Comparing Acquisition Strategies: Open Architecture versus Product Lines
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An open architecture is a development methodology that employs published, widely accepted standards for defining key interfaces within a system. Systems that are ''open'' have components that can be provided by different vendors, allowing performance improvements and technology refreshments at a faster pace than ''closed'' systems. This ''open'' approach for constructing systems can be augmented by acquisition practices that leverage these ''open'' technical attributes to facilitate competition. This paper gives an overview of open architecture acquisition approaches and investigates whether open architecture by itself is sufficient to provide the stated goals of rapid fielding, reduced cost, and interoperability among systems. After that, we compare the open architecture approach to another acquisition approach for systems, namely the product line approach. A product line is a set of systems that share a common, managed set of features that satisfy the specific needs of a particular market segment or mission and that are developed from a common set of core assets in a prescribed way (Software Product Lines, n.d.). Several US DoD systems acquisitions are currently taking the product line approach. We provide an overview of a various product-line-based acquisition strategies and discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of the product line approach. We argue that open architecture principles are an essential ingredient of the product line approach for the DoD. Furthermore, the product line methodology consists of a robust set of practices that will generally yield more repeatable results of increased performance and lower risk at minimal cost. The combination of the two approaches will deliver more benefits to the acquisition organization than either approach alone. Finally, we highlight the challenges associated with management of an open product line across multiple providers.
Proceedings Paper (for Acquisition Research Program)Approved for public release; distribution unlimited.
NPS Report NumberNPS-AM-10-033
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