Intel, local research agency developing 'cloud-based' war games

By Richard Burnett

Orlando Sentinel, March 28, 2013

High-technology giant Intel Corp. is bringing its Silicon Valley heft to a partnership with the Army’s Orlando simulation-research lab to create computerized war games capable of handling hundreds of participants at once, company and military officials said this week.

The goal of the project — the first deal of its kind for Intel in Central Florida — is to create a computing network powerful enough to deliver interactive training simulations to large groups of players around the world, from infantry troops and senior commanders to combat ships and fighter-jet squadrons.

Using Web-based software applications, commonly known as “cloud computing,” the new system would eclipse not only the military’s current remote-training systems but also commercial “massive multi-player” websites such as Second Life, an online “virtual world.”

“Second Life is the closest thing to what we’re doing, but even that limits the number of players to 60 or 80 per region,” said Mic Bowman, lead project engineer for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. “That’s not nearly enough for the kind of higher-level engagement training the Army needs to do, but our system will be able to support at least five times that many.”

The Intel partnership comes at a critical time for the local Army research unit, as military agencies and the defense industry are dealing with their share of deficit-reduction “sequester” cuts in the federal government’s fiscal 2013 budget.

“It is good news for this area when you have a big-name heavyweight like Intel closely aligned with our local Army researchers to explore this kind of next-generation, cloud-based simulation technology,” said Tom Baptiste, president of the National Center for Simulation, an Orlando-based trade group for the training-simulation industry. “This is cutting-edge stuff, and I am excited that the Army’s local simulation-research center has a role to play in it.”

For Intel, long known as a maker of computer microchips, the research is part of its information-technology business, which the company has focused on cloud computing. Last year, Intel reported an $11 billion profit on revenue totaling $53 billion.

In its project with the Army, Intel is developing the network software that will act as a transportation and distribution channel for training scenarios that are being designed by the Army Research Lab’s Simulation and Training Technology Center in Orlando.

The local lab is separate from the Army’s Orlando-based training-simulation contract agency, though the two agencies often collaborate on projects. Both are central players in the region’s training-simulation industry, considered the largest cluster of such companies and military agencies in the country.

Scientists say the online war games now used by the military, while effective at teaching soldiers how to make decisions and solve problems, are limited by the types of missions they can simulate and the number of people who can participate.

“The idea is to give our current system an exponential increase in capability,” said Doug Maxwell, science-and-technology manager for the Army research unit. “That will mean many more people will be able to use it simultaneously, it will be more realistic, and it will support far more training scenarios.”

Bowman, Intel’s project leader, said the new system will also save money for the U.S. military, which has already trimmed its travel spending as part of the sequester budget cuts.

“We know that using the cloud to distribute these kinds of applications is a critical requirement for our system,” he said. “The military can’t afford to fly people in from all over the place to be in a training room together, They have to be able to participate where they are.

“That’s where the Intel technology comes in,” he added, “using a much more intelligent way to distribute the simulations.” or 407-420-5256