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Architecting Technology Transition Pathways: Insights from the Military Tactical Network Upgrade

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Technical Report

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MIT Lincoln Laboratory Lexington United States

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As engineering systems become more and more complex, technology transition increasingly involves deploying an upgraded subsystem across a legacy network. This mode of upgrade presents new challenges for systems architects concerned with maintaining value over multiple infused technical changes. This paper explores the dynamics of technology transition in pathdependent infrastructure systems. It uses a modelbased case study of the envisioned military Airborne Tactical Network ATNupgrade as a basis for developing guidelines for effective transition path design. Based on the natural diffusion dynamics of the system we identified an inherent tradeoff between upgrade cycle and sustained capability levels. In other words, assuming even weakly exponential growth in demand, there is a relationship between timing of infusion and longevity of benefit. As a result, a less capable upgrade, deployed expediently can do more good than a more sophisticated upgrade that can only be integrated in the next block upgrade. In addition, by conceptualizing the transition path as a design lever, two dimensions of problem decomposition can be exploited to mitigate transition barriers 1Selfcontained subnetworks can provide a proving ground for fullsystem future benefits in order to mitigate stakeholder resistance and 2 The technical system can be designed for evolvability, making it possible to stage deployment in the technical dimension as well.

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  • Computer Systems

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