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Conditions for Achieving Network-Centric Operations in Systems of Systems

January 2007 Technical Note
David Fisher, B. Craig Meyers, Patrick R. Place

This 2007 report lists conditions that must prevail to achieve effective acquisition, development, and use of systems of systems.


Software Engineering Institute

CMU/SEI Report Number


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The advantages of systems of systems—such as the ability to adapt to unanticipated and unforeseen situations, eliminate single points of failure, and remain continuously operational while being dynamically updated—guarantee their increasing importance to military and commercial environments. The advent of network-centric systems has served only to accelerate the already prevalent move toward systems of systems.  

At the same time, network-centric systems and systems of systems are proving difficult to acquire, develop, test, and operate. Many of them are abandoned before they can be fielded, and fielded systems often fail to satisfy their objectives—demonstrating cost and schedule overruns in their development and sometimes catastrophic failures in operation.  

The increasing disparity between the normative (but nonfactual) assumptions that underlie current practices and tools used in the acquisition, development, evolution, and operation of systems and the realities of actual systems of systems contributes to those problems. Effective practices and tools for the acquisition, development, and operation of systems of systems have not yet been developed. Suggesting a context in which those practices and tools can be developed, this technical note proposes necessary conditions—statements of what the desired future state should be—in six areas that influence the effectiveness of network-centric systems and systems of systems: (1) social and cultural environment, (2) legal and regulatory framework, (3) management practices, (4) governance procedures, (5) engineering practices, and (6) technology base.