Military Embedded Systems

SOSA Update, FACE content, and WEST 2020


March 10, 2020

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

We’ve taken our coverage of open architecture initiatives up a notch in February 2020 with the launch of our SOSA Update e-newsletter. It’s part of a collaboration we have with the Open Group for not only the newsletter but also for SOSA webcasts, podcasts, and other content.

The quarterly SOSA Update will feature news, blogs, columns, feature articles, videos, podcasts, and more on the activities of the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Consortium. The newsletter will contain content sourced solely from our staff and SOSA Consortium members; advertising opportunities on the SOSA Update will go only to members as well.

SOSA alignment, involvement, and enthusiasm is spreading throughout the industry. As I write this, I’ve just finished walking the show floor at WEST 2020 at the San Diego Convention Center. Ben Sharfi, president of General Micro Systems, one of the newest members of the consortium, told me at the show that he believes the initiative will only work if the end user – the military – continues to drive it as they are doing now.

The SOSA logo was prominent on booths at the show and atop many chassis displayed there, including Elma Electronic, Acromag, North Atlantic Industries, Abaco Systems, Mercury Systems, and more.

In this issue we also offer quite a bit of content on the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Consortium, also run by the Open Group.

Jeff Howington of Collins Aerospace – also vice chairman of the FACE Steering Committee – recorded a podcast with me on the impact of FACE on the military avionics community and how FACE reduces the exponential cost of software development in military avionics platforms. We include edited excerpts of the interview in a Q&A on page 28.

On the topic of FACE reducing costs, Howington told me, “One of the biggest cost drivers the FACE Consortium set out to conquer was the common practice of developing different software for different platforms that implement the same capability. By conforming to the FACE Technical Standard, you can produce software for portability and reusability, and therefore reduce duplicative development efforts. Standardization allows reusability while reducing integration efforts because it puts everyone on the same page with respect to the overall architecture, interfaces, and data definitions. If the software also meets DO-178 criteria, then it becomes possible to reuse both the software and its certification artifacts in another system, saving additional time and cost.”

In our chat, he also discusses the benefits of FACE Technical Standard 3.0, which he says include making it easier to use Component Frameworks; he also discusses how military platforms are leveraging FACE-conformant solutions from Collins Aerospace. To listen to our podcast, visit

The interview was one of Howington’s last acts as vice chairman of the Steering Committee, as he stepped down after nine years. In announcing his move, he said that he’s “happy to see that the FACE initiative, which started nearly 10 years ago, continues to grow, with the population of FACE-conformant products in the FACE Registry increasing, and the number of customer programs requiring capabilities based on the FACE Technical Standard steadily rising.”

Also in this issue, our Special Report on Helicopter Avionics discusses how FACE and open architectures enable more affordable helicopter avionics upgrades.

“The services are looking at open architecture for two reasons: one, to reduce cost. Because if you can buy a set of applications, or an application once and apply it multiple times across multiple platforms or multiple services, then there are certainly costs to be lowered there,” says Dave Schreck, vice president and general manager for military avionics and helicopters at Collins Aerospace, in the article on page 18. “But more importantly, they’re looking for ways to separate the mission-critical, flight-critical pieces of the platform from the mission applications. That way you aren’t constrained by breaking open an operational flight platform.”

Also penning content on FACE this issue: Rich Jaenicke of Green Hills Soft­ware (“Certifying embedded COTS software for military systems,” page 22) and AdaCore’s Ben Brosgol (“DO-178C meets the FACE Technical Standard: High assurance and reusability for aiborne software,” page 32).

We’ve been covering open architectures and open standards since the first issue of VMEbus Magazine (now VITA Technologies) nearly 40 years ago. That tradition continues with our SOSA Update newsletter and other SOSA and FACE-related content, ensuring that our readers, listeners, and viewers get the latest information on defense and aerospace electronics development.

Also, coming next month: A brand-new website. Stay tuned.