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Head in the Clouds: Learnings from deploying MAK ONE in the cloud

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Modeling, Simulation & Training systems have been interoperating in local and wide area networks long before there even was an ‘Internet’ - it's safe to say that we’re no strangers to complex information technology (IT) architectures. That said, the commercial world of IT has exploded over the years. We've already taken a deep dive into the pulse of modern IT in our MAK ONE Guide to Virtualization, and we've illustrated how MAK products are designed to play to the advantages of servers, virtualization, and public/private clouds. Today I'd like to share a few learnings from our cloud deployments on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and our private cloud to demonstrate the world of opportunities available with MAK ONE. Our heads are already in the cloud - join us!

MAK ONE in the Cloud demo

It’s our annual tradition at the I/ITSEC trade show in Orlando* to set up a large demonstration consisting of many workstations with lots of computers. It’s the best way to show our customers how MAK products fit together into the kinds of training and experimentation systems that they build. But each year after the show ends and regular life resumes, how do we pack up and take this massive system to our customer’s offices? While we often demonstrate many parts of the MAK ONE suite through our transportable “demo disks”, we don’t usually drag our multi-station demo into our customers’ offices. Instead, we invite customers to visit our six-station training system demonstration online, hosted in a public cloud. See the architecture yourself at mak.com/cloud, and let us know if you want the full demo experience (bells and whistles included).

*With I/ITSEC going virtual this year, it’s a good thing that we put our IITSEC demos in the cloud!

 

In our cloud demo, you'll see that MAK ONE in the Cloud consists of four VR-Engage first-person virtual simulators, an instructor operator station that uses VR-Forces and WebLVC apps to manage the simulation exercise, an after-action review station with the MAK Data Logger and VR-Vantage, an observer station with VR-Vantage Stealth, three additional VR-Forces simulation engines to scale up the number of simulation entities, and the VR-TheWorld Server to provide terrain data. The systems are connected to each other via a local area network hosted in the cloud, using the MAK RTI to support the HLA simulation protocol. Lastly, a MAK RTI Forwarder runs to allow users to connect simulation assets at local facilities to the simulation running in the cloud.

 

MAK ONE EASY

As we’ve followed the Modeling and Simulation industry over the years and its evolving understanding of the viability of cloud architectures, we learned that our customers have become more and more interested in setting up their own on-premises cloud systems. In response, we set out to build one ourselves so we can help our customers find success. MAK ONE EASY is our on-premises cloud in our Cambridge office. It can host up to nine customers at a time who can use and explore our software from their homes or offices. This is the easiest way for customers who are connected to the internet to experience MAK ONE. With the mass migration from corporate and government offices to home offices recently, we’ve found this deployment to be very successful. No one knows what life will be like post-COVID, but right now, the whole industry is experiencing an appetite for the benefits of on-demand, remote access to simulation tools. 

 

The takeaways

Public clouds, on-premises clouds...it’s certainly been a journey and we’ve learned several lessons along the way. Here are my three takeaways from our cloud journey.

1. The momentum is increasing and cloud technology is gaining steam in the most unexpected of places. When we started deploying our cloud demo in 2017, most of our customers told us that they could not use the public cloud in any form. Their sole focus was on virtualization or within a private cloud. Now, we are seeing our government customers emphasizing that cloud is a necessary part of their strategies. “The cloud”, or the technologies that people have been developing to take advantage of the cloud and computing at the “point of need”, is so powerful that to avoid it would put most organizations at a strategic disadvantage. 

2. Once you start using cloud resources, opportunities expand. Who knew that when you start focusing on cloud technology, you start uncovering hidden uses and benefits! For example, when proving that we could simulate one million entities in VR-Forces, we needed to do some serious scalability testing. As you can imagine, it required a lot of computing resources that we didn’t have on hand. We ended up renting machines from Amazon and testing engineering scalability using public data with publicly available cloud resources. This turned out to be a great use of cloud technology that helped us better understand our needs, test out different system configurations, and identify the best hardware to purchase for the long-term. In a separate discovery, we learned that, through the cloud, nightly builds could always be available. MAK Engineers all have high-performance computers at their workstations, but we work in a DevOps environment where our software is built every day. Using an on-premises cloud to make the latest software available to our engineers without them having to install anything has been unexpectedly convenient. The software changes every day... why not have it ready to use from anywhere? 

3. There’s no better time than right now to explore cloud technology. As I mentioned, the momentum toward the cloud is increasing. And because of the current state of the world, many folks who are used to working in high-compute, high-graphics office environments are now working from home where they don’t have the same level of computing capabilities. Yes, the pandemic has opened up a whole new world of challenges, but it’s also illuminated some new opportunities. Just like we developed with our MAK ONE EASY on-premises cloud, we’re seeing more companies take advantage of private and public cloud technologies to help their workforce and their customers navigate remote life. 

 

Ready to get your head in the cloud?

Because of its open, modular, and scalable architecture, the entire MAK ONE suite of products was designed to function in simple or complex distributed environments. Whatever you’re looking to achieve - whether through local implementations on desktops, servers that make resources and applications available to multiple users, virtualization as a way to maximize the use of computer resources, clouds that provide the services needed to manage and operate the servers, or a public cloud that provide access to vast scalability on demand - MAK is here to help you understand and implement whichever simulation architecture makes sense for your organization. 

 

Here are a few ways to continue your Cloud and Virtualization journey:

  • Register for our MAK Live! event in October for a closer look at MAK ONE in the Cloud! I'll go deeper into the lessons I listed above, help you understand the opportunities to use MAK ONE in the cloud, and highlight some of the successes we’ve seen with our customers on their cloud deployment projects. Registration will open soon - stay tuned to mak.com/live!
  • Evaluate our MAK ONE suite of products with MAK ONE EASY, the newest and easiest way to explore our products through a private server hosted in our Cambridge facilities - no downloads or installation required. If you’re interested in evaluating or experiencing the MAK ONE suite of products through the program, let us know at info@mak.com and we’ll get your head in the cloud.
  • Explore the MAK ONE Guide to Virtualization, a detailed look at how MAK products take advantage of the unique characteristics of servers, virtualization, and public/private clouds.
  • Learn how we set up our systems by reading the Running MAK Products on Virtual Machines document, a step-by-step documentation guide.

 

We’re excited to lead the charge to the cloud to help our customers learn more about deploying to different architectures and make the best decisions for their business. Here’s to keeping our heads in the cloud!

 

 

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