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Mercury and HPE have teamed up, and here are five reasons aerospace and defense should care

Earlier this month, we announced an exciting new collaboration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to bring the world’s most comprehensive ecosystem of hardware and software modules to the edge of the battlefield. This will deliver an exceptional balance of performance, storage, reliability, manageability and efficiency for data-intensive defense and aerospace applications such as aeronautical engineering, satellite communications, guidance and tracking systems, destructive and non-destructive materials testing, propulsion and engine testing, surveillance and electronic warfare, impact studies, mechanical testing and vibration analysis.

Our new RES-XR6 Alliance server line makes this a reality, leveraging HPE’s mature and field-proven data center server platform (ProLiant) with its market-leading technologies and vast ecosystem of hardware/software modules, and coupling that with TAA-compliant components, U.S.-designed firmware, and threat-protection enhancements.

RES-XR6 HPE Mercury Systems Alliance
The power of HP Enterprise solutions meets the rugged, trusted, mission-critical technologies of Mercury Systems in the RES-XR6 Alliance servers

Top Five Benefits 

  1. Trade Agreements Act (TAA) compliance. The new RES-XR6 Alliance product line integrates TAA-compliant components with advanced threat protection features along with U.S.-designed firmware embedded in HPE silicon to meet customer requirements and reduce the risk of possible malicious components.
  2. Scalable compute platform. Allows users to scale HPE infrastructure, features and the applications that rely on them from the data center to edge/defense applications. This includes key features such as processor and memory sparing (redundant processors and memory) that deliver high availability and prevent single points of failure.
  3. Enterprise-grade management. Embedded management with HPE iLO 5. HPE Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) allows users to configure, monitor and update HPE servers seamlessly from anywhere in the world. Featuring the latest innovations in simplified operations, performance and security, HPE iLO allows the management of an entire server infrastructure with ease.  For HPE ProLiant Gen10 servers, iLO 5 provides several new improvements in security, speed and simplicity (some features require an optional iLO Advanced license).
  4. Reduced latency and reliable performance. HPE’s jitter-smoothing technology mitigates processor frequency fluctuation to reduce latency and deliver deterministic and reliable performance, ideal for high-performance computing such as the processing of sensor mission data. Jitter smoothing is available on all Intel-based Gen10 servers with iLO 5 and an iLO Advanced (or above) license.
  5. Secure supply chain. ProLiant components are shipped directly from HPE’s secure shipping with tamper-evident seals and tracking. For customers building highly sensitive mission-critical applications, these components can be assembled in a secure U.S. facility with TS/SCI-cleared personnel. Mercury and HPE flows down NIST 800-53 Supply Chain Security and DFARS counterfeit requirements to component manufacturers.

Our collaboration with HPE is an excellent example of how we make trusted, secure mission-critical technologies profoundly more accessible to the aerospace and defense customers that need them. In this case, deploying hyperscale data center processing to accelerate mission-critical defense and tactical edge applications. But don’t just take it from us—see what Sam Ceccola, HPE’s DoD Account Technologist, had to say about our partnership and the benefits it will deliver.

ETT 2020 Recap: Accessibility and Innovation in Embedded Technologies

Devon Yablonski speaks at ETT

On January 27 and 28, Mercury Systems joined VITA and some of the leading minds in embedded systems in Atlanta, Georgia, for Embedded Technology Trends (ETT) 2020 – a comprehensive forum on the latest trends and developments in the industry. This year, suppliers of component-, board- and system-level solutions joined industry media to discuss the path forward for continued innovation in embedded systems, and how best to carry that innovation over into the government and defense sectors.

Mercury Systems is proud to work in close partnership with our peers and organizations like VITA on the most challenging and important issues facing aerospace and defense. As in years past, ETT 2020 surfaced several key observations that validate our commitment to enabling affordable public-sector access to the most advanced commercial technologies.

AI Applications Driving the Industry Forward

More than almost anything else, the promise of new AI applications for embedded computing was top of mind at ETT this year. Among other topics, attendees wrestled with how to integrate the immense computing power required by AI into existing and upcoming platforms.

On Monday, January 27, Mercury’s Devon Yablonski, Principal Project Manager for Artificial Intelligence, gave a detailed look at how new applications leveraging AI are being translated to the defense industry, specifically at the tactical edge.

Devon demonstrated how a mirrored datacenter architecture is being built into aerospace and defense platforms that may not have access to the cloud, creating potentially significant challenges for data processing. As a solution, high-performance embedded edge computing (HPEEC) is transferring the data center to the edge, with the built-in security, trust, miniaturization, environmental protective packaging and cooling required for in-theater operation. This in turn is making military platforms smarter, more independent and more autonomous.

Moore’s Law Continues to Prevail

There was also much discussion at ETT regarding how (and how quickly) embedded computing technology will develop moving forward. As advancement through transistor miniaturization approaches an end, some have questioned whether Moore’s Law – the notion that the number of transistors on a given microchip will double every two years, with simultaneous reductions in costs – will hold true.

In his January 28 presentation, Mercury’s Tom Smelker, Vice President & General Manager of Custom Microelectronics Solutions, described advances in 2.5D packaging which dispelled some of those doubts, and suggested that the next phase of development will come from heterogeneous integration of silicon or chiplets – as predicted in the last page of Moore’s Law.

Among other advancements, 2.5D packaging will help continue to drive the industry forward by increasing time-to-market roughly 3x compared to monolithic design, reducing timelines from 3-4 years to 12-18 months.

Open Standards Are a Must

While there was collective optimism at ETT 2020, there was also some doubt regarding the future of open standards at the chip level. At present, chiplet manufacturers design using different, sometimes proprietary, chip-to-chip interfaces, creating inherent inefficiencies that have the potential to hamper growth.

In his presentation, Tom suggested that continued stagnation on establishing universal standards might ultimately dampen projected advances in cost efficiency and development time, as companies continue to operate under multiple standards.

Of course, the question then becomes how best to move forward on open standards. While that question remains unanswered, the conversations we had at ETT 2020 – including detailed analyses of new technologies as well as best practices for consensus-building – leave us ever optimistic about the path ahead.

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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