Open Innovation Labs: How Lockheed Brought Better Security to Fighter Jets

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Open Innovation Labs: How Lockheed Brought Better Security to Fighter Jets

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How Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs have helped accelerate Lockheed’s software development for the F-22 Raptor

As the key government contractor charged with helping the U.S. Air Force keep its F-22 Raptor jets in fighting trim, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics increasingly values software delivery speed as much as engine speed. So much of the continued evolution of these fighter jets depends upon continual upgrades of the software code powering all of the physical systems built into them, from tip to tail.

Until a year ago, these jets, which first rolled out of the manufacturing plant in the 1990s, were supported by the waterfall development methods of that same era. Lockheed executives and Air Force brass recognized that the F-22 needed a DevSecOps transformation, and fast.

“When you have a world-renowned platform like the F-22 Raptor, adversaries are constantly looking for ways to counter it,” said Michael Cawood, vice president of F-16/F-22 product development at Lockheed Martin. “This means we must constantly add capabilities and improve the F-22. And we must do it faster than ever before. We needed to transform our own organization and how we did things.”

To accelerate that process, Lockheed last year sent a small contingent of engineers through a residency program at the Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to fast-track the process of implementing an open source architecture onboard the F-22 while adopting agile development methodologies and DevSecOps practices. Since bringing back their learning to the organization, these engineers helped to catalyze a faster development process that has helped Lockheed introduce software features for the F-22 years ahead of schedule.

How Open Innovation Labs Works

Now in their third year of operations, the Open Innovation Labs were developed by Red Hat as immersive training grounds to help its enterprise customers figure out how to deliver better software, faster. A standard engagement has companies such as Lockheed pay for residency for anywhere between three to six developers and operations staff to get paired one to one with Red Hat employees—engineers, consultants and others—with deep knowledge in DevOps and agile development. They work with them in a time-boxed four- to 12-week engagement to build out application prototypes using DevSecOps practices along the way. The residents are also teamed with a designer and an engagement lead who doubles as an agile coach, typically working with the customer’s product owner for the prototype.

Obviously, Red Hat has a vested interest in training these people in technology such as its OpenShift Container Platform, getting them up to speed on how to orchestrate and manage containers and microservices. But the labs approach is in a different league than the standard vendor training program. It more closely follows the DevOps dojo model that enterprises like Target and Capital One are running internally to scale up cultural and process transformations across their IT organizations. Like those dojos, the working model is to build real software through a guided learning process that helps participants get hands-on experience in how to change the way they deliver software.

Red Hat runs the labs either out of a handful of dedicated spaces it runs around the world or within pop-up labs of the customer’s choosing. Besides Lockheed, other notable alumni include the likes of Volkswagen, UNICEF and Heritage Bank. According to a recent analysis by Forrester Consulting, participants in the Open Innovation Labs program are accelerating application development by more than 60%.

Lockheed’s Accelerated DevSecOps Transformation

In Lockheed’s engagement with the Open Innovation Labs, the organization sent out a cross-functional team of five developers, two operators and a product owner. They were tasked with building out a new application for the F-22 on OpenShift, using that process as a model for future development workflows. As a part of the process, Lockheed also worked with the labs to help it build out an internal dojo that could facilitate the scale-out of the knowledge gained by its small team across the entire F-22 development team. Six months after the initial residency, Lockheed managed to scale its OpenShift deployment and DevSecOps transformation across its entire 100-person team.

“By working with the Red Hat Open Innovation Labs team, we changed everything—our toolchain, our process and, most importantly, our culture,” explained Cawood.

As a result, the F-22 development organization has been able improve its ability to forecast for future sprints by 40%. More importantly, it has cut what was once an onerous five- to seven-year process of rolling out new software capabilities for the aircraft. Lockheed is on track to deliver new communications capabilities for the F-22 this summer a full three years ahead of schedule.

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