The Department of Defense (DoD) released its ‘Digital Engineering Strategy’ in July 2018. It took time, but Service-level leadership saw the promise of digital engineering bringing speed and agility to system development and iteration. With near-peer threats leveraging the dogged pace of technology innovation and systems management practices that outpace DoD acquisition timelines, leaders seek digital engineering as an asymmetric advantage to help maintain or widen its’ technological upper-hand. More recently, Space Force leadership has taken the DoD’s 2018 strategy to the next level, intending to build itself as a fully digital force and envisioning a, ‘SpaceVerse’ – a fully immersive digital mixed-reality environment where Guardians organize, train, equip and conduct mission operations. While it may take time and technology evolution to fully realize that lofty vision, there are practical implements of digital engineering being leveraged today. And the promise is real. Digital engineering stands to position DoD not only to build better capability but build capability better!
Despite pockets of success across DoD, broad adoption of digital engineering has yet to take place. Many organizations are unsure what digital engineering entails, where to start, or of the applicability to their use-cases. Beyond that mystery, a practical implement of digital engineering successfully delivering capability today is the Digital Twins Framework. A Digital Twin architecture employs a digital representation of a system (both physical and virtual components) as an authoritative source of truth to be utilized in a digital environment. The Digital Twin Framework includes facets of Conceptional Development, Data Intelligence, Predictive Focus, and Capability Enhancement used holistically to manifest the desired speed and agility throughout a capability’s development and operational lifecycle. Stakeholders pull the levers of these facets within the framework to bring automation, repeatability, adaptability, cost avoidance, unprecedented velocity and parallel flow to what would otherwise be serialized and often-times manual processes of R&D, wargaming/exercises, Concept of Operations (CONOPS) development, requirements generation, program development, system design, system build, developmental and operational testing, red/blue cyber-security testing, fielding, operations and post-employment iteration.
As the world’s virtualization technology leader, VMware is as well-suited to empower digital engineering efforts with the elastic, vendor-agnostic software-defined compute, storage, and networking environment requisite of a digitally defined ecosystem as visionary as ‘SpaceVerse’ as it is in powering the virtual/digital twins within that digital ecosystem. VMware is partnered with DoD and Partner nations employing this Digital Twin Framework and delivering capability at the speed of relevance.
As an example, using VMware capabilities, the Navy deployed a “virtual twin’ of the Aegis Combat System and successfully completed a live-fire engagement. VMware worked with another DoD unit to create a virtual twin of a theater-level ‘digital battelab,’ with fully virtualized Infrastructure as Code (IaC), including virtual desktops for 500 operators, that reduced battelab build time from 330 workdays to 90 minutes. This unit can now support large-scale wargaming exercises at an unprecedented rate and has quickly become a critical enabler of JADC2 experimentation efforts.
Similarly, and on an even bigger scale, VMware powers the largest ‘live-fire’ cyber exercise in the world – the annual NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCoE) LOCKED SHIELDS Cyber Range. LOCKED SHIELDS features 23 teams (1,000+ people) conducting 2,500+ Red vs. Blue cyber-attacks on 4,500+ VMs supporting simulated environments including Digital Twins of energy grids, water distribution systems, power stations, mobile networks and more.
Employed operationally, these same Virtual Twin capabilities are employed by DoD software factories, enabled by VMware, to maintain virtual consistency of Infrastructure and Platform environments that enable DevSecOps across myriad on premise, multiple hyperscaler, and Edge development, test, and operations environments on multiple classified and unclassified networks. This virtual consistency, enabled by the Digital Twin Framework facets of ‘Predictive Focus’ and ‘Capability Enhancement’, make real the cybersecurity paradigm where, ‘speed is the new security.’ This unmatched speed empowered the Army Software Factory and Enterprise Cloud Management Agency to globally mitigate the dreaded Log4j vulnerability in under 24 hours, as they captured here.
VMware demystified and enabled many of the significant strides the DOD made on the digital engineering journey set forth in its’ 2018 Digital Engineering Strategy. Likewise, VMware is the virtualization thought leader and technology partner of choice to ensure a seamless, agnostic, virtually consistent digital environment to simplify cradle-to-grave development and operations across the hardware and cloud provider partner ecosystem that continued digital engineering journey will leverage.
To learn more, please read our VMware Digital Twins whitepaper here. You can also find out how VMware partners with its DoD Customers here.