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Army Logistics Renews $135M Cloud Contract—And Gets Watson

Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, dismount from a Stryker vehicle during the Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 at Dona Ana Range, N.M.

Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, dismount from a Stryker vehicle during the Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 at Dona Ana Range, N.M. // US Army

In 2012, the U.S. Army turned to IBM and its cloud computing services to address its logistical challenges, which include managing hundreds of military bases and facilities, and coordinating the movement of several hundred thousand personnel and vehicles.

According to an announcement today, the five-year partnership between the Army’s Logistics Support Activity and IBM will continue to the tune of a three-year, $135 million contract in which IBM will develop cloud services, software, analytics and cognitive computing for the Army.

In addition to standard cloud services, the Army will learn more about what Watson can do.

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Famous for defeating human challengers in “Jeopardy!,” the Army will task IBM’s Watson software with analyzing structured and unstructured sensor data from military assets, like tanks or drones.

Per the new contract, IBM will ingest 5 billion data points from Army vehicles’ onboard sensors to improve the service’s ability to carry out predictive maintenance. According to a press statement, IBM’s cognitive computing capabilities build on a successful proof of concept carried out on 10 percent of the Army Stryker vehicle fleet.

According to LOGSA Commander Col. John Kuenzli, the capabilities on top of traditional cloud services—cognitive computing and analytics, especially—are what the Army really covets.

“Over the past four and a half years, LOGSA has benefitted from the business and technical advantages of the cloud,” Kuenzli said in a statement.

“Now, we’re moving beyond infrastructure as a service and embracing both platform and software as a service, adopting commercial cloud capabilities to further enhance Army readiness. When Gen. [Gustave] Perna took command of the Army Materiel Command, he said we cannot conduct tomorrow's operations using yesterday's processes and procedures. He has since emphasized understanding the leading indicators to readiness, and getting in front of the Army's logistics challenges.”

IBM’s contract with LOGSA continues its position as one of the top cloud computing vendors in the federal market. According to big data analytics firm Govini, IBM has pocketed nearly $3 billion in cloud-based federal revenue since 2012, more than any other company.

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