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FCW : December 2013
Many legacy military, intelligence and other government systems dis- play software architecture patterns, including monolithic construction and proprietary interfaces, that make sustainment unacceptably resource-intensive. Nevertheless, those systems are slated for reten- tion because they continue to ful ll operational requirements and the cost of updating them approaches or exceeds sustainment costs. Solutions based on a service- oriented architecture (SOA) enable the transformation of legacy capabilities into systems that are modern, modular and sustainable. To date, achievable implementa- tions have been frustrated by the lack of suitable software platforms, the large acquisition costs of such platforms, a shortage of effective life cycle governance mechanisms, or a combination of all three. Now powerful open-source plat- forms are available to address those concerns. In a SOA, "separation of con- cerns" is a design principle requir- ing a system s separation into sections, each addressing a discrete functionality. The approach simpli- es and economizes maintenance. System elements can be developed and maintained independently, and operations can be conducted on one section without having an impact on others. From the perspective of a SOA architect, the most fundamental separation of concerns is the one between domain capabilities (i.e., business or war ghting processes) and infrastructure capabilities. Issues created by monolithic architectures and proprietary inter- faces require an architectural solu- tion that separates domain from infrastructure concerns, eliminates redundant capability, is readily adaptable and can interoperate with legacy systems. The solution s core construct is a generic enterprise integration platform. The EIP provides system infrastructure capabilities that sup- port domain-speci c applications and services and offer the means for integrating legacy components. Build or buy is no longer the question; commercial packages are the only realistic alternative. Unfor- tunately, many of them come with licensing costs suf cient to offset sustainment savings associated with the objective system. Fortu- nately, a number of open-source packages are addressing the issues of functionality and cost. Open-source software is sup- ported by government guidance. For example, a Defense Depart- ment policy from 2009 declares open source to be equivalent to proprietary software. The policy instructs the acquisition community to evaluate open-source software comparably to any other software. As a result, it is now feasible to design an EIP around open-source components. And adherence to open standards alleviates integra- tion dif culties. Such an EIP is a deployable sys- tem core that avoids licensing costs, provides infrastructure capabili- ties that support standards-based domain services, and allows legacy components to be integrated. Transformation includes mod- ernizing domain-speci c capabili- ties. That challenge is less about what should be produced and more about how production should be managed across multiple develop- ers, time zones, technical postures and management approaches. An effective solution ensures that processes are common across the program and controlled by the gov- ernment program manager. In sum, open-source software offers solutions to the technical, budgetary and governance chal- lenges that have frustrated efforts at transformation. Perhaps the most intriguing question about legacy system transformation is not wheth- er it can happen but why it hasn t happened yet. ■ Go open to transform legacy systems Open-source service-oriented architecture can unlock the door to modernizing the government's legacy capabilities Open-source software offers solutions to the technical, budgetary and governance challenges that have frustrated efforts at transformation. 14 December 2013 FCW.COM Commentary | ADAM FIRESTONE ADAM FIRESTONE is director of solutions at WSO2 Federal Systems, a subsidiary of WSO2 Inc.
November 30, 2013