Welcome!

Wireless Authors: Peter Silva, Kevin Benedict, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Java, SYS-CON MEDIA

Java: Article

i-Technology Viewpoint: Is Model Driven Architecture Coming Into Its Own?

MDA has been with us for years; will the arrival of meta-data bring it closer to the mainstream?

JDJ's Bill Dudney (pictured) writes: With the popularity of Object Relational Mapping tools like Hibernate and Cayenne, developers are more often than other giving control of some of their code to models. Will this help raise MDA into the mainstream? Will MDA take its hoped-for place as the next level of abstraction for developers?

What about MDA

Model Driven Architecture, also known as MDA, started in late 2000 with a white paper. Basically the idea is that we define the software we want to build in sophisticated models that capture the detail of the application. Then from these abstract models a series of transformations is applied to turn that abstract model into a running application. The highest-level model is referred to as a Platform Independent Model (PIM). There is an even more abstract model called a Computational Independent Model but we won't discuss that model. The PIM is, as the name suggests, independent of the deployment platform (i.e. .NET Java EE 5 etc.) In this model the business is specified, classes that make up the domain are fleshed out and specified. This model is then transformed into one or more Platform Specific Models (PSM) that can be elaborated with more detail specific to the platform. From the PSM a running application can be generated.

Now of course there is a need to put in your own business logic. Most tools today provide a way for you to edit the 'business logic' apart from the fully generated code. For example AndroMDA (an open source MDA tool) will generate some files only once (where your business logic is written). Other tools like OptimalJ take a different approach giving you code you can edit and 'protected blocks' that are part of the generated code. I'm sure there are other approaches as well that are taken by other tools.

The Promise

  • Productivity - the ability to raise the level of abstraction so that developers can become more productive is one of the greatest promises of MDA. Just as Java raised the level of abstraction from C/C++ so MDA raises the level abstraction for Java EE / .NET.
  • Portability - greater ease of migration between various technologies (such as .NET to Java EE) or between different versions of the same technology (i.e. EJB 2.1 to EJB 3.0). Once developed your PIM is the repository of knowledge about your application, so moving to another underlying technology is 'easy'.
  • Consistency - greater consistency of application architectural principals. This feature is hard to ignore. Many enterprise level projects have divergent architectures on the same project. Maintenance is very difficult in these projects to be sure.

The Problems

At its core MDA is about using meta-data to drive program creation. The idea is that if we can develop a sophisticated enough model to express software then we can fully generate the actual running program from the model (or even create a virtual machine that could execute the model). The problem with taking this idea too far of course is that we end up with just another platform. Probably even worse though is that it's 'programming with pictures' which was already tried at least once in the late 80s and failed miserably. Few are willing to try programming with pictures again.

Many proponents of the MDA approach like to say that given a PIM with sufficient detail one would be free to move between .NET, Java EE or to something like Hibernate & Spring assuming that you had the proper set of transformations for these other PSMs. While this is a great marketing pitch for MDA and the PIM it is just not that straightforward. A PSM has too much platform-specific knowledge buried in it to simply move between different technologies. After all the PSM is where the business logic that makes the application unique actually resides. In order to make this move all that logic must be changed to fit into the new target technology.

Finally, and probably most significantly, MDA must overcome the grass roots resistance to the idea. Developers like to develop. They don't like to have control taken from them. There is a fundamental distrust of code generation and a resistance to this type of abstraction.

Sea-Change?

There are a couple of moves afoot that make me think we might be on the verge of a change in perception about MDA. The first is a more pragmatic approach being taken by vendors. Instead of expecting developers to program in pictures, many vendors are taking a more pragmatic approach. Developers are expected to build more familiar UML class diagrams and annotate them. Few are expecting a full blown executable model.

