Say No to Vendor Lock-In: Benefits of an Open and Modular Software System
Why avoid vendor lock-in?
Broadly speaking, a vendor lock-in is a situation when you are forced to use a particular provider. This can happen for various reasons. The cost of switching vendors may be too high, so you may prefer to stay with the same hardware provider. Switching can be time-consuming or you may not have the required specialist skills to re-configure the system. Whatever the reason, you may want to consider avoiding vendor lock-in, where possible, as it comes with a few potential threats:
- You have no choice and control over costs, as hardware providers dictate pricing.
- As you company grows and develops, the hardware offering may no longer suit you needs.
- The quality of your hardware may decrease overtime. Likewise, the level of service may decline.
- Your hardware provider may go out of business altogether.
Hardware limitations in the space industry
Within the space industry, there are additional reasons to keep your software architecture open and allow for hardware to be added without building or buying a software package from scratch each and every time:
- Hardware vendors may have limited manufacturing capacity. This means you may not get your equipment in time or face extended lead times, which can have a detrimental effect on your project work and timescales.
- Your space system may require the use of new subsystems with new requirements. Or you may simply need different payloads for different purposes. For example, the service you are providing may include both spectral and radar capabilities, meaning that you will need completely different equipment and approaches to payload integration.
- This becomes especially true as your system starts to grow, develop and require more scalability.
What is the solution?
Whilst it may be difficult to make your system completely hardware independent, a modular and model-based approach certainly has its benefits. Bright Ascensions’ modular approach is designed with portability in mind and allows individual modules to be substituted and changed according to your requirements, as and when these requirements arise.
An abstraction layer and flexibility of the system make it easy and straightforward to add new onboard computers, operating systems and architectures.
For example, you can quickly and easily develop the software package for a new spacecraft in your system, even when it requires a completely different OBC. All you need to do is change a module in your existing software platform, without the need to re-build the entire system architecture. This modularity will help you get the most out of the flight software each mission, regardless of mission requirements, with only minor tweaks and without having to re-create the flight software from the ground up each and every time.
Improve your bottom line
Your hardware provider preferences do not only have to be determined by technical requirements. You may also want to simply save cost by making use of different price options available in the market. As the system can easily be extended to work with new subsystems, new hardware, new software components, this allows you to freely access the best available or most suitable equipment.
Competition within the manufacturing part of the New Space market has seen prices come down in recent years, and as a number of manufacturing companies scale up, this tendency will continue. As a service provider, you may want to take advantage of price competition between hardware manufacturers and make your constellations heterogeneous, comprising satellites from different manufacturers with different capabilities.