Category: Open Systems Architectures

This blog post was co-authored by Carol Sledge.

To deliver enhanced, integrated warfighting capability at lower cost, the DoD must move away from stove-piped solutions and embrace open systems architecture (OSA) approaches that integrate business and technical practices to create systems with interoperable and reusable components. In November, the SEI launched a series of blog posts that highlight the perspectives of DoD stakeholders--including contractor and government employees--on OSA-based approaches and how they can best be integrated in DoD software (and hardware) development. The first post in this series highlighted our discussion with David Sharp, a senior technical fellow at The Boeing Company and an expert in software architecture for embedded systems and systems of systems. This post highlights a discussion with Nickolas H. Guertin, in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation.

Guertin has a long history with open systems, both for U.S. Navy OSA initiatives and broader DoD initiatives. Based on his experiences over the past several decades, he discussed with the SEI how OSA offers developers the ability to create more resilient and adaptable systems. He noted that Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, in his Better Buying Power 3.0, highlights how the acquisition community can address that demand signal. Together, they have established that we are behind in technology innovation and need to use OSA as a method to bridge that divide. This new direction is helping the DoD introduce new technologies more quickly and less expensively to the warfighter. Throughout this post, we will present excerpts from our conversation (Editor's note: These excerpts have been edited to improve readability).

At an open architecture summit in November 2014, Katrina G. McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition said that 75 percent of all Defense Department acquisition strategies implement open systems architecture across all services and agencies. "This department is seriously engaged in trying to understand how to help our program managers and our department and our industry look at open architecture and its benefits," McFarland said, "and understand truly what our objectives are related to intellectual property and making sure that we're doing it based on the best interest of national security relative to a business case." Open systems architecture (OSA) integrates business and technical practices to create systems with interoperable and reusable components. OSA offers outstanding potential for creating resilient and adaptable systems and is therefore a priority for the DoD. The challenges with OSA, however, make it one of the most ambitious endeavors in software architecture today. A group of researchers at the SEI recently held an informal roundtable with David Sharp, a senior technical fellow at The Boeing Company and an expert in software architecture for embedded systems and systems of systems, to discuss OSA-based approaches and how best to help the DoD achieve them. This blog post presents highlights of the discussion with Sharp on OSA approaches and how they can best be integrated in DoD system development.

Many systems and platforms, from unmanned aerial vehicles to minivans and smartphones, are realizing the promise of Open Systems Architecture (OSA). A core tenet of OSA is the broad availability of standards and designs, the sharing of information between developers, and in some cases downloadable tool kits. In return for openness, a broader community of potential developers and applications emerges, which in turn increases adoption and use. Consequently, there is a trade-off. Openness is a two way street, allowing devious opportunities for cyber intrusion and attack and less-than-ideal code to enter the system (because of the mechanisms of OSA). This blog post briefly examines the potentials, good and bad, of OSA and reviews four best practices for open source ecosystems.

By Donald Firesmith
Principal Engineer
Software Solutions Division

Due to advances in hardware and software technologies, Department of Defense (DoD) systems today are highly capable and complex. However, they also face increasing scale, computation, and security challenges. Compounding these challenges, DoD systems were historically designed using stove-piped architectures that lock the Government into a small number of system integrators, each devising proprietary point solutions that are expensive to develop and sustain over the lifecycle. Although these stove-piped solutions have been problematic (and unsustainable) for years, the budget cuts occurring under sequestration are motivating the DoD to reinvigorate its focus on identifying alternative means to drive down costs, create more affordable acquisition choices, and improve acquisition program performance. A promising approach to meet these goals is Open Systems Architecture (OSA), which combines

This blog posting expands on earlier coverage of how acquisition professionals and system integrators can apply OSA practices to effectively decompose large monolithic business and technical architectures into manageable and modular solutions that can integrate innovation more rapidly and lower total ownership costs.

In an era of sequestration and austerity, the federal government is seeking software reuse strategies that will allow them to move away from stove-piped development toward open, reusable architectures. The government is also motivated to explore reusable architectures for purposes beyond fiscal constraints: to leverage existing technology, curtail wasted effort, and increase capabilities rather than reinventing them. An open architecture in a software system adopts open standards that support a modular, loosely coupled, and highly cohesive system structure that includes the publication of key interfaces within the system and full design disclosure.

To view a video of the introduction, please click here.
The Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative is a concerted effort by the United States Department of Defense to achieve greater efficiencies in the development, sustainment, and recompetition of major defense acquisition programs through cost control, elimination of unproductive processes and bureaucracy, and promotion of open competition. This SEI blog posting describes how the Navy is operationalizing Better Buying Power in the context of their Open Systems Architecture and Business Innovation initiatives.