Second and more significantly is the emergence of meta-data as a normal part of every day life for Java developers. Several years ago the XDoclet project started bringing meta-data into the mainstream. The 'killer-app' for XDoclet was that EJBs only needed the bean class, the rest of the required files (remote/local interfaces, deployment descriptor entries, value objects etc.) were updated/generated automatically by XDoclet. Many developers embraced this approach because of the reduced tedious work that had to be done. With XDoclet, developers no longer have to mess with keeping the remote and local interfaces in-sync with the implementation methods. Instead XDoclet automatically generates the remote and local interfaces.

At this point many MDA vendors and proponents should be saying to themselves, hey that is exactly what we have been doing for years! And it is, the difference is no visual model. The developers write the meta-data that would normally be in stereotypes and/or tagged values right into their code. For many this bridges a semantic gap that is missing in the visual modeling paradigm.

Back to the meta-data being more 'normal'. The other major change that has recently happened that brings meta-data front and center is the addition of Annotations to the Java SE 5 platform and especially the use of this meta-data in Java EE 5. Developers will be using meta-data on a daily basis.

Another thing that developers typically don't like about the MDA approach is the feeling of lack of control over what is generated. I have often heard the assertion that the developer could do better than the code generator and other such comments. While it is probably true that a hand-crafted piece of code would be 'better' in many respects, it is also true that the generated code can be done in a fraction of the time and is 'good enough'.

An area where developers have been resistant to adopt a meta-data driven approach in the past has been persistence. The same argument of 'I could do better' was used quite often. More recently though it seems that Object Relational Mapping frameworks like Hibernate and/or Cayenne have been gaining momentum. On the surface you might be thinking that I'm nuts to draw a comparison between R/O Mapping and MDA but the comparison is not that far off. Most MDA tools rely on code generation instead of a framework but basically it's the same kind of thing. Hibernate has a framework but could just as well generate code at run time (or imagine aspects being attached to your POJOs). Either way (framework or code generation) meta-data is driving the way objects are mapped to rows in tables.

With the current set of R/O mapping tools a lot of control is removed from the developer; what exact SQL is executed is no longer in the developers direct control. However many are willing to give up this control for the increased productivity gain allowed by using something like Hibernate. Who really wants to write all that JDBC code anyway?

So where does this leave us? Will MDA take its hoped -for place as the next level of abstraction for developers? Will MDA become the next best thing that is relegated to the dustbin of history? Hard to say for sure, one thing is for certain though, meta-data is becoming more a part of developers everyday lives.

More Stories By Bill Dudney

Bill Dudney is Editor-in-Chief of Eclipse Developer's Journal and serves too as JDJ's Eclipse editor. He is a Practice Leader with Virtuas Solutions and has been doing Java development since late 1996 after he downloaded his first copy of the JDK. Prior to Virtuas, Bill worked for InLine Software on the UML bridge that tied UML Models in Rational Rose and later XMI to the InLine suite of tools. Prior to getting hooked on Java he built software on NeXTStep (precursor to Apple's OSX). He has roughly 15 years of distributed software development experience starting at NASA building software to manage the mass properties of the Space Shuttle.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Joe Gaber 10/15/05 07:27:38 PM EDT

Here are comments related to snippets of your article:

1. "Developers like to develop" - this is true; however, developers have developed using a wide variety of programming languages and OCL (instrumental to the fulfillment of MDA) is another programming language (in fact its similar to the much aclaimed language smalltalk), and in the same way that Java didn't become a big deal until Java 2, OCL and UML (now at 2.0) are likely to now gain the same acceptance. Also, see my blog for a way for developers and architects to work in pairs in a version of Agile Modeling that I am professing is the missing link between modeling and programming collaboration.

2. "There is a fundamental distrust of code generation and a resistance to this type of abstraction" - isn't any 3rd GL (i.e., Java) an abstraction, or two, from 0s and 1s?? And, doesn't the entire J2EE array of APIs provide even more abstraction from code writting?? And, doesn't every IDE on the market today provide all types of functionality that helps write and refactor code?? Conclusion: If it wasn't for increasing abstractions from the 0s and 1s a CPU uses, we would be producing the same amount of 0s and 1s today as 30 years ago. The fact that we (developers) produce vastly greater amounts of machine code through the "abstract" languages and tools of today then we did before is what produces "productivity". At the point productivity ceases to increase, programming (wirtting code) becomes a commodity given to the lowest bidder.

