Because the interfaces are proprietary, expensive reprogramming is usually required to adapt such software products to other platforms. This costly reprogramming could be eliminated by adopting standard software interfaces. DoD’s Portable Courseware Project (PORTCO) is typical of projects worldwide that require standard software interfaces. This paper articulates the strategy whereby PORTCO leverages the open systems movement and the new realities of information technology. These realities encompass changes in the pace at which new technology becomes available, changes in organizational goals and philosophy, new roles of vendors and users, changes in the procurement process, and acceleration toward open system environments. The PORTCO strategy is applicable to all projects and systems that require open systems to achieve mission objectives.
The federal goal is to facilitate the creation of an environment in which high quality portable courseware is available as commercial off-the-shelf products and is competitively supplied by a variety of vendors. In order to achieve this goal a system architecture incorporating standards to meet the users’ needs must be established. The Request for Architecture (RFA) developed cooperatively by DoD and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will generate the PORTCO systems architecture. This architecture must freely integrate the courseware and authoring software from the lower levels of machine architecture and systems service implementation. In addition, the systems architecture will establish how the application-specific technologies relate to other technologies. Further, a computer-based interactive training applications profile must be developed. This profile, along with the systems architecture derived as a result of the RFA, provides the basis for identifying the needed standards. NIST will then accelerate the development of these standards using, but not restricted to, existing standards activities within established standards forums.
The federal multimedia courseware effort has adopted the Interactive Multimedia Association (INA) Recommended Practices for Interactive Video Portability as the baseline for the migration of computer-based interactive training systems to an open systems environment based upon international standards. The PORTCO strategy includes an evolutionary migration to a standards-based, Open System Environments (OSE). An important aspect of this migration strategy is to move to open systems via stepwise evolution rather than via quantum leaps.
Another area of concern is that of infrastructure issues, such as maintaining and supporting the technologies required for computer-based interactive training. The federal multimedia initiative will use the RFA-based architecture to differentiate between those technologies that can be maintained and supported by existing infrastructure mechanisms and those that require new mechanisms. Existing infrastructure mechanisms will be used and where infrastructure mechanisms do not exist, the approach will be to place high priority on establishing the appropriate mechanisms. Establishing an infrastructure mechanism is a nontrivial task requiring sustained investment of resources.