RES-AI

Delivering Trusted and Game-Changing Technology and Answering Industry Demands: Observations From AUSA 2019

On the Main Stage

Mercury Systems recently joined some of the foremost defense and technology companies in the world at the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The annual gathering is one of the most prominent events for companies operating in or with the public sector, and brings private sector innovation together with some of the senior-most military officials in the world, all in the name of supporting and protecting the warfighter.

This year’s meeting was particularly special for us here at Mercury Systems as we announced a $15M USD investment in our secure microelectronics capabilities, the latest step in an ongoing effort to enhance our capabilities in the space dating back to our 2016 acquisition of Microsemi’s custom microelectronics business. As a company working hand-in-hand with some of the most prominent names in silicon technology, and with a proud legacy of partnership with the public sector, we are uniquely positioned to transfer private-side innovation to the defense industry. 

An Exciting Time for Our Industry

From in-person meetings with our peers, to broader industry buzz on the show floor, to our own events on-site, this year’s event revealed some key insights that remind us of the challenges ahead, and give us confidence that we’re on the right path.

Silicon Manufacturing Is Moving Just as Fast as We Thought

It’s no secret that silicon manufacturing is moving at breakneck speed – made even more apparent during a fireside conversation between our new Chief Technology Officer Dr. William (Bill) Conley, our VP and GM Tom Smelker and Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Their discussion focused on the state of play in secure microelectronics and reaffirmed the need for innovation that matters in the public sector.

Private Sector Investment Is an Absolute Imperative

Conversations at the event not only underscored the speed with which the industry is moving, but also made clear the need for private sector investment in order for the defense community to keep pace with the latest technologies. Silicon technologies are advancing at a rate that simply cannot be met by the defense community alone, so it is critical that public sector entities with mission-critical needs have access to innovation via a trusted private sector conduit. At Mercury, we’re packaging the foremost advances in silicon technology at DMEA-accredited facilities, transferring private sector innovation over into the defense community in a secure manner.

Trust is Key

This month’s event also further highlighted the eagerness in the industry for a bridge from the public to private sector that will advance the U.S.’s national security interests and protect its warfighters, and I’m especially proud that we are helping to transform the intersection of technology and defense, making leading-edge ‘defense-ready’ processing capabilities profoundly more accessible. While we drive innovation, the Department of Defense must ensure military technology is being manufactured in a secure, trusted environment. Mercury is uniquely equipped to resolve these immense impediments by transferring breakthrough advances in technology to the defense industry affordably and with a proven history of making trusted and secure high-tech solutions.

Full Speed Ahead

The defense community wants and needs a trusted partner not afraid of the pace of change in the private sector. We’re proud to serve that role, making trusted, secure mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible. Our path is clear, and we have the right industry-leading team to deliver innovation that matters. We look forward to sharing more in the coming months as our recent investment becomes a reality.

Rugged Processing AI

GPU Processing at the Edge

Uncompromised data center processing capability deployable anywhere

Evolving compute-intensive AI, SIGINT, autonomous vehicle, Electronic Warfare (EW), radar and sensor fusion applications require data center-class processing capabilities closer to the source of data origin – at the edge. This has driven the need for HPC to evolve into high performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC). Delivering HPEEC capabilities presents challenges as every application has its own survivability, processing, footprint, and security requirements. To address this need, we partner with technology leaders, including NVIDIA, to align technology roadmaps and deliver cutting-edge computing in scalable, field-deployable form-factors that are fully configurable to each unique mission.

What it delivers: HPEEC leverages the latest data center processing and co-processing technologies to accelerate the most demanding workloads in the harshest and most contested environments. Customer benefits include:
· The ability to scale compute applications from the cloud to the edge with rugged embedded subsystems that adhere to open standards and integrate the latest commercial technologies.
· Maximized throughput with contemporary NVIDIA® graphics processing units (GPUs), Intel® Xeon® Scalable server-class processors, contemporary field-programmable gate array (FPGA) accelerators, and high-speed, low-latency networking. 
· Advanced embedded security options that deliver trusted performance and safeguard critical data.

Scaled HPEEC Node
Fig 1. Compose your HPEEC solution with Mercury EnsembleSeries OpenVPX building blocks that include CPU blades powered by Intel Xeon Scalable processors, wideband PCIe switch fabrics and powerful GPU and FPGA co-processing engines that form a truly composable HPEEC architecture. Highly rugged and with built-in BuiltSECURE SSE, these compute solutions are ideally suited to the most hostile and size, weight and size (SWaP) constrained environments characteristic of defense and aerospace applications.

Scaling

We work closely with technology leaders to deliver a composable data center architecture that can be deployed anywhere. As a Preferred Member of the NVIDIA OEM Partner Program our engineering teams leverage their collective capabilities to embed and make secure the latest GPU co-processing resources for defense and aerospace applications. Packaged as rugged OpenVPX modules, these system building blocks are a critical HPEEC scaling element. For even greater interoperability and scalability, these GPU co-processing engines are aligned with the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA). In this age of smarter everything, SOSA seeks to place the best technology in the hands of service men and women quicker.

