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Five Ways Automated Protocol Translator Improves System Interoperability, Reduces Costs

In previous posts about the new Automated Protocol Translator (APT), we presented the vision and performance validation of APT as an efficient way to maintain interoperability of different systems. In this post, we share the remarkable cost- and time-saving benefits of the solution.

To quantify these benefits, we used APT to translate different types of Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) events to and from Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) messages using Google Protocol Buffer. To be realistic, we translated real-world messages using a mission-critical Navy combat system. Verifying APT’s auto-generated software in a production test environment with the actual production system, we established a baseline for comparing the effort associated with using APT to traditional software methods.

Previously, we used the traditional, manual software development approach to design, develop, and test software that would perform multiple translations. This effort required a large team of individuals, including several senior and junior software engineers, and took over 18 months to complete. We tracked what was required, in terms of effort and cost, to solve the translation problems using these traditional practices.

Then, we used the new Automated Protocol Translator to translate a subset of these messages and compared the results. The APT shortened the project timeline more than 80% and reduced costs by 70%!

Below are five reasons why APT produces these incredible results.

No need to modify or re-design existing systems

Instead of changing the combat system’s core design or functionality, the APT produced software that simplified integration into the production system. Since we didn’t have to modify the existing system and software, we avoided costly re-design work. Integration was straightforward.

Typically, when code is embedded in an existing application, it can be challenging to add, update, or remove the code. Of course, modifying the code also risks breaking the application! With APT, we simply added the software as a separate executable component to the operating environment. Additionally, when we no longer need to translate these protocols or messages in the future, we can easily remove these software components.

Utilizing best practices for incorporating Modular Open System Architecture principles into the design of existing systems means APT is a clean, modular approach to system integration.

Transparency and consistency shorten design review

APT expedites an otherwise lengthy design review. Team members focused their efforts on the required interface software translations, instead of software modifications to existing components and the potential impact on the combat system. APT’s auto-generated code also ensures consistent code generation irrespective of who produces it, which simplifies code reviews. Similarly, the effort and time required for development and generation of common design artifacts in the future (such as design documents needed for formal design reviews) can be reduced.

Auto-generated code requires fewer people

Development and integration with APT were achieved using fewer people compared to the team using the traditional process. Once up-front requirements were set, APT automatically generated the code. This significantly reduced the burden on our engineering team.

…and frees up senior engineers

Not only were fewer people needed in the APT test, fewer senior people were needed. Once the design is set up, junior software engineers can run APT. This frees up senior engineers to work on more valuable projects, such as developing additional functionality and new capabilities.

Open source stability

Based on an open source software model, APT’s stability and quality are greatly enhanced. By using best-of-breed open source software components, we not only accelerated the development of the APT tool but we took advantage of production-ready, high-quality software used by thousands of developers in production systems.

The bottom line? APT reduces time and costs by auto-generating production-ready software that can be easily integrated and deployed in existing systems. These savings can be significant and a fraction of the cost of the traditional design-develop-test method:

Our initial focus for APT was on mission-critical defense systems. But, APT can also be used to address interoperability challenges associated with proprietary commercial systems that were not intended to work together. In the era of the internet of things (IoT), with multiple types (often proprietary) of sensors, compatibility issues will eclipse other challenges developers face. APT is designed to eliminate costly, complex and time-consuming system interoperability issues for both government and commercial organizations.

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