Imagine this: your legacy systems are aging. Failures are becoming more frequent; repairs are becoming more difficult; downtime is increasing; your company is pouring more and more time and money into keeping your systems alive. When you go to repair a home-built custom unit, you find that the engineer who designed it in the 90s retired years ago. You can't find the source code! The development tools have been discontinued or won't run on your newer PC! Documentation is minimal, sketched onto a few scraps of paper you found in a box somewhere, and you just can't seem to make heads or tails of it.
Using COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) hardware helps mitigate these issues. Keep reading to learn more about the history of COTS hardware, its strengths and limitations, and how UEI COTS system solutions can help you save time, money, and best prepare your systems for the future.
The life cycle of many electronics systems is a long one, often spanning decades and even generations. Take, for example, famous military aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon is nearly five decades old and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber is eligible for social security, but even though they may be on third or fourth generation electronics, both systems are still active and need to be maintained. Nearly every modern industry is built on systems that were developed decades ago, many of which are based on technologies that can no longer be replaced or repaired. This is because in the 20th century, technology was developing rapidly and designers weren't thinking about system adaptability in the distant future; they were preoccupied with coming up with new and better tools to meet military and technological goals.
Common legacy systems that are still prevalent today, but are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and support, include:
As firms and particularly the military try to keep their systems operational despite major obsolescence issues and dated technologies, there has been a major shift to replacing legacy systems with COTS or custom COTS-based systems. In the 90s, the military began a push for the adoption of COTS as a low-cost, low-maintenance alternative to custom, home-grown, and bespoke hardware and software solutions, and over the past two decades, COTS use has been mandated in a wide range of government and commercial programs as part of an effort to minimize design and production costs and mitigate obsolescence concerns.
If you’re building your first system, you don’t want to wait 6-12 weeks to get a piece of hardware to evaluate. If you’re releasing your project to production, you don’t want to hear from purchasing that the component you need is 12-16 weeks away. Finally, if you’re up and running and your system takes a lightning hit, you don’t want to find out that a replacement board is at least two months away. COTS helps avoid such delays by making it fast, cheap, and easy to acquire products.
NASA has been a COTS champion for many mission-critical solutions. This graphic outlines the importance of COTS products and the detailed screening required for successful application.
All of UEI’s Cube and RACKtangle I/O products are standard, off-the-shelf COTS products, which means that the vast majority of our chassis & I/O boards have a lead time of 2 weeks.
It’s important to never underestimate the value of software flexibility when it comes to COTS hardware selection. A COTS system supplier should offer extensive software support regardless of what programming language, application or operating system you wish to use.
Almost everyone in the industry has good Windows support and UEI is no exception. You’ll find our support, including our UEIDAQ Framework, is the most robust, simplest-to-use interface available. Whether you’re programming in C, VB, any of the .NET languages or applications such as LabVIEW and MATLAB our support is unequaled.
However, where UEI really differentiates itself is in the support of Linux, VxWorks, QNX, RTX, INTime and languages outside the Windows world. We never leave our customers looking to bulletin boards or open source for drivers. Everything is written and fully tested by our software team.
Even in the unlikely event that we are out of a product you need for an emergency replacement, we will scramble and find something we can get to you fast to get you back up and running immediately.
COTS chassis should have a wide variety of I/O board solutions that allow for easy connection to your signals. Taking advantage of communication buses such as Ethernet, RS482/485 with protocols such as Modbus/TCP, UDP, allow for easy integration into existing networks and systems. This allows for maximum flexibility and usage.
With well over 85 different I/O boards available, UEI is sure to have just what your application needs. We understand that connecting to 98% of the signals in your system is simply not enough. Our goal is to have 100% of what you need. Beyond that, our goal is also to connect directly to what your system provides without the need for external signal conditioning.
COTS I/O options with UEI include:
Protecting you from obsolescence is a priority! UEI's COTS Guarantees are our promise to you. By guaranteeing the availability of all chassis and I/O products for 10 years from your purchase date, we make it easy for you to acquire replacement parts and maximize supply chain reliability.
|10 Year Availability Guarantee||3 Year Hardware Warranty|
|UEI guarantees the availability of all chassis & I/O products for a minimum of 10 years from purchase. Unless you are specifically notified at the time of purchase, all chassis & I/O products will be available for repurchase for at least 10 years.||UEI is so confident in the dependability of our hardware that we offer a standard warranty to 3 years. Extending the warranty to 5 years is easy based on our low return rate (<0.3%).|