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Government entity[]

See Council on Technology Services.


COTS (an acronym for Commercial Off-The-Shelf) is

a commercially marketed product which is readily available for procurement and normally used without modification.[1]
a product that is 1) Sold, leased, or licensed to the general public; 2) Offered by a vendor trying to profit from it; 3) Supported and evolved by the vendor, who retains the intellectual property rights; 4) Available in multiple identical copies; 5) Used without source code modification.[2]
[a] term for software or hardware, generally technology or computer products, that are ready-made and available for sale, lease, or license to the general public. Commercial off-the-Shelf (COTS) products are often used as alternatives to in-house developments or one-off Government-funded developments.[3]


"A COTS product is often provided in large quantities and at relatively low cost to meet the demands of a wide range of user needs."

"The goal with COTS is to employ standard, widely used hardware and software products wherever possible so as to decrease costs and increase the likelihood that systems will be interoperable with other systems. The COTS strategy must grapple with a basic tension: even as government seeks through COTS to obtain a greater degree of flexibility that enables future vendor choice, vendors have an incentive to maximize the proprietary content of a system in order to increase the likelihood of future sales. Agencies thus face the dual issue of selecting an appropriate framework/[[architecture and managing the consequences of that commitment. In other words, once an organization has made decisions about overall system design, this constrains future decisions and limits which software products and vendor product lines will be compatible."[4]

"Normally, for COTS software, source code is not provided and maintenance is provided by the manufacturer under licence."[5]

"The use of COTS products is being mandated across many Government and business programs, as they may offer significant savings in procurement and maintenance. However, since COTS software specifications are written by external sources, Government agencies are sometimes wary of these products because they fear that future changes to the product will not be under their control."[6]


  1. NATO Standardization Agency, NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions 2-C-10 (2008) (full-text).
  2. California Technology Agency, Enterprise Architecture Glossary 2 (Apr. 2011) (full-text).
  3. Glossary of Security Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms, at 38.
  4. Information Technology Research, Innovation, and E-Government, at 98.
  5. Glossary of Communication Electronic Terms, at 2-39.
  6. Glossary of Security Terms, Definitions, and Acronyms, at 39.

See also[]