Military getting massive imagery library

NIMA will provide one of the largest archives of digital imagery in the world

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency by September will provide military installations with a massive, modernized imagery library, one of the largest archives of digital imagery in the world.

NIMA provides the Defense Department and intelligence agencies with imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information in support of national security. Since July, the agency has been incrementally fielding a massive digital library of imagery that will dramatically decrease the time it takes to get critical data to those who need it.

The National Information Library (NIL) already is becoming one of the largest archives of digital imagery in the world, according to NIMA officials.

The library eventually will store five years' worth of digital imagery and archive 25 million images requiring 6,600 terabytes of storage. The NIL is part of the NIMA library family that includes the Command Information Libraries and Image Product Libraries.

The Command Information Libraries are smaller sets of the hardware used for the NIL and provide storage and retrieval of imagery to the military commands. The smallest members of the library family, Image Product Libraries, provide seamless ordering, access, storage and dissemination of imagery to the lowest echelons in the individual military services' command, control, communications, computers and intelligence architectures. Image Product Libraries already are installed throughout the world.

"The NIL is the centerpiece of [this network] and has a tremendous capacity to support its customers," said Joe Stooks, NIL program manager at NIMA. "It can ingest five terabytes of data per day and handle 80,000 queries each day responding in 15 to 20 seconds."

Satellites around the world feed multiple terabytes of data into the database, and as soon as one server is updated, all servers around the world are updated. The NIL is made up almost entirely 95 percent of commercial technologies and was designed in a way to always remain technologically current, Stooks said.

"The systems were created and integrated to accommodate emerging technologies," Stooks said. "What was the best technology six months ago, may not be the best today."

BAE Systems, the prime contractor, is building the database using Geodetic DataBlade, a unique technology produced by Informix Corp.

Most geospatial search and manipulation engines use flat-plane geometry and approximate the round surface of the Earth by projecting the surface onto flat planes, a process that introduces distortions, according to Informix. The Geodetic DataBlade, however, treats the Earth as a globe with no edges and no distortions, the company says.

"We expect that when this is completely deployed, it will be accessible to hundreds of thousands of users," said Dick Martin, vice president of Informix's federal division. "If this doesn't work right I don't think I'm stretching this at all the ability to do what our intelligence community does for this country is affected. This system is really critical to our national defense."

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