SAFETY CRITICAL BLOG: Face value

Safety Critical Blog: With our fighting forces asked to do more with less, cost containment has become an imperative for Department of Defense (DoD) program managers and defense contractors, not only for initial procurement, but long-term maintainability and upgradability. Cost containment has become especially critical for software development, which is the primary driver of enhanced avionics functionality.

Leading the charge for cost containment in the realm is the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE), a collaboration of government and industry charged with enhancing interoperability and portability across DoD applications and platforms. By establishing standards for software interfaces, interoperability, and certification, FACE will reduce vendor lock, opening what have historically been sole-sourced solutions from one vendor to interoperable solutions from multiple suppliers. This increased competition not only lowers per-program cost, but makes it easier for program managers to take advantage of best-in-class technology and service. The new standards will also enhance portability and reuse, further reducing cost by making it easier to utilize software components across multiple platforms and programs.

For software suppliers, the challenge is how to deliver a lower price software solution while still achieving a suitable return on investment. In the short term, this may be problematic for large legacy suppliers, who are the greatest beneficiaries of vendor lock. Long term, however, open standards will grow the software pie and increase profitability across the board. Small emerging suppliers will benefit the most, gaining entry into new markets. But all suppliers will benefit from the economies of scale that come with portability and reuse. Now, instead of having to re-invent the wheel and provide a custom point solution for each platform and program, suppliers will be able to offer modular, portable solutions that can be reused across multiple programs and customers. In this way, suppliers will be able to achieve higher sales volumes with a more compact product offering, thereby enabling them to maintain or increase product margins at a lower product cost.

The biggest winner, of course, is the U.S. military, which will see lower per-program cost and faster time to market, while gaining access to the most innovative and advanced technology. With 70 member organizations and more than 750 individual members, the is well on its way to making open software standards a reality for the defense industry. That momentum is already showing up in awarded contracts and requirements for new programs, not to mention supplier product offerings and roadmaps.

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