September 07, 2004

Royal Navy will run on Windows for Warships

Royal Navy will run on Windows for Warships This is an extremely bad idea. Their engineers know UNIX, but the bean counters have decided to change to Windows for some mythical cost savings. Or that their desktops run windows and they don't know that any other operating system exists. Surely if they are going to change operating systems using a real RTOS (such as QNX) would be a better choice. It is going to cost one hell of a lot more in the long run.

The Royal Navy is likely to want to keep this system running for a very long time, which brings problems since Microsfot will not want to support it for anything like as long, and while they can get the source from Microsoft if they really need to under Microsofts Government Security Program. I am not sure if this lets them patch the source, or if it is like the look but don't touch Shared Source.

As some people commented about the availability of open source UN*X source code adversly affecting security should realise this is not only the British govenment but all of our potential adversaries. Not only govermental adveraries but also anyone with an internet connection. If you want the source code you will be able to get it.

Security through obscurity is not a good idea, and has been known not to be a good idea for more than a century. With sufficent motivation anyone will be able to get the source.

The Type 45 Destroyers that this is for are coming into service rather close to the end of life times for Windows 2000, so this is going to be a problem. Especially as they are likely to last for decades. During all of whcich time they are going to have to pay for support at more than market rate as the opertating system is no longer supported by Microsoft.

The first is due to enter service in 2007 and will be named HMS Daring, the second and third are to be HMS Dauntless and Diamond respectively and these should be in service by 2009

End of life dates

Date of General Availability

March 31, 2000

Direct OEM and Retail License Availability (end date)

March 31, 2004

System Builder License Availability (end date)

March 31, 2005

Mainstream support for most versions of Windows 2000 expires at the end of 2005, and Extended support was to expire at the end of 2007. (Dates for Windows 2000 Datacenter Edition trail the dates of other versions by three months.) Under the new guidelines, Extended support has been moved out to 2010.

This is not a situation where computer instability is acceptable. The United states navy tried using Windows before and had to have the ship towed back into harbour.

They have experience with UNIX, their system works on UNIX. They can use the same cheaper parts (not cheap parts, as they can't risk suffering instability via bad hardware) with UNIX as with Windows. This is not a back office system. This system is the combat control system, not a few laptops for the Jacks to play with. If it goes down in combat people will die. The time required to restart their missile control computer was one of the reasons that HMS Sheffield ended up manoavouring into a position that got them sunk in the Falklands War.

Microsoft themselves don't recomend Windows for this kind of situation. Surely if they are going to change operating systems using a real RTOS (such as QNX) would be a better choice. Something make me think this is going to be another IT fiasco.


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