The U.S. Army Research Laboratory opened the Army Cyber-research Analytics Laboratory, or ACAL, on July 17. The facility is unlike any other lab: 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 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.”