Enabling Network Centric Operations through the provision of inclusive, adaptive information networks in harsh and rapidly changing situations. Network Centric Operations (NCO) recognises the demand for pervasive decision-making in the modern battlespace. NCO provides the ability to leverage information networks to generate a more dynamic and agile decision-making space. An important dimension of this approach is the technological flexibility to quickly move the decision-making authority hierarchically or geographically as the situation demands. A fundamental enabler to this approach is the concept of a services orientated architecture (SOA). The use of industry-standard IT architectures provides the means of ensuring that systems can be provisioned rapidly, can be shared as appropriate, and can give the flexibility and response times required within such challenging environments. The battlespace environment presents a distinct set of issues that have been a challenge historically for information technologies (IT) and traditional architectural approaches. The inherent demands of the battlespace include the availability and reliability of information systems, with appropriate and available bandwidth for data transference, and total security. The emergence of service oriented architectures (SOA) and web services present a means of bringing a high degree of standardisation to the fore. Such an approach can deliver long-term benefits and enable defence forces to embrace and utilise new functionality rapidly and as cost-effectively as possible.
- Responding to the increasing dynamics of the modern battlespace is more complex and demands a faster response than ever before: As defence forces seek information superiority in the battlespace, there is a consequential demand for a far broader linkage of information systems than previously considered technically possible. There is now the expectation that platforms and individual soldiers are linked to increase situational awareness, improve inclusive decision-making and, most importantly, respond to the demand for increasing speed and accuracy in the application of force. SOA provides the best means of doing this, bringing existing systems and new functional components together in a secure manner such that data resources can be rapidly accessed and acted on.
- Solutions need to scale down to the battlespace itself: New technology solutions that only scale down to an existing portable computer format, such as a hardened laptop, are no longer sufficient for battlespace situations. The need to scale down to monitors and actuators, and to provide direct information to individuals on the ground through highly specialised equipment means that information has to be able to be exchanged with far smaller devices than in the past.
- Whereas full SOA capabilities may not be appropriate in certain operational scenarios the architectural approach allows network scalability through rapid and flexible topology adaption: The enterprise service bus (ESB) provides a core capability within a SOA, maintaining connectivity and data transport across the various components. By "trimming" an ESB to provide specific capabilities, rapid scalability to respond to low-bandwidth or to discrete devices deployed across the battlespace becomes possible.
- A federated approach to ESB design ensures optimal data fidelity: Maintaining completely disparate ESBs is no better than maintaining completely separate applications. Therefore, each ESB must be able to integrate with other ESBs in a completely transparent and contextual manner using open architectures and open standards wherever applicable.
- Solutions need to be rapidly deployed, with functional redundancy being an inherent element of every design solution: A SOA approach, when combined with meshed communications and data transport mechanisms, means that systems can be rapidly deployed. Core services can be deployed first, and other functionality can be added as required. Redundancy can be provided through using low-cost commodity items where functionality can be taken over by neighbouring devices should any individual item be destroyed or compromised.
- The demand for timely decision-making and the accurate application of force increases the demand for adaptive and secure networking: A SOA architecture, using a broker-based approach, provides the means of adding individuals, groups and other networks in order to better access operational and intelligence data through information management strategies. These strategies place priorities on pushing information, or enables organisations to pull information, as needed. Connectors, via the ESBs, enable different types and versions of security found in different environments to interoperate, while using the broker as the main point of security means that any entity can be removed or added to the systems as the circumstances dictate.
SOA is not a new approach and is proven within the commercial sector. Although the battlespace has distinct requirements, SOA has been shown to meet these requirements across the whole command chain and also to provide the flexibility and scalability demanded for all battlespace situations, from the application of force to combined peacekeeping scenarios or humanitarian situations. Additionally, SOA is applicable where networks must support multi-level security scenarios with the need for rapid interoperability between armed forces from disparate and non-traditional contributing nations, local police and NGOs involved in earthquake, tsunami or famine situations.
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