5G-related cloud requires review | SIGNAL Magazine
As part of the next generation of DoD network and communications efforts, officials are adopting the “operating through” approach, a common concept of being able to build on infrastructure already in place, such as than existing bridges, roads or railway systems. The department wants to apply the concept to communications infrastructure and operate through fifth-generation wireless network communications, or 5G, commercial infrastructure.
In such a 5G environment, the potential for cloud computing operating through a mobile network or 5G hardware is strong, according to Daniel Massey, program manager, Operate Through, 5G-to-Next G Initiative, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research. and Engineering, Ministry of Defence.
“It’s this ability to bring the cloud to the edge, rather than having to go back and reach the cloud,” Massey says. “It’s the ability to say, ‘Hey, I don’t need to have a ground connection.’ Instead, some of this cloud computing can come with me, go all the way to the edge, and it changes the way I think about reliability.
Naturally, with this emerging capability of 5G, and later 6G, officials have cybersecurity, scale, and other issues to address before they can reliably operate commercial devices, networks, and hardware. for military use.
“The Department of Defense has the ability to bridge any river, anywhere in the world,” Massey said. “It’s an important capability that we will always have. But that’s not how you usually start an operation. Where possible, we want to operate across current roads, current bridges, current rail lines. It’s standard. Now let’s apply this same idea to the communications infrastructure. I wish I could operate through commercial 5G infrastructure, when it makes sense for the DoD to do so. But we also need to think about what it means to operate through the existing business infrastructure.
In addition to the Department of Defense’s 5G-to-Next G initiative ‘Operate Through’ program, the effort includes ‘Accelerate’ which involves the installation of 5G infrastructure at US military bases – with 5G installed in about 16 installations so far – and “Innovate,” which examines the shape of sixth-generation or wireless, or 6G, communications and beyond, Massey says.
“There’s a great component called ‘Accelerate,’ which puts 5G on DoD groundwork across the country,” he explains. “We have another piece of the 5G initiative called ‘Innovate,’ which looks at what’s happening in 6G and beyond. It’s really looking towards future Gs. I have the piece in the middle, “Operate Through”.
Massey notes that with the huge investment being made in 5G around the world, the Department of Defense must ensure that it is aligned with this commercial infrastructure, whether it operates carrier networks or manages a proprietary or private US Army limited liability network running on equipment that comes from a standard commercial vendor.
“I don’t want to compete with that,” suggests the program manager. “I want to take advantage of it whenever possible. Our big goal is to say that we’re aligned with the evolution of 5G communications in terms of standards, in terms of the ability to leverage off-the-shelf hardware and the ability to occasionally leverage commercial infrastructure that’s deployed at a frantic pace around the world. I want to have all these options. This means I want to have standards compliant systems like 3GPP standards that drive 5G. »
In this type of commercial 5G infrastructure, the presentation of cloud computing and services may also be different, Massey points out. “[It] It’s not just about leveraging the cloud in the traditional sense, but about pushing that cloud to the edge,” he notes. “Why is this important to the DoD?” This is important for several reasons. One, of course, is latency. It’s simple physics, the speed of light transmission, that sort of thing. The closer I get to the edge, the more latency I can reduce.
With much lower latency, cloud computing via 5G could change the way the US military thinks about operations at the tactical edge. “That latency from the cloud to the edge becomes really important,” he points out. “That’s something that we really need to be able to leverage from a DoD perspective.”
Additionally, 5G infrastructure will push more of that cloud potential to formerly disconnected environments, Massey continues.
“For example, I [was recently] in San Diego to talk to our AFRICOM partners [U.S. Africa Command],” he shares. “AFRICOM is a great example of AOR [area of responsibility] where the backhaul to the cloud may not be as fast and reliable as one might expect. So if I could effectively push some of that edge computing up to the tower itself, up to the 5G radio part, that opens up a number of possibilities. This allows me to offload some of the more intense compute from small devices to edge compute servers. It really gives me this cool opportunity to do more on the edge.
While Massey was unable to go into specific examples of cloud and edge computing uses by the military with 5G given the security concerns, he points to the potential to have this powerful computing for tactical operations.
“Now imagine you have very powerful computing, pushed very close to the edge, so your latency has gone down and your backup connectivity reliability and productivity has gone up,” says the program manager. “It gives you a number of great use cases.”
Massey proposes that end users can expect to see similar cloud functionality via 5G at the edge of what they currently use on on-premises or hybrid cloud platforms, although it’s still early to see a such availability.
“It’s part of the promise of 5G,” he quotes. “It’s in various states of deployment. I think it’s clear that the 5G edge isn’t on par with well-known cloud providers, but it’s getting there. There are places where it is already quite possible. And I would say not just for desktops, but think of the supercomputers and servers that come with me on the edge.
It’s not necessarily traditional cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure that deliver cloud platforms or services to the 5G edge, Massey continues.
“The very interesting question is, will the carrier offer this?” asks the program manager. “How will cloud providers and 5G operators merge? How services [be offered]? Whoever it is, we’re going to have some pretty impressive edge computing.
Cybersecurity to protect the 5G-related cloud will need to be in place, including a zero-trust architecture, Massey adds. “I would just add that, especially to operate through commercial infrastructure, whether that’s just commercial hardware or the entire commercial 5G carrier network, zero trust is becoming increasingly critical.”
Additionally, the intent is to leverage edge cloud and 5G outside of the continental United States (CONUS). “Operate Through looks way beyond that and it’s probably more oriented away from CONUS than it is into CONUS,” he suggests. “How can we operate via commercial 5G anywhere in the world. And when the Department of Defense says anywhere in the world, we usually mean more than Texas, California, Georgia, Hawaii. That’s It’s unbelievable that it’s happening in these 16 CONUS bases, but Operate Through also wants to operate anywhere in the world.
“From my point of view, the two main advantages [of 5G for cloud] are latency and reliability or accessibility,” says Massey. “Operating in a CONUS environment, the cloud is there. But as I move to different regions, operating somewhere in a remote corner of the world, cloud reliability, cloud access may be a little lower. But if the cloud can come with me, that’s the second big chunk. And that might be more important than latency.