Rockwell Collins Case Study

Executive Summary

The Challenge

  • Provide quickly customizable network monitoring solutions in broadcast communications, government and commercial systems
  • Ensure stability and 24/7 uptime for critical monitoring systems
  • Be able to customize each installation to meet specific customer requirements

The Solution

  • ActiveTcl, from ActiveState, for customizable components of MaxView system

The Result

  • Faster development time thanks to ActiveTcl OEM
  • Stable system and support from ActiveState
  • Easy, automatic customization

The Challenge

For MaxView, Stability, Uptime and Flexibility are Paramount

Rockwell Collins’ communication and aviation electronic solutions are in use on all seven continents. Its MaxView Network Management System provides remote control and automation monitoring control for satellite and broadcast communications, as well as government and commercial systems. Using MaxView, network operators can see and manage an entire communications network in a single view without having to interpret dashboards from multiple proprietary systems. Users can control their network using MaxView, and can automate complex tasks and receive advanced reports. Using one system instead of many means less complexity and training, and lower support costs. MaxView also enables scheduled changes without human involvement. For example, if a device fails, MaxView will automatically switch over to a backup, or notify users, send e‐mails, or make phone calls. For Rockwell Collins, the development challenge with MaxView is twofold: providing highly customizable solutions for a widely divergent customer base, and ensuring uptime in sectors where downtime is simply not an option.

The Solution

Easy Customization with ActiveTcl

The MaxView modular product suite can be customized for specific customer user interface requirements—customization is a key sales feature. As such, Rockwell Collins needed a technology solution that would make it fast and easy to customize MaxView according to distinct customer interface requirements. Enter ActiveTcl. Tcl (Tool Command Language) is a powerful dynamic programming language used frequently for networking, administration and testing, and ideal for cross platform development. Rockwell Collins relies on ActiveState’s ActiveTcl language distribution because it is a complete, ready‐to‐install commercial grade distribution that works cross‐platform with Windows, Linux and Mac OS X plus Solaris, AIX and HP‐UX.

The Result

Since 2005, ActiveTcl has been Rockwell Collins’ choice for powering device drivers—the code that connects MaxView to a specific device or system on the customer end. By using ActiveTcl in device drivers, Rockwell Collins doesn’t have to manually change its core product to work with every unique customer interface. “We have a Tcl interpreter built into our product so we don’t have to change the core product to adapt to different interfaces,” says Brian Brady, a senior software engineer at Rockwell Collins. ActiveTcl also powers automation logic, which can be customized by end users onsite once the system is operational. “Customers can change these smaller bits of code that, thanks to ActiveTcl, don’t have to be compiled. Nor do they affect the quality and stability of the core product.”

Another key benefit, ActiveTcl gives Rockwell Collins the ability to make development changes on the fly at customer locations. “We can be away from our development environment and we don’t have to worry about compiling code and distributing it for particular platforms because ActiveTcl supports so many platforms. It’s the cross‐platform aspect of ActiveTcl that’s so valuable.”

ActiveTcl is Worry‐free Tcl for Critical Systems

Uptime is critical in the broadcast industry, where satellite time is incredibly expensive. “We have service agreements where seconds of downtime are worth millions of dollars, so it’s critical everything stays up,” Brady says. “And in the government and military space, it’s even more important than that.”

Rockwell Collins knows it can count on Active Tcl’s stability and Active State’s solid reputation when it comes to ensuring uptime. “Active State’s reputation and support of dynamic scripting languages is unparalleled. ActiveTcl is the best‐supported distribution of Tcl that I know of,” Brady says.

Development Speed Keeps MaxView Out Front of Competitors

While the stability and technical value of ActiveTcl are critical, ActiveTcl also introduces business benefits, such as speeding development time. “ActiveTcl helps us deliver solutions faster than our competitors. And we can react to changing requirements,” Brady says. For instance, when responding to a proposal or a set of requirements from a customer, Rockwell Collins doesn’t have to waste time going through a full software development cycle or creating a new product from scratch for each implementation. “We have a core product that we’re reusing, that we already know is set and stable, and then we only change the ActiveTcl part of it for each implementation. We’ve separated out the customizable parts of it from the core code. And when we write code in ActiveTcl, we don’t have to compile it to use it. We can run it right then and troubleshoot problems very quickly.”

For Rockwell Collins, it’s all about the rapid development and ease of customization. “There’s a quick learning curve. Our customers have learned to go in and start doing customization work themselves.” Ultimately, ActiveTcl ensures MaxView is faster to develop, easy to customize, and stable. And with those bases covered, Rockwell Collins can provide a high quality product that consistently meets its customers’ needs. To enable these capabilities and embed ActiveTcl in MaxView, Rockwell Collins uses OEM licensing from ActiveState, allowing them to take their product to market faster with the right licenses in place.

Why ActiveState?

ActiveState is the world leader in enabling companies to develop, manage, and distribute applications with dynamic languages. The company’s products and services for Perl, Python, Tcl and other web languages are used by over 2 million developers and 97% of the Fortune 1000, to build and run applications from mission‐critical to open source projects. ActiveState’s end‐to‐end solutions include development tools, language distributions, indemnification, OEM solutions, support and other services. With these, customers such as Cisco, CA, HP, Bank of America, Siemens, and Lockheed Martin are able to accelerate productivity, minimize risk, and ensure compliance.