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Opticks: Releasing a government tool to the open source community


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Opticks is an open source ELT designed for analysis of imagery, video, spectral, SAR, thermal, and other spatiotemporal data. Opticks was originally developed by Ball Aerospace & Technologies corp. for the US Air Force. In 2007, Ball and the USAF released the core ELT and a number of plug-ins as open source software. This is one the first US department of defense sponsored tools to move from the closed source government domain to the unrestricted open source. This presentation talks about our experience with the process; what went smoothly and what caused delays. We will also discuss some of the latest developments in the military open source world.

Speaker Bio:
Trevor Clarke is a software engineer at Ball Aerospace & Technologies. Trevor has a masters degree in computer science from RIT and is a core contributor to Opticks.

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Opticks: Releasing a government tool to the open source community

  1. 1. OpticksReleasing a government tool to the open source community<br />Trevor Clarke<br />Opticks Developer<br />Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.<br /><br /><br />
  2. 2. Overview<br />What is Opticks?<br />Why open source?<br />What were the early problems?<br />Where are we today?<br />What have we accomplished?<br />Q&A<br />
  3. 3. What is Opticks?<br />
  4. 4. What is Opticks<br />Image and video analysis<br />Spectral, SAR, Thermal, EO, WAAS, etc.<br />Extendable via scripts and plug-ins<br />A number of open and closed source extensions are available<br />Intuitive interface<br />Supports very large data sets (1TB+)<br />
  5. 5. History of Opticks<br />Ball Aerospace began development of the legacy COMET program for the USAF in the Spring of 2000<br />Initially designed as an alternative to ENVI for common spectral analysis tasks<br />Easier to learn interface<br />No licensing cost<br />Extended to support SAR, thermal, and other data types<br />Extensive non-literal processing used in other domains<br />Core software open sourced in December 2007<br />Additional components open sourced since initial release<br />
  6. 6. A note on the name<br />Opticks is the spelling used by Sir Isaac Newton in his treatise on light and optical systems<br />Adopted due to it’s historical interest, contextual relevance, and uniqueness<br />
  7. 7. Why open source?<br />
  8. 8. Why did we need to change?<br />The COMET program had reached a plateau with out USAF customer<br />Continued development funding was stagnant<br />Projected to decrease in the out years<br />Getting other customers to adopt Opticks as a baseline was difficult<br />COTS preferred over GOTS<br />Other contractors and government don’t like vendor lock-in<br />“Not invented here”<br />
  9. 9. Why was open source a good idea?<br />“OSS meets the definition of ‘commercial computer software’”1<br />Overcome COTS vs. GOTS barrier<br />OSS no longer the odd man out when it comes to accreditation<br />Ball is a services company, not a software company<br />Alleviate fears of vendor lock in (can always be forked)<br />Provide new services opportunities<br />Facilitate adoption in universities and with independent developers<br />Generate buzz<br />More opportunities<br />1 – DOD Policy Memo “Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software”, October 2009<br />
  10. 10. What were the early problems?<br />
  11. 11. Perceived problems<br />Internal confusion about OSS<br />Contracted with CollabNet to resolve some of the misinformation<br />Potential push back from primary customers<br />Worked with the AF from the beginning and kept them involved<br />The government gets enhancements and bug fixes for no addition cost<br />Is this the right kind of software for military OSS?<br />OTD identifies “geospatial infrastructure”2 as a starting point for OSS adoption<br />2 – “Open Technology Development Roadmap Plan” version 3.1 (final), April 2006<br />
  12. 12. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)<br />Internal review indicates Opticks is potentially a Defense Article<br />Category XXI – Miscellaneous Articles<br />Any article not specifically enumerated in the other categories of the U.S. Munitions List which has substantial military applicability and which has been specifically designed or modified for military purposes. The decision on whether any article may be included in this category shall be made by the Director of the Office of Defense Trade Controls.<br />Technical data (as defined in § 120.21 of this subchapter) and defense services (as defined in § 120.8 of this subchapter) directly related to the defense articles enumerated in paragraphs (a) of this category.<br />Requested initial Public Release Authorization from the Office of Security Review <br />All enhancements to Opticks are internally reviewed by the Ball Aerospace ITAR Empowered Official before implementation<br />
  13. 13. License Selection<br />Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL) v2.1<br />Allows plug-ins to be closed source<br />Proprietary technologies<br />Classified algorithms<br />“Warm fuzzies” for other contractors<br />Main application and standard extensions remain open source<br />Can be forked but changes must remain LGPL<br />“Warm fuzzies” for Ball and AF customer<br />Well known license<br />Well vetted and understood<br />Accepted by the FOSS community<br />
  14. 14. Where are we today?<br />
  15. 15. Status of Opticks<br />Website hosted offsite from Ball<br />Maintenance paid for by Ball<br />Source code and mailing lists hosted on Sourceforge<br />No financial commitment from Ball aside from personnel time<br />Multiple government projects are using Opticks as their foundation<br />More contract work than previously<br />Some new work directly attributable to OSS<br />Presence on (US DOD repository for open development)<br />
  16. 16. Status of Opticks<br />Applied for OSGEO incubation<br />Google Summer of Code (GSoC)<br />2010 – 2 students<br />2011 – 3 students<br />ESA Summer of Code In Space (SOCIS)<br />2011 – 1 student during inaugural year for the program.<br />American River College<br />Nathan Jennings uses Opticks in GIS course<br />NOAA<br />Deployed on 50+ workstations<br />Colorado University<br />Working with Dr. Weatherhead on seal counting system<br />
  17. 17. Ongoing issues<br />Contributions<br />Small contributions are easy to handle<br />Submit a patch to the mailing list<br />A core contributor “takes ownership” of the patch<br />Large contributions are not so easy<br />Should have formal procedures which don’t’ yet exist<br />How do we handle copyright?<br />How do we handle security and code reviews?<br />We have thought about possible solutions but can’t properly evaluate them until we begin receiving large contributions<br />Governance<br />All core contributors are Ball employees or former Ball employees<br />No formal governance board<br />How do we handle core contributors/board members not affiliated with Ball or USAF?<br />
  18. 18.
  19. 19. What have we accomplished?<br />
  20. 20. Accomplishments<br />Advanced OSS advocacy in US AF intelligence circles<br />Led the adoption of the OSS business model as a viable model within Ball Aerospace<br />Established Opticks as a successful military open source venture<br />
  21. 21. Q&A<br />Presentation available at<br />More military open source information:<br />Trevor Clarke<br />Opticks Developer<br />Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.<br /><br /><br />