Open Architectures Are Real – Sally Bixby Discusses Some Exciting Demonstrations from the Recent TSOA-ID Expo

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 100th Fighter Wing, Maxwell Air Force Base.

One of the major initiatives across all services and organizations within the U.S. military has been a push toward open systems and architectures. Ultimately, by embracing open standards across future and legacy military platforms and weapons systems, the military is looking to make it easier and cheaper to upgrade and add new, cutting-edge capabilities to these systems. They’re also hoping that open systems can decrease the reliance on OEMs for system maintenance and upgrades, increasing competition and decreasing the lifetime cost of systems for the military.

Since the directive to embrace open systems, industry partners have worked tirelessly to meet this new open-architecture requirement. Now, approximately a half-decade later, their efforts are beginning to bear fruit, and military and industry leaders are increasingly coming together to discuss their progress and demonstrate a new generation of open solutions and capabilities.

After two years of collaborating remotely, the open standards community was able to gather at the TSOA-ID Technical Interchange Meeting and Expo, which featured a number of presentations from military decision-makers and thought leaders. It also showcased a number of exciting open architecture demonstrations from industry partners that are making incredible headway towards introducing a new generation of open systems for the military.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sally Bixby, the chair of The Open Group FACE Enterprise Architecture Standing Committee and organizer of the TSOA-ID event, to learn more about why open standards are so important to today’s military, and what exciting things were demonstrated during the event.

Open Systems Architecture
Sally L. Bixby, Precise Systems, in support of NAVAIR PMA-209 Avionics Architecture Team, The Open Group FACE™ Consortium Enterprise Architecture Chair, and Project Management Analyst for Future Plans/Business Development

The Modern Battlespace (TMB): In late March, you helped organize the first in-person TSOA-ID Technical Interchange Meeting and Expo in quite a while. Can you tell our readers a bit about this event? Who attended and what topics were covered?

Sally Bixby: TSOA-ID 2022, the Tri-Service Open Architecture Interoperability Demonstration TIM and Expo, was a focused, single-day technical gathering for the growing open-architecture-market ecosystem.

There were nearly 600 registrants from government, industry, and academia. The theme, “Open Standards – Bringing It All Together,” was apparent throughout with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (OUSD) leadership delivering talks on the importance of MOSA efforts from the perspective of senior Pentagon officials.

TMB: There has been a massive push in the military to embrace open systems and open architectures. What is the driving force behind this? Why is the military so adamant about embracing open systems?

Sally Bixby: Brigadier General Rob Barrie, the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer for Aviation, went straight to the heart of it in his keynote at TSOA-ID 2022. During his speech, General Barrie explained that our military is at a unique inflection point, with a mandate for rapid capabilities to pace threat evolution.

We must accelerate program execution at the speed of technology and face the tough challenge of critical modernization in a fiscally constrained environment. That challenge can be resolved through continued joint collaboration efforts with representative commands from branches of the U.S. Armed Services and industry.

“From my viewpoint, one aspect to more rapidly advance open systems would be a knowledge transfer for program managers to witness the most recent advancements.” – Sally Bixby

What we do know is that open systems are of tremendous value and benefit on both sides of development and implementation.  With the National Defense Authorization Acts FY2017 and FY2021, and the flow down of MOSA Policy and Guidance in the services, it’s vital that the military and its industry partners continue to intentionally plan and address all the defined principles of MOSA.

It’s essential to the collective path forward for success and longevity, and for enabling continuous integration and delivery of new system capabilities.

TMB: Where are we in the adoption of open systems in defense and aerospace platforms? Is this a reality today or is there a lot of work that still needs to be done to make open systems and open architectures a reality?

Sally Bixby: From the news I’ve been tracking, it is absolutely a reality. At the same time, there is a lot of work ahead on several fronts. The good news is, of course, that open architecture, open standards, and MOSA are becoming more widely utilized as new programs come forward.

In General Barrie’s presentation deck, he talks about the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, which is a family of military helicopters for the U.S. Armed Forces. There are five different-sized aircraft being developed, and they all share common hardware such as sensors, avionics, engines, and countermeasures.

I understand that there were some hands-on demonstrations of open systems at the TSOA-ID event. Can you tell our readers a bit about those? What was demonstrated, and how will these demonstrations help further the adoption of open systems?

Sally Bixby: There were more than 40 exhibiting organizations, so I can’t cover all of them in detail. But I’ll talk about a few that were of particular interest in my opinion.

Let’s start with how the Tri-Services collaborative efforts were demonstrated. That demo fused the most relevant open architecture capabilities from the Air Force, Army, and Navy and ran it on a Sensor Open Systems Architecture™ (SOSA)-compliant, ruggedized hardware chassis from industry partners.

Demonstrations included how SOSA hardware can be integrated seamlessly with REDHAWK/TOA, MORA, OMS, FACE™, VICTORY, CMOSS, HOST, and VITA 49.2, CTEN, and AI/ML.

“We must accelerate program execution at the speed of technology and face the tough challenge of critical modernization in a fiscally constrained environment. That challenge can be resolved through continued joint collaboration efforts with representative commands from branches of the U.S. Armed Services and industry.” – Sally Bixby

Curtiss-Wright set up a lab environment demonstrating a broad range of rugged MOSA solutions using open standards-based rugged hardware and software. They showcased interoperability for high-performance processing, tactical battlefield communications, networking, and secure data storage. And Mercury showed the latest OpenVPN and SOSA-aligned computers, transceivers, and converters built with modular technology designed to maximize performance in space-constrained environments.

Those were just a few of the many incredibly impressive live demonstrations.

TMB: In your opinion, what still needs to be done? Or what could private industry and military be doing better to more rapidly advance open systems?

Sally Bixby: From my viewpoint, one aspect to more rapidly advance open systems would be a knowledge transfer for program managers to witness the most recent advancements.

The community needs to seize on as many upcoming opportunities as possible to demonstrate the latest achievements, benefits, and the value of embracing new architectures from MOSA.

TMB: I understand that there is another open standards-focused event – the FACE and SOSA Consortia Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) and Exposition – coming up in September. Is it too early to get a sneak peek into what’s planned for that event?

Sally Bixby: That event, managed by The Open Group FACE and SOSA Consortia, is slated for Tuesday, September 27, 2022, and will see FACE- and SOSA-member companies and participating services give product demonstrations in parallel with TIM technical paper presentations.

I highly recommend keeping watch on The Open Group FACE Consortium website and The Open Group SOSA Consortium website. It is a joint effort between those Consortia to bring together such an important event in Dayton, OH, for the rapidly expanding open standards ecosystem.

To learn more about open systems in the DoD, click HERE to download a complimentary copy of the Whitepaper, “Defining an Open Systems Approach for the Defense Community.”

Featured image by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Charles Wesley. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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A communications and marketing expert with more than a decade of experience. Ryan has edited and contributed to multiple popular online trade publications focused on security, satellite, unified communications and network infrastructure. He serves as the executive editor for The Modern Battlespace and the GovHub family of publications. In addition, he serves as the executive editor of the Government Satellite Report and the Data Centers Today online publications.