Overcoming parts obsolescence and growth limitations of legacy systems is a significant challenge in today’s budget environment. With Northrop Grumman’s Reconfigurable Processor for Legacy Applications Code Execution (RePLACE) virtualization technology, the existing legacy weapon system software can be quickly and easily moved to the new processor hardware and run without modification. RePLACE software provides a virtual machine (VM) environment that faithfully emulates the operation of the legacy processor and enables the legacy software binary executables to run on the new processor exactly as it does on the legacy processor. In addition, RePLACE allows new software functions that take advantage of the new processor’s increased memory and processing speed to be integrated with the legacy software. With RePLACE, the weapon system can gain all of the benefits of modern computing technology while leveraging the maturity and investment that has accrued in the legacy software.
New mission capabilities can be added to the upgraded system through software written natively for the new processor and integrated with the legacy mission software running under a RePLACE Virtual Machine. The new software has access to the full speed and memory of the new processor, but can interact seamlessly with the legacy mission software, as needed. This ability to integrate legacy software with software written for the new processor permits software engineers to update or replace legacy software components one at a time and brings about a new paradigm for modernizing older systems in an evolutionary fashion, rather than starting from scratch. Even if the goal is to completely rewrite the mission software for the new processor, using an evolutionary approach that leverages the legacy mission software executing in a RePLACE VM to provide a mature foundation as a starting point significantly reduces development and integration cost and risk.
RePLACE virtualization technology offers a cost effective means of achieving significant sustainment and performance improvements through the introduction of modern computer technology in vital weapons and support systems. It maintains backward compatibility with existing “legacy” software while providing rapid migration to state-of-the-art processors and software technology. This produces significant cost savings, offers substantial risk reduction, and promotes incremental upgrade opportunities for future enhancements. Also, RePLACE requires no custom hardware – it is embedded software technology that leverages the latest in commercial-off-the-shelf processor technology.
The benefits of applying RePLACE to legacy processor upgrades are threefold:
- Enormous cost savings are achieved by reusing the existing mission software from the legacy processor. These cost savings are realized by eliminating both software development (true software reuse) and software revalidation costs.
- Schedules are significantly shortened for completing the upgrades.
- Performance is dramatically improved in both execution speed and available processing and memory resources.
Although RePLACE was conceived for on-board avionics computer replacement strategies, it is equally effective in other embedded computer applications, such as command and control (C2) systems, automated test equipment, weapon system trainers, and integrated support environments.
Northrop Grumman's RePLACE provides the virtual machine framework and tools to run existing legacy mission software, without changes, on modern, high performance computer hardware. RePLACE establishes the foundation for hardware upgrades working with trusted legacy software, creating a solid base on which additional software and hardware capabilities can be incrementally added. Powerful support tools provide visibility into the legacy software and facilitate troubleshooting or adding new features, whether the features consist of minor modifications, or the addition of a major new capability.