Maximized throughput

Delivering uncompromised data center performance at the edge requires environmental protection. Our proven fifth generation of advanced packaging, cooling and advanced interconnects protect electronics from the harshest environments, keeps them cool for long reliable service lives and enables the fastest switch fabric performance in any environment. The ability to work closely with technology leaders like Intel enables us to package the most general processing capability with hardware enabled AI accelerators as miniaturized OpenVPX blades that form another pillar of a truly composable HPEEC solution (fig 1).

Security

Security has always been important and today it is critical. The closer processing goes to the edge, the more critical this requirement becomes. Proven across tens of defense programs, our embedded BuiltSECURETM technologies counter nation-state reverse engineering with systems security engineering (SSE). BuiltSECURE technology is extensible to deliver system-wide security that evolves over time, building in future proofing. As countermeasures are developed to offset emerging threats, the BuiltSECURE framework keeps pace, maintaining system-wide integrity.

What’s next?

We will soon be announcing an expansion to our portfolio of NVIDIA-powered OpenVPX co-processor engines with the introduction of dual Quadro TU-104 GPU powered configurations. These rugged co-processing engines will feature greater BuiltSECURE capabilities making them exportable as well as enabling them to be deployed anywhere. These options will have NVIDIA’s new NVLinkTM high-speed GPU-to-GPU bus fully implemented to deliver uncompromised data center capability at the edge.

To learn more visit GTC and see Devon Yablonski present “GPU processing at the edge” live – #GTC19

Next-Generation Microelectronics

An Emerging Opportunity in Next-Generation Custom Microelectronics

In September of this year, after a ten-year career in public sector defense industry positions – including serving as the Director for Electronic Warfare at the Department of Defense for almost four years – I switched tracks to the private sector, joining Mercury Systems as Chief Technology Officer. Mercury Systems is revolutionizing the intersection of technology and defense, advancing leading-edge capabilities to a microelectronics industry currently guided by two prevailing themes which together pose immense opportunity.

First, silicon manufacturing and technology are evolving at breakneck speed, which in keeping with Moore’s law have simultaneously driven advancements in computing performance and decreases in cost. To date, this innovation has been most apparent in the high-tech private sector, however there is tremendous opportunity to transfer this innovation over to the public sector and to make it defense-ready. At the same time, however, industry challenges and macro-level geopolitical trends have created an environment in which secure, trusted solutions are an undisputed imperative for U.S. government agencies and defense Primes.

I believe Mercury is uniquely positioned to address these challenges, and this is one of the reasons I joined the Company. Operating in the private sector and with a wealth of experience in electronics from chip level to system level , we have the expertise and ambition to drive real innovation in microelectronics. At the same time, our legacy in servicing the defense community, combined with our Defense Microelectronics Activity-accredited (DMEA) trusted secure manufacturing capabilities, puts us in a unique position as the only commercial industry player capable of serving as an ideal conduit for bringing trusted microelectronics innovation to the public sector.

An Industry at an Inflection Point

We’re excited to be sharing our optimism for the future of public sector microelectronics with the defense community and our peers at the 2019 AUSA Annual Meeting being held this week in Washington, D.C. We’re confident – based on prevailing trends and industry attitudes – that the industry is ripe and eager for change, and we’re excited to share our first step in bringing about that change.

A Bright Future

This week, we announced a $15 million capital investment to bring next-generation trusted commercial silicon technology to the defense community. This initiative represents one of the first commercial applications of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) and directly aligns with the ERI’s stated goal of “creating a more specialized, secure, and heavily automated electronics industry that serves the needs of both the domestic commercial and defense sectors.”

This announcement and our activities at AUSA’s Annual Meeting set the stage for a bright future in microelectronics for defense applications. We look forward to translating our investment into manufacturing and implementation, and to driving further progress and innovation that matters in microelectronics for the public and private sector.


Assured Signal Integrity in stacked, high-speed DDR4 and DDR5 memory

Edge processing architectures in today’s autonomous and AI military systems, process an ever growing amount of sensor data. Many of these systems or devices used for edge processing applications in forward-deployed environments need to be small, rugged and agile.  To handle this extreme workload, system architects must design boards using the fastest field-programmable gate array (FPGA) devices and multicore processors. These devices cannot provide peak performance without massive amounts of high-speed DDR4 memory for resident data and real-time execution.  Faced with additional challenges, the system architect must design these systems to meet the size, weight and power (SWaP) constraints of smaller, more agile edge processing platforms integral to our warfighters’ mission success.   To support the system requirements, each embedded board within the system could need a minimum of 64GB of memory per processor, equating to more than 128 separate commercial-grade memory devices or multiple dual inline memory modules (DIMM), for layout on a printed circuit board. This is not a feasible solution for the embedded boards at the core of ultra-compact edge processing architectures in military systems operating in harsh, forward-deployed environments. Instead, high-density, military-grade memory manufactured with state-of-the-art 3D packaging technology must be utilized for space and power savings, while maintaining reliability in harsh environments. 

