Power in numbers: Industry partnerships are key to national security

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By: Jim Shaw, executive vice president of Engineering, Crystal Group

Securing our country and defending national interests are enduring needs. As history shows, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) does not retreat amid challenging or unknown circumstances. On the contrary, they advance forward on critical strategies to maintain and elevate unmatched readiness, safety and security.

What may be less obvious are the industry partnerships working with government entities to augment the U.S. competitive advantage. These public-private partnerships rely on collaboration to produce and deliver essential capabilities, goods and services. This is especially true in technology, where complex systems are jointly built by organizations with complementary core competencies. When combined, these often disparate specialties transform into timely and robust innovations. This is evident at the tactical edge, where warfighters now benefit from powerful, mobile computing once limited to massive data centers located hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Building mission-critical solutions — which may include artificial intelligence-enabled data analytics, major weapons systems, communications networks, or real-time, multisourced intelligence delivery — requires highly specialized computer hardware and software. Layer that with the military’s strict quality and performance standards and the unique objectives and requirements for each program, and the need for partnership becomes clear. The levels of expertise, problem solving and integration necessary to deliver on the mission are nearly impossible for any one company to provide.

With an emphasis on designing and manufacturing high-performance commercial servers, displays and data storage devices, Crystal Group built its reputation on equipping customers with rugged computer hardware that excels in extreme and unpredictable conditions. However, as the scope of the DoD’s needs and challenges — as well as those of other critical organizations — have evolved, so has our approach to designing and delivering more comprehensive solutions

Through continued collaborations, we have established a dynamic ecosystem of technology partners. This network augments our end-to-end design and manufacturing capabilities, along with our strong DoD relationships. By working together with a holistic mindset, we’re drawing on our specialized capabilities to bring greater functionality, speed, agility and customization to the defense, commercial and industrial markets. Not only does this improve solution effectiveness and SWaP-C, it also ensures seamless integration of system hardware and software, standards, and performance requirements so the end product operates to its exact specifications.

Taking action to amplify the U.S. competitive advantage

While not yet mandated, accreditation of cybersecurity systems is a growing expectation as the DoD ramps up its data security efforts. Through collaboration with Seagate Government Solutions, Crystal Group now readily offers ruggedized SAS solid-state drives (SSD). These encrypted drives incorporate U.S. government computer security standards, including FIPS 140-2, for secure data storage at the tactical edge. Having this level of accredited security built into deployed compute platforms will make it easier for the DoD to incorporate cryptographic key management encryption for CSfC requirements while ensuring classified data is only accessible by authorized users.

Strategic, long-term partnerships are also critical given that technology challenges, requirements and innovations will always evolve at breakneck speeds. In working with a respected technology expert like Intel®, we stay at the forefront of what’s already here, what’s coming and what’s emerging. This assures our defense and industrial customers that our solutions are designed and built using the latest Intel technologies. And as needs and expectations for increased processing speed escalate, so do our methods for managing the residual heat so the units run seamlessly without throttling.

Under a public-private partnership for more than 10 years, Crystal Group continues to deliver secure, high-performance computing to the United States Navy. Our experience and lessons learned in delivering more than 15,000 rugged servers to the Navy has fostered trust, awareness and foresight to not only understand, but anticipate their needs for safeguarding shipboard computing against afloat operational risks. Likewise, the Navy’s familiarity with our solutions’ capabilities, flexibility and reliability enables swift collaboration to address and deliver on the specific needs of new programs and applications.

In April 2020, Crystal Group received NIAP Common Criteria certification of its rugged firewall after collaborating with a longtime defense customer whose application now requires a certified rugged solution. The benefits of this certification will now extend to other customers and partners as the Common Criteria standards ensure consistent, repeatable performance, as well as supply chain of custody requirements are being met. It provides assurance that the product is safe and secure, while also giving defense customers a head start on their certification and accreditation needs.

The DoD’s rigorous and evolving challenges will always require manufacturers and suppliers to cooperate on reliable, battle-tested solutions. United by the common goal of equipping warfighters with the technology needed to defend the nation and execute their missions, industry partnerships will remain integral in solving complex technical challenges while giving the DoD an unmatched advantage.

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