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Technical note | Approaches to Open Technology Systems Specification


Open system considerations are important for future military systems to permit ease of integration, reconfiguration and upgrade, and to reduce the total cost of ownership of a system. This document provides guidance on the specification of open systems for acquisition.


Open systems considerations for military information and technology systems are gaining increased attention in the Defence environment. A major contributing factor is the difficulties and high costs associated with the inability of stove-piped legacy systems to integrate and interoperate with other systems and be easily upgraded or modified. These issues have highlighted the importance of open systems considerations during the development and/or acquisition of military information and technology systems.

The information presented in this document was gathered through internet searches of open literature relating to open systems and discussions with relevant expertise within DSTO. It was examined to develop a common definition for open systems and to determine how other militaries and Defence organisations are specifying openness for system acquisition and/or development. Approaches and resources that may be particularly useful to Australian Defence have been documented and discussed.

An open system makes use of open standards to specify its key interfaces. It is characterised by modular design to support its modification, upgrade or integration and is capable of being verified and validated to ensure open systems goals have been achieved. Open systems support interoperability with other systems and may offer many other benefits, such as portability of users and reduced cost of ownership, through vendor independence for through-life support.

The specification of open systems for systems acquisition should be undertaken by stakeholders with significant domain knowledge. It first requires identification of capabilities that would benefit from the implementation of open systems and market research to determine the availability of open standards and technologies. If an open system is feasible for a particular application, it is necessary to establish an enabling environment to promote the use of open systems through system requirements and specifications. To achieve a modular, open system design, the system must be decomposed into modular elements and a capability roadmap must be developed for the system life-cycle. This information is used to identify the key interfaces of a system and open standards must be determined for specification of these interfaces. Verification and validation of the system is then required to ensure openness objectives have been achieved.

Key information


Brendan Sims

Publication number


Publication type

Technical note

Publish Date

May 2012


Unclassified - public release


Open Architecture, Open Systems, Standards, Validation, Verification