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Enabling Edge Processing in Military Intelligent Sensors

In military environments, seconds can be the difference between life or death and mission success or failure. A soldier in hostile territory needs their mobile system to rapidly process sensor data to accurately analyze threats and take action. Intelligent sensor systems using artificial intelligence (AI) to make automatic critical decisions without human intervention rely on sophisticated algorithms to process sensor data real-time at the point of generation to ensure a rapid and accurate decision can be made. This real-time processing of data at the point of generation and consumption, decentralized from a data center or the cloud, is Edge Processing. Each local system or device at the “edge” is self-sufficient to collect, process, store and disseminate data into action enabling the intelligent sensor and effector mission systems our military needs to carry out daily operations. These systems that enable mobile computing and artificial intelligence could be part of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV),unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) or a base camp collecting surveillance data of its surroundings to warn of incoming threats.

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Encryption Keys: The Cliff Notes Version, Part 4

In my prior three posts, I provided an overview of encryption key fundamentals and the various encryption key mode strategies that can be implemented in a Mercury secure SSD. If you did not read those, stop everything and go back to them now! Or, stay here, keep reading and you’ll find a simple, easy-to-use process flow diagram to guide you to the best key management mode for your application.

It is important to note, these are only general guidelines. If you have questions or doubts, consult with a security implementation expert. In this entry, I will also share our new key management mode for secure boot which is under development and releasing soon.

The first question to ask when getting started: will the data be stored on an end user device for a CSfC-approved implementation? If so, the key management mode options are limited to either Mode 1 or Mode 6. If the program is a black key program, Mode 6 is required.

If your data storage implementation is not intended for the CSfC program, answering these questions below will help in your decision:

  1. Is data recovery after key purge required? The answer to this question determines whether you need a self-generated key (Mode 1) or a user-generated key (Modes 2 through 6).
  2. Is the program a black key program? If so, Modes 5 and 6 are appropriate. Mode 6 includes an ATA password authentication, which is recommended unless there is a specific justification to avoid doing so.
  3. If not a black key program, is automatic key purge beneficial or required for the mission? Session keys provide automatic key purge when power is removed from the device.
  4. Is the added security layer of an ATA password required for the specific security implementation? If unsure of the answer to this question, it is best to err on the side of caution and implement an ATA password.

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Encryption Keys: The Cliff Notes Version, Part 3 – Key Management Modes

In the first two posts of this series, I reviewed fundamental terms and concepts of encryption key classifications and discussed roles of passwords versus keys and hash algorithms.  In this post, I will provide detail on each key management mode available on a Mercury secure SSD, not all of which may be supported by other SSD manufacturers.

Encryption Key Modes

While the complexity of implementation increases from one mode to the next in the following discussion, end user responsibility also increases. It is imperative to ensure that end users have the proper knowledge, training and infrastructure to successfully create, store, protect and distribute encryption keys and passwords. With these capabilities, the flexibility and security benefits of the more complex modes can be fully realized. Read More

Encryption Keys: The Cliffs Notes Version, Part 2

In my first post of this series, I explained terms relating to encryption keys and the standards that exist governing encryption key algorithms. Now I will spend some time on ATA passwords and how they correlate to encryption keys.

Clarifying the Functions of an Encryption Key and ATA Password

The role of an encryption key is commonly confused with the role of an ATA password.

The only purpose of an encryption key is to convert data to cipher text so it is illegible to anyone accessing the data without proper authorization and to then decrypt data back to plain text.

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Encryption Keys: The Cliffs Notes Version, Part 1

Imagine a US operative on a covert mission is comprised in enemy territory. His laptop, now in the hands of the enemy, contains highly sensitive data stored on the factory-installed SSD and protected only by his 12-character Windows password. A skilled adversary using a brute force attack will quickly gain access to this data. Would you feel safe having our national interests stored on the same type of drive as your laptop? Without the use of a secure storage device with properly implemented encryption and encryption keys, data could easily fall into the enemy’s hands.

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Multi-Domain Operations: Becoming Today’s Swiss Army Knife

Defense News recently released their annual Outlook . If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great read consisting of a few dozen essays by world leaders looking at the trends and issues, like multi-domain operations, that will most impact the global defense industry.

This year, one essay in particular jumped out at me. General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, wrote an insightful article about multi-domain operations. His analogy of lanterns from the Revolutionary War is very apt, and it helps put into perspective the challenges we face today. Perhaps this quote from his essay is most concise:

“Whoever figures out how to quickly gather information in various domains and
just as quickly direct military actions will have the decisive advantage in battle.”

When General Goldfein talks about multi-domain, he is referring to the military’s work on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in the electromagnetic and cyberspace realms. Traditionally, most defense forces have focused on one domain at a time – in silos. Hence, why we have the Army (for land), Navy (for sea) and Air Force (for air). But domains are not mutually exclusive. They need to work interactively in order to gain the most benefit. As was quickly discovered as early as WWI, air supremacy can significantly improve land operations.

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