Rapid retargeting necessary to implement COTS

HILTON HEAD, S.C. - Rapid retargeting, a technique for implementing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices in fielded systems, can permit continuous upgrades that are transparent to the users, says Gary Fitzhugh, a vice president for VisiCom Laboratories based in Alexandria, Va.

Jan 1st, 1998

By John Rhea

HILTON HEAD, S.C. - Rapid retargeting, a technique for implementing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices in fielded systems, can permit continuous upgrades that are transparent to the users, says Gary Fitzhugh, a vice president for VisiCom Laboratories based in Alexandria, Va.

The technique uses hardware description languages (HDLs) to capture the functionality of the target hardware. Experts then simulate the resulting HDL models and verify that they are compatible before porting them to the new design.

A principal HDL is the one derived from the U.S. Defense Department Very High Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) program and known as VHSIC hardware development language - better known as VHDL.

Speaking at the Technology Management Symposium & Expo, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., Fitzhugh said, "Widespread use of COTS will require an entirely new mindset for defense industry design engineers."

The heart of the problem is the growing share that operations and support (O&S) accounts for out of the total life cycle cost of a weapon system, which now runs 60 percent, double the 30 percent allocated for initial production.

Program managers who traditionally have concentrated on the development and production phases now must be "more accountable for O&S costs," Fitzhugh says.

DOD officials do not have much leverage over the leading edge technology, he points out, as DOD`s share of the worldwide semiconductor market has fallen from 17 percent in 1975 to about 1 percent in 1997. As a result, according to Fitzhugh, "DOD has zero control over future products" and has to build 20-year systems with 18-month technology.

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