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Systems of Systems

Related to new capabilities based on synergy among multiple diverse systems

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The rise of network-connected systems that are becoming embedded seemingly everywhere–from industrial control systems to aircraft avionics–is opening up a host of rich technical capabilities in deployed systems. Even so, as the collective technology project underlying this massive deployment of connectivity unfolds, more consumer, industrial, and military players are turning to inexpensive, commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) devices with general-purpose designs applicable for a range of functionalities and deployment options. While less costly and more flexible, commodity components are inherently less secure than the single-purpose, custom devices they are replacing.
The Department of Defense (DoD) increasingly relies on software systems to deliver needed functionality, capabilities, and security. However, the rapid pace of software innovation, evolving regulatory requirements, an ever-growing need for stronger system security, and other factors require continual updating and modernization efforts. These produce untenable increases in system complexity and shift the bulk of system costs and developer focus from design and development to maintenance. As this trend continues, the cost and effort required to maintain current systems might constrain DoD’s ability to develop new software-based capabilities.
Department of Defense (DOD) systems and platforms are composed of numerous integrated cyber-physical subsystems, which create an enormous amount of complexity and makes their engineering a daunting task. Today, designing cyber-physical systems (CPS) requires an army of skilled engineers with the right domain expertise, and hundreds of domain-specific tools. The process used to design these systems is largely manual, creating long design cycles that often result in costly redesigns after building and testing the systems. The flaws in the process are numerous – from balancing predictability with cost-efficiency to operating under tight time constraints to integrating disparate pieces from multiple design teams.
The growth of the internet-of-things (IoT) and network-connected composed systems (e.g., aircraft, critical-infrastructure, etc.) has led to unprecedented technical diversity in deployed systems. From consumer IoT devices developed with minimal built-in security, which are often co-opted by malware to launch large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on internet infrastructure, to remote attacks on Industrial Control System (ICS) devices, these newly connected, composed systems provide a vast attack surface. While the diversity of functionality and the scope of what can now be connected, monitored, and controlled over the Internet has increased dramatically, economies of scale have decreased platform diversity.
Managing complexity is a central problem in software engineering. A common approach to address this challenge is concretization, in which a software engineer makes decisions based on a set of apparently or almost equivalent options to enable the resulting code to compile. Concretization makes the process of software development more controllable, allowing the engineer to define and implement an architecture, divide the development tasks into manageable parts, establish conventions to enable their integration, and integrate them into a cohesive software system.