Military Embedded Systems

MOSA principles enhance modern military computing systems


March 07, 2022

Pratish Shah

General manager


Aitech image

With the adoption of a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), the standardization of electronics has pushed rapidly into new markets and platforms. Starting in traditional defense applications, MOSA systems have moved into more advanced systems and applications.

With support across the U.S. military branches and from more than 100 industry manufacturers, The Open Group Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Technical Standard enables a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) as specified by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for new systems development and modification of existing systems. By embracing open standards, the military electronics industry is delivering systems that are ready to run in any unmanned, mobile, or remote application.

The five main principles of MOSA enable common foundational technologies to be applied across platforms and make military systems more effective, secure, and efficient, while speeding up time to market and reducing overall costs.

Principle #1: Establish an enabling environment

Developing products and systems that support a common architecture and mi­gration path means today’s unmanned systems for ground and air applications can pack more computing performance and tighter system integration into size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP)-optimized, rugged platforms. Interoper­ability among manufacturers streamlines development initiatives and enables the implementation of technology innovations such as the latest general-purpose GPU (GPGPU)-based artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputing, advanced cybersecurity, and leading-edge interoperability across widely used industry platforms.

This drive to interoperability can be seen in boards and components aligned to the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Technical Standard, such as Aitech’s U-C8500 3U single-board computer (SBC) (Figure 1) with advanced cyber­security protection and the high-performance Intel Tiger Lake UP3 SoC, the 3U VPX multi-head U-C5300 graphics board featuring NVIDIA GPUs based on the Turing architecture as well as the U-C9140, the industry’s first and only PowerPC-based 3U VPX SBC aligned to SOSA.

[Figure 1 | Products aligned to the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) standard can speed up technology innovations and ease system upgrades. Pictured is the SOSA aligned Aitech U-C5300 graphics board.]

Principle #2: Employ a modular design

COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] designs are great examples of modularity using a unified, compatible development structure. Faster development means components and systems are ready in months, not years.

With uses throughout many military applications, the use of COTS parts is proven and reliable with decades of demonstrated solutions. Specifying and installing tested and qualified systems reduces risk and keeps costs affordable.

Giving the systems designer the ability to architect a system through a combination of COTS products enables the creation of a semicustom solution with the cost and time-saving benefits of a COTS offering.

Principle #3: Designate key interfaces

A product designed to work in a SOSA aligned system includes mechanical, electrical, management, and security capabilities, all of which meet SOSA requirements. It also means that the board is compatible with one or more Slot Profiles and Module Profiles defined by SOSA and aligns with standard VPX products (see below) since SOSA uses a subset of OpenVPX. For card-level products, this means that plug-in modules are aligned with SOSA modules profiles with associated pinout compatibility.

Principle #4: Use open standards

Building systems to a common platform is not a concept new to military and defense. Instead, SOSA relies heavily on VPX, an already established and proven standard used throughout military systems. VPX is built upon the original VME standard, which had a large military and defense community following. When system requirements mandated upgrades to the standard’s offerings, VPX was developed to migrate from legacy systems to more modern architecture. It has been recognized as an approved standard for more than a decade. VPX has also undergone several updates that make it a solid and relevant platform for many rugged applications today.

Principle #5: Certify conformance

This is where we find ourselves today, with the SOSA Technical Standard 1.0 recently released and the embedded community continuing to develop collaborative environments through information sharing, active participation in working groups, and interoperability demonstrations. These demonstrations embody the spirit of open standards and show successful plug-and-play methodology.

Innovations through MOSA initiatives

Our industry is creating forward-looking military systems by carefully selecting the technologies and features to implement across using open standards-based technologies. Designers can integrate advanced technologies and solutions without giving up on standards compliance and interoperability. The need for innovative features and increased computing capability is at the forefront of this technology revolution.

Building to a common standard allows a company to focus on enhancing the functionality of its products and less on integration issues. Sharing technological innovations among our embedded ecosystem is a critical component for military systems. The more we can collaborate, the better our defense systems will be.

Pratish Shah is general manager, Aitech USA. He brings more than 30 years of engineering, business development, marketing, and management experience across enterprise, consumer electronics, and defense industries to his role at Aitech USA. In addition to leading the U.S. business unit, Pratish helps develop the company’s global growth initiatives and manages its technology offerings. Before joining Aitech, he led global military defense companies, leading M&As and building successful businesses. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in computer science with a minor in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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