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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

IBM hires Army vet with an eye to next-gen logistics

Companies invest in growing their capabilities in a variety of ways. They often make acquisitions that either augment current skills or bring a new portfolio on board. They also spend internal resources on research and development efforts.

A third tool at their disposal is strategic hires, the addition of specific people with valuable skills and expertise.

That’s what IBM has done with the hiring of recently retired Army Col. John Kuenzli, who has nearly three decades of expertise in logistics. He retired Aug. 1 and began working for IBM on Aug. 12.

He was an IBM customer when he ran the Army’s Logistics Support Activity, which Big Blue has supported since 2012. The most recent win for IBM regarding that project came in 2017, where the company was tasked to introduce cloud computing capabilities under a managed services agreement.

Kuenzli is restricted from working on the current LOGSA contract. But he can work on the recompete as well as other Army opportunities. The only other restriction placed on him is the Army Predictive Maintenance prototype that is being competed as an Other Transaction Authority.

“I was the requirement writer on that and took it part of the way through the acquisition process before I retired,” he said.

Kuenzil can’t work on that specific requirement That aside, IBM is bringing him on for his expertise on power predictive analytics and how the use of that could both lower risks to the mission and to soldiers on the battlefield by reducing untimely breakdowns.

“I believe the Army has the data to show all kinds of trends and to make predictions if we put the right analytical tools to bear,” he said.

During his career, Kuenzli has seen a sea change in the logistics world from separate stove-piped systems for things such as ammunition, equipment and personnel tracking to integrated data bases.

“Logistics has been around since the beginning, whether it was Napoleon’s army foraging across Europe or today were we are moving equipment across oceans,” he said. “Leaders know that data-based decisions are better decisions.”

With LOGSA, Kuenzli had the opportunity to work with multiple data bases behind the Army’s myriad logistics systems and start to integrate it into a single data center.

“We created a logistics data center with two petabytes of data and over 100 applications,” he said.

IBM made that data available to 70,000 users globally and they had access to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“From that warehouse, we could see the Army logistics readiness of tanks, helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles and whether it was broken or ready for operations,” he said. “It was an incredible experience and expanded my eyes.”

And what comes next, such as predictive analytics, will have even more impact, he said.

“The LOGSA experience taught me to think big and think strategic,” Kuenzli said. “We went from data centers to the cloud, and connecting data and applications in a secure, containerized ways is the direction all things are going and where the Army needs to go with its data and IT.”

The containerization of data allows users greater access and security. “Previously, you had to have the application on your computer or laptop and own all the data,” he said. “But that isn’t true with the way computing is going.”

He used the example of music streaming, where you don’t have to own the songs or have them on your device to listen to them.

“That is a very simple example of what we can do to a much larger magnitude in the Army,” he said.

With containerization, a user with access to the cloud can access the applications and data that isn’t resident on their computer and find and analyze the data they need.

Kuenzli said that the Army is moving cautiously and with an eye on cybersecurity concerns. “But containerization will enable the necessary access without compromising security,” he said.

Industry plays an important role in moving the Army and the rest of the government forward.

“I see the struggles the Army has to move forward,” he said. “They need to find strategic IT partners, plural, that can come in and work with a long view. Industry need to show a clear path – not an easy path -- that is the way forward.”

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 22, 2019 at 2:06 PM

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