Software: The new front line of defence

Posted on 03/03/2021 by vmwareemeasmt

Michael Crowley, Head of EMEA Defence, VMware 

Today, technology is the foundation for military strategies around the world. It allows nations to field the most potent forces possible by better combining resources, both economic and human. And, for a part of national infrastructure that relies on rigid discipline and organisation, disruption is the name of the game. This is because we live in an era of extraordinary and accelerating change that is bringing a host of opportunities while also raising increasingly complex and destabilising issues. 

Armed Forces and defence capabilities for countries around the world face significant challenges in an environment that is increasingly threatening. To stay ahead of the game, they need to harness the power of technology and innovation to secure the future military edge and safeguard our security and prosperity to confront the demands of today and tackle the threats of tomorrow. In this regard, the use of technology, specifically software, is particularly prevalent to counter  threats such as terrorism that cannot be met by conventional warfighting forces and to underpin the intelligence capabilities necessary to assess the dangers each nation faces 

From boardroom to battlefield 

From spears to stealth bombers, the nature of warfare is always limited by the available technology. Now, with a wide range of technologies experiencing exponential growth, the world’s militaries are taking advantage of the many new tools at their disposal, updating everything from their weaponry and intel systems to the soldiers themselves. 

In the US, the fiscal 2020 budget includes US$738bn for defence spending, a US$20bn increase over the previous year, including funding for the space force and US$146bn on a long list of military hardware. That’s according to the Defence Trends 2020 study by PWC. In the UK, in late 2019, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) also unveiled a new approach to harnessing innovation and developing emerging technologies including the use of several concepts ranging from artificial intelligence and 3D printing.  And these are just two examples. There are now autonomous warships capable of patrolling the ocean for two to three months without a crew, fighter jets that can be paired with older, pilotless fighter jets and drones being used to monitor enemy activity, acting as both the eyes and ears of the military. 

Defence strategies today rely on decision makers being able to collect, collate, sift, analyse and share vast amounts of information. This is because the ability to understand, adapt and respond to threats at tactical speeds can mean the difference between success and failure and from the boardroom to battlefield, there are some exciting developments happening. 

Working with NATO 

In a long-running engagement, we’re supporting NATO in a host of initiatives. This includes working with the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, virtualising both the data centre and desktops, delivering agile configuration and setup of complex multinational pre-deployment training events. We also have a project running with NCI Agency Service Strategy on the Deployable Communication Information Systems (DCIS) programme while have also supported the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in hosting Locked Shields and international cyber defence exercises, delivering a platform for experts to hone their skills in defending National ICT systems and critical infrastructure. 

And these are just a few of the projects that demonstrate VMware’s commitment to delivering the world’s most advanced technologies to all our customers, but particularly those involved in national defence. This is because our vision is to provide the digital foundation that enables all of our customers to build, run, manage, connect and intrinsically secure and protect any application on any device on any cloud. Today, our defence customers seek to manage costs in an increasingly complex hybrid cloud environment. This challenge only grows as we look ahead to 5G and beyond. There will be continued thirst for powerful computers, networks and applications to support an endless array of data-hungry and latency-sensitive applications.  

Security intrinsic to our solutions  

However, for all these industry leading innovations and projects, security is still a major concern for customers, with breaches of increasing scale and damage still outpacing massive spend on security defence. This is why VMware’s $2B+ R&D budget represents an industry-leading level of reinvestment of more than 20% of its annual gross revenue.  

At the core of it all is our ethos to security – intrinsic security, in which security is built into the digital infrastructure and not bolted on. At a research level we are making key advances in anomaly detection (the identification of outliers), which is important both performance and cybersecurity. We are also successfully applying constraints to deep neural networks, so that we can provide safety guarantees about their behavior. This is a critical step towards the creation of real time control systems that can safely learn while they’re in the field.  

We are committed to reshaping the security landscape and our recent acquisition of Carbon Black and its integration into multiple parts of our platform is a key step in that direction, providing deep visibility, insight and control to ICT. 

Scratching the surface of possibility 

Defence organisations across the world are benefiting from the productivity, connectivity, security, agility and cost-cutting benefits that a software-defined digital foundation delivers. Not to mention realising massive improvements in areas like; safety, efficiency, and lower energy consumption both at a HQ and in-field level. Perhaps the most exciting part, is that we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible. 

You can read more about our work with NATO in an exclusive interview with David Tennenhouse, chief research officer, VMware, in NITECH – the in-house NATO technology publication, which can be seen here. 

For any other enquiries around how VMware can help, assist or advise your ICT strategy, please contact us. 

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