The U.S. Army Research Laboratory opened the Army Cyber-research Analytics Laboratory, or ACAL, on Monday. The facility is unlike any other lab, since it provides industrial and federally-funded partners — including universities — access to highly-sensitive live cyber-security data.
Joining ARL Director Dr. Philip Perconti at Monday’s ribbon cutting were Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command; Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, commanding general of the Communications-Electronics Command; and Dr. Thomas Russell, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.
The new research space was developed as a result of a “strong partnership” with Army Cyber Command and represents an extension of ongoing collaborative efforts with the Defense Department’s science and technology community, Perconti said.
The ACAL currently houses three distributed computation clusters, the largest of which is configured with over two petabytes of raw storage, over 20 terabytes of RAM, over 1,500 CPU cores and 10- to 40-gigabyte networking. By comparison, a home computer has, on average, four to 16 gigabytes of RAM, and on the very robust end a 512-GB hard drive.
The ACAL relies on technologies most familiar to researchers, analytic developers and data scientists: Hadoop, Elasticsearch, R, Spark, Storm, Accumulo, Kafka, and many others. This degree of high-performance computing and analytic development technology will facilitate the rapid development and deployment of cutting-edge analytic capabilities to meet the warfighter’s operational mission needs in the cyber realm, said Akhilomen O. Oniha, lead of the Technical Architecture Team, for this project at ARL.
Oniha said researchers can expect to be able to access the laboratory physically or remotely to assess emerging cyber threats such as hackings and communication jams, and quickly develop and deploy cyber analytic capabilities like active cyber defense and cyber maneuvers that limit lateral propagation of hostile malware to address them.
Lt. Gen. Nakasone said the opening of the ACAL is an indication of ARL’s “long history as the leader in modern computing.” He said the ACAL not only “represents a new capability, but a new direction in the way we develop and deploy capabilities to defend Army networks. (ACAL) provides a dynamic environment to host active cyber defense research — our most pressing challenge in exercises and training.
“The ARL/Army Cyber partnership goes back to our birth in 2010,” he continued. “We recognized the critical role that science and technology partnerships would play in our future. Army Cyber invested in ARL.
“ARL’s expertise has been crucial to our efforts at Army Cyber Command and to build what we think is one of our most exciting developments, our big data platform,” he said.
ARL has been formally identified in the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Services program as having multiple top Defensive Cybersecurity capabilities in the DOD. ARL’s analysts have discovered and responded to over 19,000 confirmed cyber incidents and events since 2005, a record unmatched by any other Department of Defense laboratory.
Army senior officials rely on ARL to provide them with knowledge and understanding, based on fundamental and early applied research, to inform decisions on options for disruptive warfighting capabilities with reduced uncertainty and calculated risk.
Fundamental scientific investigations are, at times, integrated with real-world events, like continuous cybersecurity defense services and cyber survivability and vulnerability analysis of Army systems. The ACAL can be used to develop test plans and concept of operations for real-world use.
ARL’s cyber security research is largely focused on challenges unique to Army ground operations. Soldiers operate in complex terrain wrought with rapidly changing connectivity that’s restricted by spectrum and players — allies and adversaries — on the networks.
As war continues to shift further in the cyber domain, the ACAL will become a necessary ARL resource to perform foundational research to inform the Army operating concept for the multi-domain battle in the “deep future,” officials said. ARL planners expect that as the ACAL matures, the laboratory will support rapid development and deployment requirements for the Army’s Computer Network Defense, providing analytic capabilities across ARL, Army Cyber Command, Network Enterprise Technology Command and their partners.
The ACAL will also be used for personnel training, product integration, systems engineering, and integrated testing using real-world data.