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Rethinking components: From hardware and software to systems

  • Author(s): Messerschmitt, David G.
  • et al.

The germ of the component idea arose in mass production as the interchangeable part, but in today's information and communications technology (ICT) industries the component can connote considerably more, such as multiple uses, opportunistic combinations with other components, design by assembly, and incremental evolution through field replacement with upgraded components. In spite of its many advantages, the component has failed to keep up with increasing scales of integration, increasing use of software, and the resulting complexity and application diversity. A rethinking of the component and associated industry practices is needed in light of modern technology and applications. Componentization has many payoffs, including as a process for industry coordination, most notably in large multivendor complex systems with fragmented administrative and ownership domains. invigorating componentization requires abandoning antiquated concepts such as components are exclusively hardware or software or even exclusively technological, are units of manufacture and packaging, or that each component is the responsibility of an individual firm. The system component, which incorporates hardware, software, and oftentimes even human process or organizational elements, whatever is necessary to achieve a coherent body of functionality, is the appropriate perspective today.

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