Only Partial Success in Building and Using a Common Infrastructure
The DOD interoperability strategy rests in part on the
use of a common infrastructure, the Defense Information Infrastructure (DII;
1.3 in Chapter 1 for a description of some major common infrastructure programs), including a common software base, the Common Operating Environment (COE). In general, there has been insufficient migration toward the use of common infrastructure. Despite the commitment in policy toward use of a common infrastructure, there is still a proliferation of "stovepipe" systems.
Also, there is insufficient use of commercial products in the common infrastructure. Successful implementation of the DII-COE initiative requires attention to which functions should be DOD-developed and which should be taken from commercially available software. Also, the common infrastructure strategy requires careful attention to which operating system platforms the DII-COE will support. The common functions of DII-COE are implemented in a layer of software that is built upon an underlying operating system. The DII-COE must have a strategy for how it will manage multiple operating systems and evolve with the market for operating systems. The underlying operating systems should be COTS technology for a variety of reasons. These include the benefits of development investments based on a market much larger than DOD, testing by a larger community of users than DOD, maintenance costs that are borne by a larger base than DOD, functionality whose value is determined by the marketplace, and, most importantly, robust and creative COTS middleware and applications that are developed for high-volume platforms.
The committee observed that C4I systems today use a combination of UNIX and Windows operating systems. These represent the current choices for COTS operating systems. The DOD, like private industry, must monitor the market for these products, influence its direction, and respond to changes in its direction. For example, at present Windows enjoys the dominant share of the desktop, and a substantial and potentially growing share of servers. This market share, combined with other forces, attracts developers of middleware and applications that are of great potential value to DOD in C4I applications. A simple, but important, example that the committee observed in its field trips was the large number of office software suites for word processing and presentation graphics being used as part of the command and control process and providing important information flows.
The commercial sector, like DOD, must attempt to forecast and monitor industry efforts to replace the dominant product in the information technology marketplace, and adjust its COTS strategy accordingly. Examples of such attacks in the marketplace for application platforms include the Network Computer and Java, and Linux. The committee has no special insight into how dominant products in the market for operating systems may change. The committee does recognize that as changes occur, DOD must be committed to adapting the concepts of DII-COE to use the dominant operating systems to fully take advantage of COTS software.
In addition to having an operating system strategy for underpinning the DII-COE, DOD must continue to base middleware functions of the DII-COE increasingly on commercial products. For example, the committee sees Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) and Component Object Model (COM) as potential COTS replacements for certain elements within the current DII-COE. As with operating systems, DOD needs to monitor, forecast, and adapt to the market for middleware. The decision to adopt COTS components, an objective the committee endorses, should be based on an assessment of the trade-offs between the degree of support of specific DOD needs and the leverage afforded by using COTS. The committee sees this analysis as framed by determining when COTS does "80%" of what is required, and the impacts of adapting applications that use the DII-COE to a new middleware environment. The "80%" rule recognizes the benefits of replacing DOD development and support costs with purchase costs based on high-volume components, wider and more extensive testing, and benefits similar to those of the COTS operating system market (see above).