Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reducing Costs of DoD Software

According to Capers Jones — one of the foremost authorities on the productivity of computer programming — the following insights are relevant when evaluating the potential cost reductions in DoD Software (for details see: Productivity Comparisons of Selected Software Methods, Version 10, Copyright 2010, Capers Jones & Associates):

1. The difference between acceptable and excellent development costs is about
$1,748,043 - $1,034,300 = $713,746 (CMM3 - CMM5) per 1,000 function points.

(NOTE: CMM is the Capability Maturity Model of the Software Engineering Institute).

With thousands of DoD contractors and subcontractors writing and maintaining computer code on >5,000 applications with an estimated >500 function points/application the potential savings are very high, especially since much of the contractor's code is at the CMM1 level. However, such savings cannot be realized in the existing contract acquisition environment.

2.  It is unlikely that DoD contractors can ever deliver code plus maintenance at CMM5 levels. Therefore, the only remedy is for DoD to take applications and break them into code for the shared infrastructure (such as data management and security) and code that manages application procedures . The shared infrastructure parts of an application, perhaps as much as 50% of the code, could be then constructed by contractors who deliver at least 50% re-use of certified components.

3. If DoD succeeds in imposing the separation of infrastructure code from procedural code, half of the code would then benefit from the difference between CMM3 costs and 50% Reuse costs ($1,034,300 - $752,773 = $281,527, with incremental savings of $351,908,750.

4. Additional savings are available by adopting "85% certified re-use methods".  This reduces the costs per 1,000 functional points to a Total Cost of Ownership of only $287,518. By far the most promising development that would support such approach is SourceForge with its >250,000 library of available code components that has been refereed with >99% reliability and downloaded by ten thousands of users. SourceForge is an open source library, readily accessible at no cost. For instance, it includes code listing for 62,949 development projects, 13,453 projects for database management and 7,037 projects for security.

5. I believe such savings would be realistic because DoD's increasing emphasis on cyber security will dictate that infrastructure will have to be taken out of the hands of thousands of contractors plus subcontractors and concentrate in the hands of a few software firms that can deliver CMM5 secure code.

6. In addition to the TCO of the development of code there are additional costs incurred by DoD military and civilian personnel as well as data center charges. CMM1 software creates additional cost penalties incurred by users of poorly conceived applications.

There is a large cost reduction potential in DoD's software development processes.

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