DISA Signs Deal to Store Exabytes of Drone and Satellite Images

By Bob Brewin

April 8, 2013

This story has been updated with details. 

The Defense Information Systems Agency has awarded a $45 million sole-source contract to store “hundreds of billions” of imagery files -- each packing terabytes of data -- to Alliance Technology Group.

DISA said it awarded the large data object commercial cloud service contract to Hanover, Md.-based Alliance because it does not have the funding to purchase the required hardware and cannot provide the storage space in its own enterprise computing center. The agency offered justification for less-than-full competition in a document posted Thursday on the Federal Business Opportunities website. DISA said Alliance was the only contractor able to provide this cloud service “with available bandwidth at  a secure and accessible location.” 

Large data objects can hold from 8 terabytes to 128 terabytes of data, depending on database configuration, according to Oracle Corp.

DISA said it plans to use the commercial cloud provided by Alliance to store ISR imagery from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, including from drones and satellites that transmit, among other things, full motion video files that contain megabytes or more of data, depending on the length of the transmission.

DISA said the planned ISR Storage Cloud will exceed an exabyte, or one million terabytes, within the next few years and “may grow to 3-4 exabytes in the out years,” but the agency did not specify how many years.

Besides full motion video, the ISR cloud will also store data from laser detection and ranging systems that compute distances to targets, optical and infrared sensors and synthetic aperture radar sensors, all of which generate fat data sets.

DISA also specified that the ISR Storage Cloud will support data derived from the Air Force “Gorgon Stare” wide-area surveillance sensor system, which uses nine drone-mounted video cameras that can capture motion imagery of an entire city.

On the other end of the scale, DISA wants the ISR Storage Cloud to be capable of receiving geospatial information transmitted by iPads, as well as iPhone and Android phones.

DISA’s heavily redacted contract justification for the sole source award to Alliance -- which it classifies as a small, disadvantaged business -- provided few details on  the type of storage media that would be used, but did disclose the company will set up a data center comprised of self-contained storage units “stacked three high and grouped to meet processing requirements.”

These data storage containers will be shipped as fully operating units with a capacity of ten petabytes -- 10,000 terabytes -- connected together via a network to form the ISR Storage Cloud capable of scaling to exabyte capacity.

Neither DISA nor Alliance returned queries from Nextgov requesting further details on the ISR Cloud Storage system and contract.

By Bob Brewin

April 8, 2013