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I/ITSEC 2016: Open architectures in, proprietary out

30th November 2016 - 22:00 by Grant Turnbull in Orlando

I/ITSEC 2016: Open architectures in, proprietary out

Open architecture is a key buzzword permeating any new acquisition strategy outlined by a defence department, particularly when it comes to the ‘plug-and-play’ approach for new sub-systems and decreasing costs that are associated with integration and sustainment.

It’s no different for the training and simulation community.

At this year’s I/ITSEC the military has once again expressed their desire to go to a common and open architecture that is not limited by proprietary software. Much like sub-systems on real platforms, costs come down, while the speed at which systems can be upgraded to meet emerging threats is much quicker.

Proprietary is the word that strikes fear into defence officials and is being avoided at all cost.

‘As soon as you say “proprietary”, I’m not listening anymore,’ said Col Tim Domke, the program manager for training devices (PM TRADE) at PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (STRI). ‘I need to have common software so I can use it across different systems.’

One of the initiatives from PM TRADE will be to adopt a universal approach to the Common Driver Trainer, a reconfigurable system that consists of a simulated driver cab, motion system and visual displays.

‘What we are looking at here with the common driver trainer is that 80% of the system should be the same across all the different platforms, whether it is the motion sensors or software. The differences will be with the shell, whether it is a M1, JLTV or MRAP.’

The US Air Force, for instance, has simulators that despite being made for one type of aircraft, are manufactured by different contractors, meaning standards are different across the board. The F-16 alone has eight simulator variants, while the C-17 has 11 configurations.

‘Every time we have a new threat it requires an update, we have to go in and get on contract with each of the OEMs or contractors, then we have to break into the software, break into their proprietary architecture to make one update,’ said Lynda Rutledge, PEO and Director for the Agile Combat Support Directorate.

‘We cannot sustain it, we don’t have the people and we don’t have the money,’ said Rutledge.

To address future threats such as cyber, the US Air Force is moving forward with an initiative it is calling Simulator Common Architecture and Standards (SCARS) that will address this. Initial work will see the air force look at industry-informed interfaces and architectures.

After, the service will identify initial systems for re-architecture, which Rutledge admitted will be an expensive process costing around $500 million. These initial systems could be ones that need to be replaced because of obsolescence, or they have been prioritised because of information that needs to be secure on those specific systems.  

The architecture will then get an RFP-ready specification. ‘If we don’t mandate it and we leave it to industry or users to put in a requirements document, it won’t happen.’

At the same time, it’s important that too many standards are not ‘locked in’ and instead promote openness and creativity, with Rutledge saying the end goal would be to have something comparable to Android or IoS, where app developers use a common operating system.

For more from I/ITSEC 2016, see our dedicated news page

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