SOSA and VPX

EVENT HORIZON BLOG: I've been heavily involved in a standards effort called the Sensor Open Systems Architecture, or SOSA. SOSA is interesting because it’s a government/industry consortium formed with the goal to create a hardware/software standard aimed at making it much easier to integrate and maintain defense sensor systems. As it is a huge undertaking with something like 70 organizations participating and usually upwards to 150 people at each semi-monthly face-to-face, there is a lot to say about SOSA. Today I'll discuss VPX and SOSA, but I’ll be touching on different aspects of SOSA over the coming months as there is far too much to tackle in a single blog post.

For those unfamiliar with it, VPX is a standard for computing, networking, and I/O hardware commonly used in high-performance rugged deployable systems. It’s been around for a little more than 15 years now, and in that time has evolved with a number of associated standards addressing things like various ruggedization and cooling approaches and system management. A major enhancement to VPX was the OpenVPX standard (VITA 65), which I had the honor of acting as co-chair in its initial formation. OpenVPX was started to try and address fundamental incompatibilities between VPX products from different vendors. In the end, while it addressed many of these issues, incompatibilities remained, which continued to make it difficult to build VPX-based systems.

SOSA originally got my attention because it seemed to be tackling the incompatibility problems inherent in VPX/OpenVPX. I was fortunate to have learned about the effort early enough to join the consortium and to play a role in defining much of the hardware portions of the standard including slot and module definitions and related rule-making. In later blog posts I’ll look at some of those slot and module decisions and dissect why they were chosen and how they work to make system integration and upgrades much easier.

SOSA is much more than a hardware standard. It tackles issues with sensor system architectures and computing module interfaces, software tools and middlewares, security, system management, etc. It also and defines standard rugged connectors to make integrating systems into platforms generally easier. Any one of these topics has enough interesting material to fill numerous blog posts.

I’ll try not to make this a SOSA forum by mixing in other topics, but as it’s been so much of my professional life over the last two years it’s hard to avoid talking about it. Besides, I’m very enthusiastic about what we’re doing and I’m convinced that, in the end, it will be a huge benefit to the VPX market.