FACE conformance becoming a necessity

The U.S Air Force hosted the FACE and SOSA Expo and Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) event in Dayton, Ohio during September 2019 to see the progress being made in both the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and the Sensor Open System Architecture (SOSA) consortia, which are managed by The Open Group. The roundtable below consists of members of the FACE Consortium who exhibited at the TIM. The panelists discuss the growth of the FACE Registry of conformant products, made on the aerospace market, how FACE 3.0 supports running multi-threaded applications across multiple cores; and proving the extensibility of FACE to the connected battlefield.

This month’s panelists are Richard Jaenicke, director, Marketing, Safety and Security-Critical Products, Green Hills Software; Raymond Petty, vice president, Global Aerospace & Defense, Wind River; Chip Downing, senior market development director, Aerospace & Defense, RTI; and Roy Keeler, senior product and business development manager, Aerospace & Defense, ADLINK Technology.

MILITARY EMBEDDED SYSTEMS: The FACE/SOSA Expo and TIM was held in September in Dayton, Ohio, near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. What trends supporting the FACE initiative did you see emerging at the event?

JAENICKE: I see two trends. First, the momentum for FACE and SOSA technical standards is accelerating. Second, I see the avionics community embracing multiprocessing solutions for safety-critical systems. The FACE Technical Standard edition 3.0 requires that operating systems support running multithreaded applications across multiple cores. Running on multiple cores provides the flexibility needed to realize the performance and SWaP [size, weight, and power] benefits of avionics applications on multicore processors. Avionics integrators still need to be careful in the selection of a FACE-conformant operating system, though, because simple support of multithreaded applications does not mean it is supported for a high design assurance level (DAL), such as DAL A, B, or C.

PETTY: Reinforcement that FACE solutions are becoming a reality and conformance is becoming a necessity was heard loud and clear. This is especially the case for the Army and Navy, whereas the Air Force seems less “all-in” and still utilizing OMS [Open Mission Systems].  Compared to last year’s event in Huntsville, this year seemed like a dramatic leap in terms of the amount of demonstrations and real-world solutions – confirming that FACE/SOSA were no longer just an academic exercise. From an operating system perspective, the changes in the FACE Standard from v2.1.1 and v3.0 by way of pointing to ARINC 653 standard updates, requires more in terms of multicore design, which results in an advantage for solutions that have received FACE v3.0 conformance.

DOWNING: A significant trend I saw [regarding FACE] emerging at this year’s event was the expansion of the FACE conformant products library. ADLINK, Collins Aerospace, DDC-I, Dornerworks, Green Hills, Harris, Honeywell, Raytheon, Real-Time Innovations (RTI), Skayl, Textron, and Wind River now have FACE-certified conformant products in the FACE Registry. It was quite gratifying to walk around the FACE and SOSA Expo and TIM and see the large number of FACE products ready for deployment.

KEELER: I see increased interest from companies outside the traditional VME/VPX supply chain who are investigating how FACE/SOSA can be applied to different form factors and how these products might fit into the FACE/SOSA ecosystem. 

MILITARY EMBEDDED SYSTEMS: Why is FACE so important to the military end user, the prime contractors, and the embedded hardware and software providers?

JAENICKE: The value to the military end user is new capabilities fielded much faster because of the modularity, portability, and reuse enabled by the FACE Technical Standard. Prime contractors benefit as well from the modularity and reuse because a single component can now be used on multiple platforms instead of needing a new design for each platform. The modularity enables rapid insertion, speeding the time to production and time to money. Embedded hardware and software suppliers benefit from the more explicit definition of what programs want when they specify the FACE Technical Standard as well as the broadening market for COTS [commercial off-the-shelf) solutions when programs require adherence to modular open standards approaches in general.

PETTY:It is important to the military because it promotes development of software components that are portable across systems, which helps them avoid vendor lock-in; and the military is messaging compliance to open standards if you want to do future business with them. It does therefore promote healthy “co-opetition” where competitors are cooperating in providing inputs into the standards, sharing lessons learned, and working with each other on reference implementations. The existence of FACE also incentivizes participation because the nature of the beast is that if you don’t have a seat at the table, your competitors are going to make sure their products meet the standards without regard for whether or not your products do.

DOWNING: The FACE Technical Standard and business approach simply make military end users, prime contractors, and embedded hardware and software providers more efficient.

Military end users can now rapidly search, procure, and install proven COTS products into their next-generation systems faster than legacy systems, and with far lower cost and risk. Systems integrators can now create very advanced and competitive systems with compressed time frames and a proven supply chain with proven product interfaces. Embedded hardware and software providers can now crisply invest in technologies that have a well-defined marketplace and standardized capabilities

KEELER: Ever since Secretary of Defense William Perry issued the 1994 directive – to use COTS products wherever and whenever possible – the government and industry have strived to arrive a true open architecture framework for military systems. FACE and SOSA will take the industry a long way towards the objective of creating an ecosystem of interoperable hardware and software subsystems that should help reduce system lifecycle costs, provide greater cooperation between technology vendors and the U.S. defense community.

MILITARY EMBEDDED SYSTEMS: Twenty FACE-certified conformant products supplied by twelve suppliers are now in the FACE Registry, and FACE requirements are now new military avionics contracts. What is the next design challenge/hurdle for FACE members to overcome?

JAENICKE: The biggest challenge confronting the FACE Consortium is working with other Modular Open System Approaches (MOSA) such as OMS and VICTORY. Progress is being made. The first joint session between the FACE operating system segment team and the SOSA software working group occurred at face-to-face consortia meetings that directly followed [this event]. That collaboration is expected to continue on a regular basis. An example of a standards collaboration that is almost complete is between the FACE Consortium and the Software Communications Architecture (SCA), where both standards are adapting to accommodate the other. Support for a few additional APIs critical to the SCA community was added to the FACE POSIX profiles, and the changes to the FACE Technical Standard are expected in edition 3.1. Likewise, SCA will recommend avoiding certain APIs to improve alignment further. That each organization was willing to make changes to accommodate the other bodes well for the future of standards collaboration.

PETTY: One primary challenge is proving the extensibility to the increasingly connected battlefield. The “A” in FACE is for “Airborne,” but FACE might soon extend into other domains like ground stations, unmanned vehicles, and any number of other things. The FACE Consortium would also like to expand into Europe and has started ensuring no export-controlled discussions take place at meetings; however, it has now been close to a year since there has been a request to the USG to change policies, and there has been no indication that a response will be forthcoming. 

DOWNING: Well, first we need to continue to expand the number of FACE-certified conformant products in the FACE Registry. To prove the viability of the FACE Technical Standard and business approach, we need to get the number of certified conformant products to well over a couple of hundred registry entries. I am confident that the FACE supplier ecosystem will get to the 200+ number in the FACE Registry, but it will take bit more time – this is a well-structured, methodical process that simply takes time to achieve. The next big thing in FACE (and SOSA) will be airworthiness and security certification. These capabilities are referenced in the FACE Technical Standard but are not hard FACE system requirements. 

KEELER: One of the next challenges is how to expand FACE and SOSA beyond the domestic U.S. market. There is increased interest from the EU and NATO member countries in applying the benefits of the standards to domestic programs. How do we protect the security interests of the U.S. defense industry while enabling our foreign partners to participate in the consortium?