PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- While pursuing master's degrees through the Naval Post Graduate School (NPS), Brian Meadows and Socrates Frangis got an idea.
As students they were impressed by the simplicity of integration into the school's computer system, software, and collaboration tools.
They were able to remotely log into an NPS computer system with preloaded software and applications, which allowed them to get to work right away and collaborate with other students.
Meadows and Frangis are both research scientists working at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) in the Office of Engineering and Technology. Frangis mentors scientists and engineers at the division and is heavily involved in Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) projects for the command.
Frangis noticed when researchers wanted to begin their approved research projects, which often coincided with a new fiscal year, the individuals spent a lot of time getting the appropriate computer system with necessary software and authorizations in a timely manner. Some researchers waited several months to get the tools they needed to begin, setting them back in their research.
Frangis and Meadows harkened back to their time at NPS and realized they could create a cloud-based platform like they had at the school, which would allow scientists and engineers to hit the ground running on day one. They got approval for the project and began to move forward.
"Much of what we are doing for this environment is modeled off of our experience at our graduate program [at NPS]," Meadows said. "We went into a cloud lab, put our NPS credentials in the browser, and we were presented with a Windows desktop with all of the applications."
The virtual innovation and research lab (VIRL) is in the early stages of implementation. VIRL is a virtual cluster which will host 25 applications and allow staff researchers and principal investigators for NISE projects to conduct research and innovation initiatives for NSWC PHD.
"This is an innovative technology project," Frangis said. "We know the technology works, but no one has really tried to create a micro-cloud at the Navy-working level."
VIRL creates virtual machines on a remote server. It creates what is known as virtual desktop infrastructure. This is similar to what was done with computers many years ago, when a mainframe computer did all the processing and the end users were on dummy terminal clients. VIRL utilizes a very powerful server. End users have a small, secure, inexpensive common-access card enabled device on their desk called a zero-client, which they hook up a monitor, keyboard, and a mouse.
Frangis and Meadows are in the first phase of the project. The server is currently being installed. It will be powered up and checked in January, and if there are no issues with the server then the next step is to install and secure the secure the software baseline. Once satisfied the system is in a usable state they will field a handful of zero-clients for beta testing. Frangis and Meadows are confident the system is going to work, but there is always risk in science and technology (S&T) projects.
"We are attempting to integrate this with the existing research development test and evaluation network to demonstrate a technology which is useful," said Frangis. "We think we can, but that's the risk we are taking with this S&T project. If we're right, the command will have a new expanded capability."
If all goes as planned VIRL will roll out to up to 250 users in fiscal year 2018.
Once up and running, VIRL will result in cost avoidance by utilizing the zero-client, which costs between $200-300 and is significantly less expensive than a development laptop. It is also easier to manage administratively, lowering labor efforts related to software updates and patches. The software baseline has a smaller security footprint, making it more secure than a traditional information technology infrastructure. In addition, it will also save precious research dollars by allowing principal investigators (scientists and engineers) to begin work right away. There is a small cloud on the horizon.
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