In an attempt to reduce cost and delivery time of software systems Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software components are being used in increasing numbers. The source code for these components is not available to the system developer nor does the system developer control the specification, release schedule and evolution of the components. The Software Engineering Group of the National Research Council of Canada is undertaking a series of experiments concerning systems that use COTS software components. In order to better understand the issues facing system users and developers, (as opposed to developers of the COTS software components), we are experimenting with architectures, technologies and processes which may be applicable to such systems.<br /><br />The experiment consists of developing a prototype of a distributed database management and communications system. This system is representative in that it integrates a significant number of COTS software products under one umbrella, including data acquisition, data conversion, data manipulation, communication, database, and messaging. Many of these functions are provided by COTS software components from different vendors. The purpose of this experiment is to try to understand, as we go through the development, the effect the use of COTS software components has on the procurement process, the development process, and the architecture of the system.