COTS selection criteria in government programs

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Virginia Tech


The process involving the design and acquisition of systems for the Government sector has recently shifted its emphasis from mostly custom designed equipment to the extensive use of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware and software. Because the relative merits of custom or COTS are not clearly understood by the design engineers, the correct parameters and criteria are not always properly identified.

This study investigated the decision criteria for the selection of COTS vice custom designed systems, assemblies and components in the design phases of the system life-cycle. Since Government requirements differ from those of commercial customers, selection was considered from the perspective of the Government customer. The operational conditions pertinent to the Government environment were used to determine the relevant criteria in the selection of the system components. The parameters selected and evaluated were life-cycle cost, effectiveness, unit data, system support and supplier rating. Subcategories included items such as standardized fit, existing field population, established design, reliability, source of reliability data, software interfaces, and cost. Other considerations such as maturity of technology and rate of technological change were also discussed. A definition or description of each selection criterion, as well as the validity of that measure were examined. Trade-offs and weighting factors to select the best solution were also recommended.



life-cycle, requirements, design