Initiatives like the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Air Force’s associated program, the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), respond to a critical need: Connect sensors with shooters across all domains and all services.
These programs are essential to ensure information dominance. Winning in the modern battlespace means having the best and fastest access to trusted data. However, JADC2 and ABMS are more than just communication overhauls. They demand new approaches to managing data, changes in culture and policy, and a reframed acquisition process that prioritizes interoperability at all levels. An integrated data fabric is a major enabler—a framework that makes data secure, discoverable, and synchronizable.
4 Reasons for Smart Data Fabric
But why is an integrated data fabric so critical for DoD to achieve? Here are four key reasons:
- Modern warfare demands information at the edge—where it’s most vulnerable.
Whether warfighters are under the sea, on the ground, or in space, getting data to them is a challenge. The need to secure data adds another layer of complexity. Yet the edge is often where data is needed the most—to provide warfighters with enhanced situational awareness, keep them safe, and inform battlefield operations.
At the same time, the nation's adversaries are using increasingly sophisticated methods to compromise data, making it more vulnerable both in transit and at rest. This calls for inventive approaches to information security—approaches that evolve ahead of the threat.
Integrated data fabrics provide a game-changing benefit: Cybersecurity solutions are built directly into the platform, not added in later. Moreover, as integrated data architectures are modular, these cyber protections can be continually upgraded as the mission changes.
- Integrated data fabrics will provide the backbone of the dynamic interservice interoperability that JADC2 envisions.
Current approaches of moving data from one service to another—from the Air Force to the Marines, for example—require a chain of approvals. What’s more, the services use outdated methods to move data across classification levels and networks.
Yet, integrating the valuable data that exists in all services is critical to enable joint operations for overcoming sophisticated adversaries. Data needs to flow freely between functions, services, and domains, connecting all stakeholders.
Federated, open-architecture-based data solutions can make these interservice connections—solutions designed with methods and procedures for moving data between classification levels and services.
- Current data and security approaches make modernizing software challenging, and often impossible.
The nation's adversaries are continually finding new ways to do battle in the information war—and staying one step ahead of them is imperative to maintaining superiority. DoD must bring the latest capabilities to the fight.
Security is the first priority. In addition to building cybersecurity into each system as discussed above, protocols must be in place. Security, identity, credential, and access management (ICAM) must be implemented to determine what each stakeholder can see, and at what level of access. And to operate as one global force, processes must be in place to clean and verify data coming in from coalition partners so every ally is accessing data they can trust.
Intelligent capabilities like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are essential to provide rapid insights as a situation evolves. Unfortunately, vendor lock, security protocols, and proprietary application programming interfaces (API) are often barriers to bringing emerging software capabilities into operations.
Integrated platforms make it possible to modernize quickly and integrate new AI capabilities using open, government-owned APIs. With open architectures, new tools, capabilities, and data sources can be integrated rapidly, making them accessible to all domains.
- Information superiority is critical—and complicated.
Intelligence assets collect data around the clock, creating an explosion of data. This volume of data could be used to unveil patterns, pinpoint adversarial action, and support decisions. But it requires many complex processes to make access simple.
Coalition partners must plug into the data fabric to connect their data and gain access to shared data. Protocols must be in place to make their incoming data discoverable by others and translate it to a common format. In turn, partners gain rapid access to what they need, at the security level they’re allowed. And to transform data into insights for all stakeholders, the integrated data fabric must employ AI, whether at the point of collection or in the data fabric itself.
In addition to gaining control of the data, protecting and managing it, allowing authenticated access, and enabling insights, the data fabric must ensure security in contested environments around the world—even in limited-bandwidth situations. It must also be ready to provide access to alternate data feeds when channels are blocked, ready to accelerate split-second decisions.
The task is complex, but it promises powerful rewards. With connected data platforms, users can more easily discover and access the information they need. Warfighters gain access regardless of domain, without needing to know parameters like data formats, locations, or originating platforms. And coalition partners can act in coordination, informed by regional updates while connected by data that delivers a shared global awareness of what’s happening at that moment.
A Smart Router for Global Force
A tactical data fabric acts as a smart router—a technical and governance methodology that ensures information is secure, discoverable, and synchronizable between all platforms. The data fabric acts as a backbone to integrate all stakeholder information, translating it to a common data format. All partners are producers of data as well as consumers, each playing a role.
With the data fabric backbone unifying all information, it can securely deliver critical updates to the person who needs it in the heat of the action. And on a global level, it unifies DoD with its allies and partners to connect as one global force.