Auburn IT prof says true interoperability is in system design

SALT LAKE CITY'The reasons top brass still struggle with interoperability in Defense Department communications systems are many: too many organizations designing command and control systems, too many systems, and a missing software architecture, said an associate professor at Auburn University.

True interoperability is defined through software, said J.A. "Drew" Hamilton Jr., director of the Information Assurance Laboratory and associate professor of computer science and software engineering at Auburn.

What is desperately needed is requirements engineering, which will ensure systems are designed and built to be interoperable, Hamilton said. This can best be achieved through prototyping and simulation, he added. Hamilton defined software architecture as the "high-level design developed from the requirements."

"We have to design software to be interoperable," Hamilton said yesterday during the 15th annual Software Technology Conference in Salt Lake City. "If you are serious about network-centric warfare, you have to be serious about interoperability."

Only a few interoperability problems in fielded systems can be solved, Hamilton said. Successful joint interoperability lies in future system design.

Hamilton is retired from the Army where he served as the first director of the Joint Forces Program Office and on the staff and faculty of the U.S. Military Academy.

"The further down the stream you make changes, the more difficult [change] becomes," Hamilton said. "Prototyping lets a potential user know how software is going to work."

Simulation can be used as a prototype, Hamilton said. "It gives a better feel for whether the system being proposed can actually meet the requirements."

Software is also the dominant means for developing interfaces between systems, Hamilton said.

"You have to design for interoperability. It relies on the future system side because all we can do is patch," Hamilton said.

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