F-35 Software, Meet the Fail Whale

Now, I don’t know if Lockheed Martin or its subcontractors are using Service Virtualization techniques in the developing software for the beleaguered F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). But based on various reports out this week about continuing software problems, I’m going to venture a wild guess that they’re not.

The F-35 has a lot of well-documented issues. But Air Force Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan has called software problems “the gorilla in the room.”

‘Virtually No Progress’

Here’s the skinny: In his annual report on major defense acquisitions, Department of Defense Director of Operational Test and Evaluation J. Michael Gilmore notes a laundry list of software related delays and problems.

According to ieee spectrum, Gilmore writes that “Software delivery to flight test was behind schedule or not complete when delivered.” He also noted that “Block 1 software [first flown in November 2010] has not been completed; approximately 20 percent of the planned capability has yet to be integrated and delivered to flight test.”

Block 2A and Block 2B software, which provide advanced training and limited combat capability, also have problems, according to the report.  Wrote Gilmore, “The program made virtually no progress in the development, integration, and laboratory testing of any software beyond 2B.”

SV Was Invented For This

Now, I’m sure there are few systems more complex than an advanced fighter jet – many systems, all dependent on one another and all in simultaneous development — and I’m sure there are security clearance issues that affect the rate of software development. But here’s the thing: Service Virtualization was invented for exactly cases like this.

With SV, development teams are decoupled from each other to work in parallel, allowing them to develop functionality in faster iterations. Teams are freed from all the old constraints, such as unavailable systems and limited capacity. Regarding security worries, with Service Virtualization you don’t need full access to secure databases to develop against a system. A virtual service simulates the behavior, data and performance characteristics of dependent systems without actually accessing those systems.

According to independent research by voke, more than half of respondents using Service Virtualization said the practice reduced their software cycle from 25-50 percent. The average response was a 23-percent reduction in cycle time. Participants also reported fewer production defects by up to 75 percent.

Especially in projects as complicated and as expensive ($382 billion!) as the F-35, companies are well-advised to check out Service Virtualization. If not, they could be leaving quality and cash on the table.