Navy goes full-ahead with open architecture

The Navy’s Common Processing System will harness commercial products and powerful middleware to keep mission-critical systems online.

The Navy's leadership doesn't need to look far to find a successful model for its Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program. The Common Processing System (CPS), a new mission-critical computing system built with commercial systems, has passed a critical design review and is on track for delivery by fiscal 2011.

CPS, developed by Global Technical Systems and Northrop Grumman, is built to meet the Navy’s requirements for an open-architecture computing environment for combat systems. CPS "provides an open-architecture, enterprise hardware solution for hosting combat systems like the Aegis software program,” said Navy Commander Jeffrey Weston, a program manager at the Navy's Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems. “The CPS cabinet consists of a Grade A shock enclosure containing servers, switches and data storage components that can run the Navy’s combat systems programs.”

CPS and the parallel Common Display System program — a command-and-control and weapons systems console built by General Dynamics — are designed using open systems, Weston said. “As such, they are highly compatible with each other, and several Navy programs are planning on using a combination of both products to field their systems on.” One of those is the Navy's Aegis program.

The software foundation for CPS is GoAhead’s SAFfire, a dynamic resources management system that ensures the availability of the entire system. Based on the open standards created by the Service Availability Forum, an industry consortium for mission-critical and high-availability systems, SAFfire is middleware that manages the software elements of a high-availability system. It provides messaging among applications running on the system, manages failover from one system component to another in the event of failure, and manages the resources of the underlying hardware.

“CPS is sort of the incarnation of their 'objective architecture,' ” said Tyson Moler, director of federal operations at GoAhead Software. “We've been working very closely with the Navy along those lines, both because of the proven performance of our products in Aegis and because of the thought leadership and skill we bring to the Service Availability Forum standards, which the Navy has utilized in defining computing resource management and dynamic resource management.”

“GoAhead’s SAFfire solution outperformed all competitors in our dynamic resource management evaluations,” said Mike Barrett, director of maritime mission systems at NGC Integrated Systems. “We are confident that SAFfire gives the CPS team the key capabilities needed to grow with the evolving mission of our customers.”

GoAhead provided professional services to Northrop Grumman during the integration of the elements of CPS. The system passed its Critical Design Review in late 2009. “The program passed with flying colors,” Moler said, “and now we're off and running to the development of first article units and advanced production units. We go into production in fiscal 2011.”

“There is no development going on here,” Moler said. “It's just design and qualification of [commercial software] and open standards-based technology. And it's just amazing because, when you take out all the protest time, [CPS] is going to be at production in one year. That is really the realization of what the [Defense Department] wants in open-architecture systems.”

Weston said there is no relationship between CPS and the CANES program. However, GoAhead executives are positioning their technology to play a role in the CANES infrastructure.

“What's unique about CANES is they're trying to implement a service-oriented architecture,” Moler said. “While at the same time, there are Mission Assurance Category Level 1 requirements. MAC 1 means these are applications that can't afford any loss of data or service — otherwise, the mission is compromised and would fail. From a GoAhead perspective, the MAC Level 1 requirement we understand through and through, because that's what a weapons system is. So the requirement to host MAC Level 1 applications is right in our wheelhouse. Our goal is to earn a place in the CANES infrastructure to provide that systems management capability for the MAC Level 1 requirement.”

"At the same time, GoAhead can also play a role in helping the developers of the SOA-based systems on CANES that are of lower importance but still have high-availability requirements,“ he said.

"The SOA services themselves need high-availability services supporting them," he said. "The network itself has to be built very rigorously, and that's why the SOA services themselves need to strongly consider their availability solutions."