ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The ability to process massive amounts of data is crucial as organizations and their technological innovations evolve. It is through analysis of data that the U.S. Army can continue to develop engineering breakthroughs, modernize technology and make informed decisions.
That’s why the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Analysis Center, known as DAC, leverages High Performance Computing, or HPC, to perform faster and more complex analysis on DOD survivability, vulnerability and lethality modeling.
According to the lead of DAC’s Materiel Software Development Team, Douglas Howle, computational capability plays a huge role in analysis. HPC is a computing technology that harnesses the power of computer clusters to process complex calculations with immense amounts of data and perform data-intensive tasks at high speeds. HPC processes quadrillions of calculations per second, compared to the few billion calculations with a standard laptop.
“As we [DAC] strive to be the best analytical workforce out there, we need to take advantage of the best computer resources,” Howle said. “That’s why we’re leveraging HPC for AJEM, the DOD’s accredited Joint-Service approved Advanced Joint Effectiveness Model.”
AJEM is managed by DAC and used for analyses to support a wide variety of acquisition efforts. Results produced from AJEM inform system design, incident recreation and analysis of alternatives to ensure systems used by warfighters are safe, lethal, functional and effective. AJEM also provides target vulnerability data to support operational planning by the Joint Technical Coordinating Group for Munitions Effectiveness, or JTCG/ME.
To guarantee a reliable and reputable model as part of the continuous software development process, AJEM undergoes quarterly methodology improvements and upgraded features that allow analysts to better process data. Software developer Robert Gonzalez has seen AJEM evolve over his 12 years of working with the model. “AJEM has kept pace with the changes in technology,” Gonzalez said. “As new ideas come through, or new methodology or materiel, AJEM adapts and accommodates to meet high-priority mission requirements.”
Those accommodations result in more detailed, complex AJEM models. However, more complexity requires longer run-time on legacy systems. “That’s why DAC is partnering with the Army Research Lab to get more information to our customers faster and more efficiently,” Gonzalez said.
A DOD-wide resource, HPC is supplied by the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center, or ARL DSRC, which serves as a computational science facility supporting DOD research, development, test and evaluation for user communities with HPC resources and technology. The ARL DSRC is one of five HPC centers provided by the HPC Modernization Program.
"The original scope of the HPC Modernization Program was to meet DOD science and technology computational requirements. The scope was soon expanded to include test and evaluation needs and expanded further to accommodate acquisition engineering, which is responsible for the complete life cycle of a system,” Joseph (Michael) Barton, senior technologist of the ARL DSRC, said. “The ARL DSRC offers support in various HPC applications areas, such as in DAC’s vulnerability and lethality analyses, as well as in expanded areas for data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, immersive visualization, digital engineering and other needs.”
Combined with HPC software, secure broadband networks and subject matter expertise, the ARL DSRC is a powerful tool for research, discovery, innovation, problem solving and sustainment of future weapon systems.
“We can speed up analysis quite considerably with the performance power of HPC — not only with the architecture behind it but with the software and resources HPC has,” Gonzalez said. He noted that HPC’s clusters and nodes operate in a way that allows users to run analyses through parallel processes in a fraction of the time. This enables multitasking without a particular process getting “stuck” and holding up subsequent processes. Gonzalez is currently working on merging parallel processing into the current state of AJEM.
DAC’s Timothy Mallory, mechanical engineer with 35 years in modeling & simulation, offers the metaphor of a 50,000 acre farm to describe HPC’s impact. A single small tractor may eventually get the harvest done, but a “mega-harvester” with automation and GPS designed for large jobs will do it faster and more effectively. “We’ve been able to accomplish with HPC what would not have been possible using AJEM on a regular desktop workstation. The cluster-nodes infrastructure allows for hundreds of thousands of AJEM results in a week.”
Aside from the time-saving benefits for analysts and decision-makers, HPC opens the scope of computationally-intensive AJEM analyses. Ashley Bomboy, Chief of DAC’s Warfighter & Futures Integration Division’s Materiel Modeling & Simulation Branch, believes it is not just the technology, but the people behind the technology that make this successful.
“We have an innovative workforce: the people who reach out for an answer, who see an opportunity and take advantage, who adapt to new challenges and see different perspectives,” Bomboy said. “The benefit of leveraging HPC for AJEM will be far-reaching for JTCG/ME and the acquisition community. As we develop this link with AJEM and HPC, the number of stakeholders will grow.”
The DEVCOM Analysis Center is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. Visit the DEVCOM website at https://www.army.mil/devcom.