Jake Memery
By:

Jake Memery

Xignal S1000D Product Manager

A cloud-based S1000D solution - what were we thinking?

A good question, right?

Why would anyone think to themselves, “let’s build a new S1000D CSDB and editor AND let’s make it cloud-based.”

Without boring everyone to tears, the simple truth of the mater is: we believed there had to be a better way.  A better way to make S1000D simple and accessible to everyone.

A better way to design the interface, a better way to host the tools and an easier and more efficient way to produce S1000D data – even for the less experienced user of the spec.

A bit about the S1000D Specification

We all know that S1000D is not a simple specification.

It’s a specification with endless variations and complexity. Decisions need to be made at the start of the project about how to implement it to best effect. Getting these decisions wrong paves the way for a painful experience down the road.  For the newcomer to S1000D, it can be frightening to the point of being overwhelming.

The latest version of the Spec is over 3500 pages of PDF. More than an evening or two of bedtime reading if you’re starting from zero.

The truth of course is that most companies don’t start from zero. They either hire someone with knowledge to get off the ground, or perhaps get S1000D training to get them up and running. Or typically in larger organisations, the chances are the project won’t be their first S1000D rodeo, and authors or managers will have enough knowledge to get cracking, along with many horror stories and tales of ‘let’s not do that again’.

Regardless of your experience with S1000D, the traditional tools did not help with the complexity as they themselves need significant expertise to set up, administer and use.  We wanted to change that.

Xignal S1000D - Our objective

The goal for Xignal S1000D was to remove as many ‘barriers to entry’ as possible, while offering as much of the power of the specification as we could possibly build in. The S1000D features in Xignal are therefore intuitively designed through modern interfaces and wizards to ensure simplicity for the user.

I’m not going to delve into the specific Xignal S1000D features in this article (but by all means check them out here if you are ready to ditch this article and jump right in!) Instead, I thought I should cover off what is arguably the biggest and possibly most contentious attribute of Xignal S1000D, and that is… the fact that it’s hosted in the cloud!

S1000D + Cloud = Madness?

An S1000D Cloud solution?

Yes a Cloud solution! And yes, I know many of your initial reactions to this.  Bear with me though and let’s take a step back. What does Cloud even mean? Here is the definition from Oxford Languages:

“The practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.”

Oxford Languages

So basically, a cloud application is one where the application and its databases are hosted by a cloud provider on their remote servers, which you access using your computer and an internet connection.

This is nothing new and we all use cloud applications all the time and they are not going away, and in fact they’re growing at a massive rate.

Many Aerospace and Defence organisations are even adopting ‘cloud first’ policies – policies that signal their intent to firstly consider cloud offerings before considering conventional on-premise deployed solutions. Vendors servicing this market are turning to cloud due to the extensive advantages it offers both vendor and customer – not the least of which include solution cost, development speed and support.

The S1000D elephant in the room - Security

Security and sensitive data being held in the cloud is a common concern. Companies who hold sensitive data have vast amounts of sensitive information that they have spent significant sums of money protecting with their in-house teams of IT, rooms full of servers and firewalls, and procedures put in place to make sure that data is kept under lock and key.  But just how secure is that server?

Does it make sense that a business’ staff can truly dedicate themselves to being world-class security experts? Can they become aware of the continuously evolving vulnerabilities that exist let alone devise timely operational safeguards?
Assuming the business has some form of connection to the outside world, which it almost certainly will, then that too is vulnerable – to some degree – to attack. Sure, businesses invest in all the measures possible to make sure the data is as secure as it can be, and indeed employ many knowledgeable experts.  But consider this; Microsoft allocates over $1 Billion per year on Cyber Security.

That’s larger than the operating revenue of many companies. It might also surprise you to learn that their code is adaptive on its own and safeguards deploy themselves in real time to new, emerging threats. So, in actual fact, scary as it might sound, the Cloud – adopted correctly – is almost certainly more secure than your servers sitting down the hall.

Don’t take my word for it though, there is an article here which echoes much of what I’ve said above and demonstrates the thinking towards cloud and OFFICIAL classified data storage.

Who's already in the Cloud?

To further emphasis the above, the likes of the UK Government and UK MoD have embraced Azure cloud as its means of storing and working with OFFICIAL level data.

In 2016, so over 6 years ago, the UK Government launched the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NCSC’s remit is to provide guidance to companies and businesses on how to handle and work with sensitive data in the cloud. They lay out specific principles which companies must meet in order to ensure the highest level of data protection.

It is these principles that guide us in the development of Xignal S1000D. By meeting the requirements and guidelines that these principles give us, it enables us, and our customers, to be confident that the security of their data is absolute, and also gives us the ability to hold data up to classification level OFFICIAL.

S1000D in the Cloud - what's in it for you?

Let’s have a quick look at the advantages of having your S1000D CSDB and Editor in the cloud:

  1. More S1000D authoring Flexibility – Access from anywhere, no need for specific devices, VPNs or access to company networks.
  2. Lower S1000D tool set up timeYou will have access to the S1000D CSDB, Editor and Publishing tools within minutes of signing up. As it’s a managed environment there are no local IT, servers, databases or specialists required to get setup and running.
  3. More S1000D collaboration – The cloud is the perfect enabler for S1000D collaboration and we’ve designed Xignal specifically around that concept. You can issue your suppliers with user credentials, enabling them to log in and work collaboratively with you on projects to author their Data Modules for sub-systems. Or if you are a supplier, you can provide your customer access for review and sign off of your S1000D data ahead of delivery.
  4. Lower cost of entry to S1000D One of the things we hear all the time is the price associated with S1000D tools makes adoption cost prohibitive. With a SaaS offering, you only pay for what you need on a ‘per user’ basis. Everything is bundled into that price, including the CSDB, Editor, Publisher, support and training.

So I hope that’s helped to explain a little about our decision to be the first to go to mark with an S1000D Cloud solution, and also hopefully put to rest – even if just a little – the concerns around sensitive data in the cloud.

If you’ve still got questions, please do get in touch with me [email protected] and we can have a more detailed chat about the security side of things.

In the coming articles, I’ll zoom-in on some of Xignal S1000D’s features and our exciting plans in our development roadmap. In the meantime, if you’d like a look around Xignal S1000D for yourself, reach out to me personally at [email protected] and I’ll happily set you up your own login for a test drive of the system.

Until next time.

Jake

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