Managing Software Obsolescence

AirSpace, Duxford
Yesterday, I attended the Component Obsolescence Group (COG) quarterly meeting, which was held at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.  I was standing in for my colleague Alex Wilson, who wasn’t able to attend, and I gave his presentation ‘Managing Software Obsolescence through Standards’.

The presentation was about how open standards and software abstraction can provide isolation from underlying hardware architectures, and can assist processor architecture migration as part of a technology refresh cycle. This is important in many A&D programmes, given in the increasing in-service lifetimes of some systems, but the principle also applies to other vertical markets too. The presentation also highlighted how the RTCA/DO-297 standard provides guidance on the development of Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) platforms to enable modular and incremental certification of safety-critical systems, but this actually provides a side-benefit which can help address obsolescence. This is because it advocates a role-based approach, and advocates separation of the configuration data based on role and activities. 

MILS architectureThis approach can be used in conjunction with a MILS (Multiple Independent Levels of Security) separation kernel, which is designed for hosting applications of multiple security classifications on the same processors, but can also be used as a framework for software isolation to assist in managing obsolescence.

Some approaches to hardware obsolescence were also discussed during the meeting, and I was interested to hear how hardware & software emulation of a legacy processor are being used to extend the lifetime of a safety-related industrial system. I was struck that there’s more similarity between the challenges of some A&D programmes and other markets than I had first thought.

I also took the opportunity to wander around Duxford’s new AirSpace exhibition with some of the other delegates during the lunch break. If you haven’t been yet, it’s well worth a visit.