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Commercial/consumer off-the-shelf (COTS) Refers to ready-made merchandise that is available for sale, defined by market need, significant functionality and complexity, and self-contained.

 Most organizations use COTS to increase reliability, reduce cost, and keep delivery times short in software systems development.

The US government’s Federal Acquisition Regulations classifies COTS as NDIs, or non-developmental items applied under contract to the government. This kind of software is an alternative to in-house projects, and it costs less in the short term to purchase, develop, and maintain.

Typical COTS software are such things as word processors, spreadsheets, development environments like Visual Basic and Sybase, libraries that require connecting with existing codes like browser add-ons, game or graphics engines, and Windows DLLs.

Analysts point out that there are advantages to using COTS. One significant advantage of using COTS is that the time needed to purchase this software is much shorter than the time it takes to develop it. As such, it uses fewer resources like human capital, office space, and money. COTS also has a greater chance of incorporating industry standards.

In other words, COTS  depend less on the platform, which means excellent reliability across environments and uses.

Experts in this area recommend that organizations do their homework before getting involved with COTS. For example, before investing in COTS, a team should analyze the growth they anticipate and manage their expectations.

If there are errors in the initial gap analysis, it could cause setbacks in future implementation. A full-cost analysis factoring in costs over five years is best, especially if the software requires ongoing licensing and maintenance.

Additionally, if the COTS package is more than 5 years old, it could be in a legacy language, which means the vendor will find it challenging to improve or modify it anyway. It could be more practical to enhance the organization’s existing system.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers COTS-Based Systems Engineering Training, a 3-day systems engineering training course focusing on using and considering Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS).

Learn how to plan, analyze, design, implement, verify, validate, operate, manage and adjust systems engineering projects considering Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) including commercial components, hardware, software and services both for use in the military and commercial projects.

Upon completion of this course, participants will be extremely well versed in COTS and be able to discuss systems engineering reference models and architecture, discuss key characteristics of COTS components including hardware, software and services – and much more.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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