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How Agencies Are Driving Innovation to the Edge

Across government, innovation is happening at the edge. By leveraging cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and related technologies, agencies can deliver services more quickly and effectively at the far reaches of operations, whether that’s in the battlefield or on the International Space Station (ISS).

At the Red Hat Government Symposium held in late 2022, government and industry leaders discussed how agencies were leveraging these technologies to accelerate mission delivery. Here are two examples of how agencies are adapting to make the most of modern technological opportunities.

Air Force Delivers Dynamic Insights

Not so long ago, Air Force communications meant radios that transmitted information about where to go and what was happening. Now, digital input is being delivered directly into the cockpit.

“We’re talking about a situation where edge capability expands the envelope of the missions that we can get accomplished and changes the ways in which we can accomplish them,” said Winston Beauchamp, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department of the Air Force.

Currently, the service uses edge computing in its Agile Combat Employment, a scheme of maneuvers aimed at increasing survivability while generating combat power. If warfighters are under threat at fixed bases, they must move to alternate locations quickly — and those might not have all the infrastructure of a traditional base. “Edge technologies enable you to deploy to that location that you need to accomplish that mission without a huge footprint,” Beauchamp said.

NASA Reduces Latency in ISS Comms

NASA has applied edge computing to ISS, increasing how fast data can be exchanged between it and Earth to “the speed of relevance,” said Jeff Winterich, Chief Technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise for the Defense Department Team and AI Ambassador for HPE Public Sector. That’s done by enabling the data to be analyzed at the edge — on ISS — so that only actionable information moves back and forth.

That’s because in edge computing, “latency is a killer,” he said. One solution to the challenge of reducing it is the use of KubeFrame, or the Kubernetes Framework. It can put teraflops of computing power at the edge, such as in tools that developers or data scientists need.

At times, though, the agency might not have a Kubernetes expert on hand to manage edge environments, making automation key, said Evong Chung, Director of Solutions Architecture for Red Hat U.S. Public Sector. “Having that automation to maybe even just hit the reset button and for it all to come back up is going to be really critical,” Chung said.

Security is another challenge, she added. Although the NIST SP 800-53 standard for accrediting systems security has been adapted to cloud, edge presents a fresh set of issues. “I think edge is … very much an ecosystem play,” Chung said. “We need to bring hardware vendors together, software vendors together, integrators together with government to really tackle some of these use cases.”

This article appears in our Guide, “Unpacking Digital Transformation.” To read more about how agencies are getting the most out of their modernization and transformation efforts, download the guide.

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