pacific (San Diego). Because of a high failure rate, logistics support was high, further increasing costs related to failed equipment.
To make MCTSSA's tactical communications processes more efficient in the field, TAG assembled Intel servers with two Dual Pentium III processors, four Seagate hard drives, an LSI Logic Corp.'s (Milpitas, CA) RAID Ultra 320 SCSI controller for RAID 5 on the hard drive, and a Fortezza card reader. All of these components went into a deployable transit case that could be implemented in the field.
Because of the environment in which the systems would be used, each one had to be no more than two rack units high (3.5") and weigh less than 35 lbs. TAG had an advantage over its competition by meeting the military's standards for shock, vibration, high heat, and altitude. The total cost is $7.5 million and growing as projects between TAG and MCTSSA continue to develop. TAG's partner, General Dynamics C4 Systems (Taunton, MA), integrated over 300 of these transit cases worldwide.
Each transit case contains two servers (classified and unclassified), and MCTSSA needed spare units of each. "Usually a project of this size would take us about four to five months, because everything we do is built to order. Unfortunately, with the threat of war, that delivery time became much more aggressive," says Aviles. TAG added two shifts specifically to work on this project and managed to deliver all of the servers in half the time it would typically take the company.
$7.5 Million And Still Serving
Since the systems' deployment, MCTSSA has improved its efficiency in all communication aspects. The United States has justified the cost with mission-critical information being communicated in the field effectively during time of war. "Downtime has been reduced by about 100%, and logistics support has been cut by 25% because the systems are more reliable," says Aviles. Since TAG's systems contain a RAID 5, two out of four hard drives could fail and the system would still be running, and no data would be lost. With the power of two processors, one can go down, and its failure would have no effect on the system.
MCTSSA is already looking to upgrade some of its servers. Currently TAG is working on an upgraded version of the servers using XEON technology with dual XEON processors. MCTSSA has already put in an order for 48 of these servers, so it can conduct the test and evaluation phase.