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.

Introduction

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.

System-of-Systems

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.

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