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Software Architectures and Acquisition

This collection documents SEI architecture-based collaborations that promote an architecture-centric software development approach in an acquisition context.

Software Engineering Institute


A major responsibility of DoD acquisition programs is to perform technical oversight and technical monitoring of the systems it acquires during the contract performance phase. Although these system acquisitions are highly software intensive, software considerations often take a back seat to system considerations due to

  • limited resources of the acquisition organization
  • policies that emphasize a systems acquisition and system engineering focus
  • software reviews that are often reactive or perfunctory in nature
  • a lack of proven methods for evaluating software qualities early in the early software development cycle

Since the quality and longevity of a software intensive system is largely determined by its architecture, there is a growing recognition that the DoD acquisition community can realize significant benefits by adopting an architecture-centric software acquisition approach. Architecture-centric development involves iteratively

  • understanding the mission drivers and creating the business case for the system
  • understanding the stakeholder requirements
  • creating or selecting the software architecture
  • documenting and communicating the software architecture
  • analyzing or evaluating the software architecture
  • implementing the system based on the software architecture
  • ensuring that the implementation conforms to the software architecture

The importance of focusing on the software architecture is that it embodies the earliest set of design decisions about a system. These design decisions

  • are the most profound
  • are the hardest to get right
  • are most difficult to change
  • drive the entire software development effort
  • are most costly to fix downstream
  • are critical to achieving mission/business goals

Software architectures that are poorly designed result in greatly inflated development and integration and testing costs and an inability to sustain systems in a timely and affordable manner. As a result, the earlier the acquisition organization can evaluate the architecture as to its ability to achieve the desired system qualities (e.g., performance, security, availability, interoperability, modifiability, openness, and so forth) the better.

To support the DoD, the SEI has collaborated with DoD acquisition organizations and their contractors in transitioning and applying some of the architecture-centric techniques and methods developed under at the SEI in actual systems acquisitions. The overarching goal is to reduce software acquisition risk.

A number of the architecture-based collaborations have been documented in technical reports and technical notes that are relevant to or address some aspect of promoting an architecture-centric software development approach in an acquisition context.

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