International Symposium on Software Composition

System of systems

System of systems is a collection of task-oriented or dedicated systems that pool their resources and capabilities together to create a new, more complex system which offers more functionality and performance than simply the sum of the constituent systems. Currently, systems of systems is a critical research discipline for which frames of reference, thought processes, quantitative analysis, tools, and design methods are incomplete. The methodology for defining, abstracting, modeling, and analyzing system of systems problems is typically referred to as system of systems engineering.

Taken together, all these descriptions suggest that a complete system of systems engineering framework is needed to improve decision support for system of systems problems. Specifically, an effective system of systems engineering framework is needed to help decision makers to determine whether related infrastructure, policy and/or technology considerations as an interrelated whole are good, bad or neutral over time. The need to solve system of systems problems is urgent not only because of the growing complexity of today's challenges, but also because such problems require large monetary and resource investments with multi-generational consequences.

While the individual systems constituting a system of systems can be very different and operate independently, their interactions typically expose and deliver important emergent properties. These emergent patterns have an evolving nature that stakeholders must recognize, analyze and understand. The system of systems approach does not advocate particular tools, methods or practices; instead, it promotes a new way of thinking for solving grand challenges where the interactions of technology, policy, and economics are the primary drivers. System of systems study is related to the general study of designing, complexity and systems engineering, but also brings to the fore the additional challenge of design.

Systems of systems, while still being investigated predominantly in the defense sector, is also seeing application in such fields as national air and auto transportation and space exploration. Other fields where it can be applied include health care, design of the Internet, software integration, and energy management and power systems.

Collaboration among wide array of organizations is helping to drive development of defining system of systems problem class and methodology for modeling and analysis of system of systems problems. There are ongoing projects throughout many commercial entities, research institutions, academic programs, and government agences.

For example, DoD recently established the National Centers for System of Systems Engineering to develop a formal methodology for system-of-systems engineering for applications in defense-related projects.

In another example, according to the Exploration Systems Architecture Study, NASA established the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) organization to lead the development of a new exploration “system-of-systems” to accomplish the goals outlined by President G.W. Bush in the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration.