“What’s an Executable Standard? Well the FACE™ Technical Standard is an Exemplar!”

By Terry Blevins, Fellow of The Open Group, Enterprise Architect at Enterprise Wise LLC

Definition from Free Dictionary .com:

ex·e·cut·a·ble    (ĕk′sĭ-kyo͞o′tə-bəl) adj.
– Capable of being executed: an executable will.
– Of or relating to a computer file that is in a format ready for execution.

When I think of an “executable standard”, I think of a standard that is capable of being fulfilled (i.e. a standard that can readily impact real world things, whether those things are people, processes, or technology). Regardless of what I think, it isn’t easy to define an executable standard – however I think the following will help everyone understand the essence of an executable standard.

On September 18, 2018, I attended the U.S. Army / Future Airborne Capability Environment™ (FACE) Technical Interchange Meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, hosted by Wind River in partnership with The Open Group. The structure of the event was a general assembly of attendees followed by demonstrations and presentations being held concurrently.

The general assembly included a keynote provided by Ms. Philomena Zimmerman, Deputy Director of Engineering Tools and Environments, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Systems Engineering, followed by opening remarks by Brigadier General Thomas H. Todd III of the U.S. Army, Program Executive Officer, Aviation.

The general assembly room, set up for about 500, was almost fully occupied by enthusiastic attendees during the opening. Overall attendance throughout the day likely exceeded 600!

Brigadier General Thomas H. Todd III and a Packed House

Demonstrations were done in a hall where approximately 37 booths were occupied by organization representatives, including a booth of The Open Group. Most of the booths were demonstrating objects based on The Open Group FACE™ Technical Standard, with a subset of the booths demonstrating a collaborative effort demonstrating both FACE and the US Army’s Rapid Integration Framework (RIF) where integration was demonstrated. The hall of demonstrations was very active all day long. One member summarized the event: “we are demonstrating everything FACE says it can do on the floor today.”

This event made me think alot about dimensions for describing an executable standard. The following dimensions were inspired from discussions and/or observations from the event.

I have to say it all started out with the speakers that kicked off the event – both speakers made me realize that the standard was received as being highly relevant. The benefits of the FACE Technical Standard included the following paraphrased remarks:

  • Addresses cost and schedule complexities
  • Breaks vendor lock
  • Encourages cross platform
  • Addresses obsolescence
  • Starting point for implementing an open strategy

As I walked through the demonstrations, I was informed that many objects that implemented the FACE Technical Standard were actually available today for reuse! And these objects are accessible through the FACE library. There were 8 organizations with solution pieces conforming to FACE Technical Standard!

I spoke with vendors at the demonstration booths and they said very positive things about the practicality of the standard. It was useful in their development process by providing guidelines which, if not available, would have potentially resulted in a non-interoperable object limiting its utility. The standard itself made it easier to develop their piece of a solution and, by following the standard, helped them develop a compliant object.

The Technical Standard provides a level of independence for the buyer-side in terms vendor lock. And at the same time, enables interdependence through interoperability and portability from the vendor side.  When the Technical Standard was followed, it allowed objects from one vendor to work with other objects from other vendors. This enabled the vendors to focus on their specific value-add to a larger solution.

And most obvious, was that I was walking around seeing, and touching real things that followed the Technical Standard in the demonstrations. These were not just demonstrations of one piece or the other, but demonstrations of larger solutions where pieces from different vendors were working together. The Technical Standard being demonstrable was very powerful!

Bottom line – this U.S. Army FACE Technical Interchange Meeting provided real evidence of FACE being RAPID:

  • Relevant
  • Available and accessible
  • Practical
  • Independence, interdependence, and interoperable
  • Demonstrable

All of the above seem to be part of providing evidence of being executable!

Other insights I had during this visit was the importance of having the right environment in which to collaborate and develop a Technical Standard. I was happy to hear positive comments from both FACE and Sensor Open Systems Architecture™ (SOSA) members about The Open Group providing that safe environment for productive collaboration.

About the FACE Consortium – The Open Group FACE Consortium is a government and industry partnership to define an open avionics environment for all military airborne platform types. The FACE Consortium is a vendor-neutral forum that provides standardized approaches for using open standards with avionics systems.

The FACE Technical Standard is the open avionics standard for making military computing operations more robust, interoperable, portable and secure. The standard enables developers to create and deploy a wide catalog of applications for use across the entire spectrum of military aviation systems through a common operating environment. The latest edition of the standard further promotes application interoperability and portability with enhanced requirements for exchanging data among FACE components and emphasis on defining common language requirements for the standard.


Terence Blevins, a Fellow of The Open Group, is owner of Enterprise Wise LLC and a semi-retired Enterprise Architect. He is currently a Director of The Open Group Governing Board and an active contributor to the Healthcare Forum within The Open Group.

Terry has been involved with the architecture discipline since the 1980s, much of which was done while he was Director of Strategic Architecture at NCR Corporation. Terence has been involved with The Open Group since 1996 when he first was introduced to The Open Group Architecture Forum. He was co-chair of the Architecture Forum and frequent contributor of content to the TOGAF® framework including the Business Scenario Method. Currently he is excited to help the Healthcare Forum work on Boundaryless Healthcare Information Flow.

Terry was Vice President and CIO of The Open Group where he contributed to The Open Group vision of Boundaryless Information Flow™.