New Technologies Send Data Sailing Across the Cloud

September 2019
Topics: Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Government Agency Operations
Businesses and government organizations are transferring their data to the cloud to achieve cost savings and capability advantages. Two new MITRE patents show promise to help federal agencies advance their missions once the agencies’ data is in the cloud.
Man looking at code on a computer screen

Cloud computing has become a game changer worldwide. And it's obvious why: It connects vast numbers of servers over the internet rather than using servers at an organization's physical location, making IT resources more efficient and accessible. For many years, MITRE has assisted our sponsors in choosing the best way to move to the cloud, securely.

But we also realized that federal agencies and the intelligence community might want to do more than just move to the cloud—they might want to move across the cloud.

Why? "So that our sponsors can move their data and analytics within and across competing cloud platforms to leverage their respective commercial capabilities and technologies," says Angela O'Hanlon, who focuses on industry partnerships for MITRE's National Security Engineering Center.

So, two years ago, lead inventor and chief architect Joseph Jubinski assembled a team of MITRE colleagues—Nathan Giles, Ransom Winder, and O'Hanlon. Their quest: come up with technology solutions that would enable our sponsors to move data and information within sub-platforms of a cloud environment—even across competing clouds—without data loss or security concerns.

The team's quest came to fruition in July, when the U.S. Patent Office issued two patents: "Cross-cloud Orchestration of Data Analytics for a Plurality of Research Domains" and "Cross-cloud Orchestration of Data Analytics."

We're now letting our sponsors and industry know that these technologies are available from MITRE, as part of our mission to solve problems for a safer nation and world.

Patent inventors (left to right): Joe Jubinski, Ransom Winder, Angela O'Hanlon, and Nathan Giles.

Taking the Analytics "Where They Stand"

The team had worked together on similar projects over the past decade, including a workflow architecture or framework for "orchestrating" analytics for insertion into a knowledge base called MOSAIC.

"With MOSAIC, the challenge was how to integrate analytics into a data analytics framework and make it all work within three months," Jubinski recalls. "Traditional frameworks were not an option due to the lack of legacy code and developers who could integrate a new framework that quickly."

After receiving the MOSAIC assignment late on a Friday, Jubinski put the challenge aside for the weekend. He attended a holiday party, where he was introduced to a minister of a non-denominational church.

"I said that it must be hard to bring in people from different religious backgrounds. He responded, 'It's very easy if you don't try to recast them. You just take them where they stand.'"

That phrase stuck with Jubinski, who was the lead inventor and architect on both the MOSAIC and the cloud projects. "For developers, the idea of 'taking the analytics where they stand' and loosely coupling instead of tightly integrating them is not a natural way of doing things," he says.

But the idea offered the team a way forward on both projects. In the case of the cloud data technologies, it sidestepped the need to create specific software or analytics that might work in one cloud but not in another.

"Our solutions enable the user to 'orchestrate' analytics so that they work together in concert," Jubinski says. "The user makes a request, such as to move data or track it, and then the cloud provider uses its own tools to carry out the request."

Winder and Giles helped fine-tune the orchestration of the analytics to make the data moving and tracking technologies work, with O'Hanlon serving as technical leader.

"Ideas don't always come from sitting in an office," says Jubinski, looking back. "Sometimes they come from the weirdest places."

A Benefit for Our Sponsors—and Others

The group also used the resources of one of MITRE's largest research and development labs, ATS Lab, which O'Hanlon directs. ATS Lab provides a testing environment centered on analysis and big data. The team's entire effort was funded by MITRE's independent research and development program.

"Rather than wait for one of our sponsors to fund this project, we saw a need to work on these technologies ourselves. We understood the value proposition and benefit to so many of our sponsors," O'Hanlon says.

In their work and testing, the team used government analytics and analysis data available to MITRE because of our unique role as an objective adviser to government and trusted steward of its data.

Tracking Data to Maintain Its Integrity

The first patented technology enables a user to move their data from one cloud environment to another. "For example, we could move data from the AWS Cloud to the IBM Cloud," O'Hanlon says.

The second patent enables users to track the data as it moves. Why is that important? "Data is valuable," Winder says. "And knowing where data has been is also valuable. We like to track the life of data and understand its history, so that we are confident in its integrity."

Adds O'Hanlon, "Early on, we saw great promise in the utility of these technologies and in patenting these cloud-based solutions."

Solving a Challenge for Government and Industry

Associate General Counsel and MITRE’s Chief Intellectual Property Counsel TTom Gellenthien guided the team in filing its applications. Unlike many patent applications, each one was more than 30 pages long.

Were these patents out of the ordinary? "They were out of the ordinary in the sense that they're such unique, technical pieces," Gellenthien says. "But not out of the ordinary for MITRE. That's who we are. That's why I like working at MITRE. We do fascinating technology."

"On the order of complexity, this was not building a better mousetrap," he adds. "This was something new. These were very involved concepts, as reflected in the figures and the details called out in the applications.

"The fundamental concept of being able to cross cloud platforms and still be able to work is a great idea. There's a need for that, and this was a big challenge for both government and industry, which we were able to solve. "

For information about the transfer or licensing of one or both technologies, please contact MITRE’s Technology Transfer Office

—by Jim Chido

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