Speed, power and the vision to match
John Collier keeps his eyes on the future of technology as he builds systems for today.
- By David Hubler
- Aug 10, 2009
For most of the six years John Collier has been a systems engineer at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., he has led a project team on the Integrated Overhead Persistent InfraRed Tasking, Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination System program.
The system is considered the world’s most advanced data production network and is under development for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
“The whole goal is to provide high-speed and high-reliability, high-performance computing for the government,” Collier said.
The program is designed to create a uniform infrastructure to process intelligence from overhead sensors, which include satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft and other imaging technology.
It will replace the existing system of stovepipes, each of which can process data from a single sensor, said Kevin Sweere, professional staff member at Riverside Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio, who has known Collier for about five years.
“We had to build a super, incredible infrastructure that can support current and also future generations of sensors’ data,” Sweere said. “That’s what we did, and it was huge. It was revolutionary, not evolutionary.”
Sweere said he’d known Collier before, but he came to appreciate Collier's talents beginning in 2005, when they worked together on the NASIC infrastructure contract.
“John’s role was infrastructure, not facilities but almost solely networks,” Sweere said. Collier specified infrastructure requirements and designed, developed and deployed the systems.
“The challenge was to build a system with specification requirements that really had never been done before either in the commercial world or definitely in the government world," he said.
The system had to handle large data files and many different data types.
Phase 1 is completed and has been turned over to the government, Collier said. The next steps include expansion and refinement “to meet more challenges the government is providing for us.”
Sweere said Collier showed remarkable vision. He was not content to simply adapt current technology and existing products.
Collier “actually looked ahead in time [at] what’s the new technology out there," Sweere said. "What’s the efficient way of doing this kind of stuff that’s coming down the pike that we’ll be able to use in 10 years from now?”
“We deliberately set out to push the envelope,” Collier said. “We’ve integrated a lot of new technologies for the government that this facility has not used in the past — 10 gigabit networking, VMware — we had the fastest disk array in [NASIC]. We had a lot of firsts in the building.”
Collier “came of age in the supercomputing centers here on base, so he understood the capabilities of what a huge, massive system could do,” Sweere said. “I was very impressed with how he was able to search out problems and fix things.”
All the teams depended on Collier’s hardware, operating systems and data flow “to get their projects to work,” he added.
Collier said he was pleased when he learned Sweere had nominated him for a Rising Star award. “I was very pleased they were pleased at what Ball was doing and I was doing.”
The Dayton, Ohio, native added that everyone involved in the program worked exceptionally hard.
“I am very pleased that the work that we’ve done, and I’ve done, has been appreciated,” he said. “It’s noticed as being different. It’s noticed as being higher quality.”
David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.