PARIS The fog of war may lift a bit if an emerging global middleware spec based on a communications model called "publish-subscribe" gains industry acceptance. Promoters here and in the United States said the model could usher in standards-based, real-time distribution of applications deemed critical to the net-centric warfare envisioned by military planners.
The industry spec, called Data Distribution Service for Real-Time Systems (DDS), was recently adopted by the Object Management Group, a non-profit organization developing vendor-independent specifications. OMG also manages the widely used Common Object Request Broker Architecture, or Corba, and Unified Modeling Language specifications for the software industry.
The DDS proposal came from two software companies with proprietary publish-subscribe middleware, Real-Time Innovations Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Thales Group, here. Along with net-centric warfare, DDS also has implications for other battlefield communications equipment, shipboard networks and avionics, as well as for medical or industrial automation systems.
The distribution of real-time data is becoming paramount for what the military calls "threat assessment," as is the need to alert military units from different countries of impending threats. Hence, a standard like DDS could make "a significant difference," said Michael Rogosin, general manager for European, Middle Eastern and African markets at Real-Time Innovations (RTI).
In a typical scenario, a data set collected by a ship-based radar indicating a threat may need to be communicated to a different data set detected by avionics radar. Without standardized middleware in place, it's unlikely the two sets of intelligence picked up by individual software applications could be fused for real-time analysis, Rogosin said.
The issue of real-time data distribution and communication gets more complicated when multinational forces operate together. Until now, there has been no global middleware that would make defense electronics systems and applications interoperable. "The military/aerospace market takes the Object Management Group very seriously. They will adopt the standard very vigorously," predicted Bruce Ericson, RTI's marketing vice president.
The Corba standard is designed for client-server communications that distributes objects. But there has been no standard for a "data-centric real-time system" that needs a major amount of data distribution, according to RTI. Instead of a model in which the client initiates communications and invokes the server operations to change or access information, many in the industry believe a publish-subscribe model offers a better mechanism for moving lots of data between applications.
Publish-subscribe systems, which connect anonymous information producers (publishers) with information consumers (subscribers), are well suited for developing fault-tolerant systems, proponents said. The distributed application is composed of processes, each running in a separate address space, often on different computers. Each process may simultaneously publish and subscribe to distributed information.
Many companies and military organizations have adopted publish-subscribe models, but most use their own proprietary implementations.
RTI's publish-subscribe middleware system, called Network Data Delivery Services, has been available for five years. RTI, which has promoted shipboard wide-area networks as one NDDS application, said it would release a commercial implementation within 12 months. "Early, prerelease versions will be shipped to strategic clients in advance of that," Rogosin said. He declined to identify RTI's customers.
Thales Group, formerly Thomson CSF, has its own commercial data-centric middleware, called Splice, that's also based on a publish-subscribe model. A distributed data-coordination architecture designed to coordinate among loosely coupled software components, Splice was developed for mission-critical environments that require real-time performance, scalability and fault-tolerance. Splice has been primarily used as a component in weapons.