System of Systems (SoS): Definition & Challenges

Instructor: Olu Adesida

Olu has a Master of Science degree in Business Information Technology.

In this lesson, you will learn about the system engineering concept, System of Systems(SoS). You will also be introduced to some of the challenges of building a SoS.


In system engineering, a system is defined as a set of methods, procedures, and routines, created to perform a particular task or solve a specific problem. A system is contained in one unit; in essence, it is autonomous or independent. An example of a system which meets this definition is a Pharmacy system. A pharmacy system is one which has many different functions, which are used to maintain the supply and organization of drugs in a pharmacy.

Definition of System of Systems (SoS)

In today's networked and hyper-connected world, very few systems operate independently. A system of systems (SoS) brings together a number of systems to perform a task or to accomplish a purpose that none of the constituent systems can perform or accomplish on their own.

Each constituent system keeps its own management, goals, and resources while coordinating within the SoS and adapting to meet the SoS goals. A System of Systems is, therefore, a collection of systems, each capable of independent operation, that operate together to achieve additional desired capabilities.

An example of a SoS is a Healthcare Network SoS, which integrates many of the patient care systems, including the Pharmacy System mentioned earlier.


Challenges of Building a SoS

One of the obvious_challenges of building a SoS is that the constituent systems can comprise different types of systems i.e. legacy systems, systems under development, new developments, which run on different technologies, may have been acquired at different times and for different purposes. The integration of these different systems can be challenging.

The constituent systems comprising a system of systems (SoS) are independently acquired, operated, and managed, which means that the architecture documentation of those systems addresses only a standalone perspective. They would need to be enhanced to account for their integration in a SoS.

The constituent systems may have evolved and been developed in response to user needs, technical direction and resourcing, independent of the SoS. The SoS would have to evolve through cooperation among the constituent systems, by leveraging the constituent systems' efforts to improve their own individual capabilities.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account