3. "The developers write the meta-data that would normally be in stereotypes and/or tagged values right into their code. For many this bridges a semantic gap that is missing in the visual modeling paradigm" - whether you write meta-data in the code or in a model it only matters from a business standpoint not an engineering standpoint. What I mean by this is that business models far outlive the applications that fulfill the business's objective. Modeling the business domain, its processes, and transforming that into code provides the business with a much longer lived artifact than code. You can use XDoclet, Java 5 annotation, or an external transformation/mapping file (as with MDA), it doesn't matter, the fact is you are still using the meta-data to generate specific code. Also, as far as the idea of a "visual modeling paradigm", once you add the rich semantics into the visual elements of the model, you know have much more than pictures. You have a programmically rich artifact with much more power than just written code.

4. "Another thing that developers typically don't like about the MDA approach is the feeling of lack of control over what is generated" - in the case of a MDA tool like the open-source Andromda, what is generated is exactly what you specify in the templates, metafades, and specific cartridge descripter files used. All of which is under the complete control of whoever the busines decides, including developers. I am currently writting a cartridge for Andromda to generate specific applications using the Sprng Framework, including Spring's MVC implementation as well as to include DWR(AJAX) integrated with Spring. There is no restrictions to the way I decide for the code to be generated as I am the one creating the templates that produce the code.

The arguements about how MDA, CASE tools, CORBA, Meta-data, etc have not been embraced in the past is an indication of the future of MDA is, IMO, absurd. In order for MDA to succeed, there has had to be, and continues to be, numerous different technologies and methodologies to converge. MDA is in its infancy in terms of being a practical approach to software development. The fact is that MDA is highly dependent upon tools, and quite frankly, no tool of the past has had the power, functionality, vision, etc to truly meet the needs of MDA. That is changing as we speak, with virtually every major tool vendor, and the two leading OS IDEs (Eclipse and Netbeans), introducing new products, or projects, which include UML modeling, OCL, BPM, and MDA functionality all wrapped up into a compete high productivity tool.

Best regards,

@ThingsExpo Stories
Software AG helps organizations transform into Digital Enterprises, so they can differentiate from competitors and better engage customers, partners and employees. Using the Software AG Suite, companies can close the gap between business and IT to create digital systems of differentiation that drive front-line agility. We offer four on-ramps to the Digital Enterprise: alignment through collaborative process analysis; transformation through portfolio management; agility through process automation and integration; and visibility through intelligent business operations and big data.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
Last week, while in San Francisco, I used the Uber app and service four times. All four experiences were great, although one of the drivers stopped for 30 seconds and then left as I was walking up to the car. He must have realized I was a blogger. None the less, the next car was just a minute away and I suffered no pain. In this article, my colleague, Ved Sen, Global Head, Advisory Services Social, Mobile and Sensors at Cognizant shares his experiences and insights.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) irreversibly encoded. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, will look at how this identity problem can be solved and discuss ways to use existing web identities for real-time communication.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT. Attendees will learn real-world benefits of WebRTC and explore future possibilities, as WebRTC and IoT intersect to improve customer service.
From telemedicine to smart cars, digital homes and industrial monitoring, the explosive growth of IoT has created exciting new business opportunities for real time calls and messaging. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Ivelin Ivanov, CEO and Co-Founder of Telestax, will share some of the new revenue sources that IoT created for Restcomm – the open source telephony platform from Telestax. Ivelin Ivanov is a technology entrepreneur who founded Mobicents, an Open Source VoIP Platform, to help create, deploy, and manage applications integrating voice, video and data. He is the co-founder of TeleStax, an Open Source Cloud Communications company that helps the shift from legacy IN/SS7 telco networks to IP-based cloud comms. An early investor in multiple start-ups, he still finds time to code for his companies and contribute to open source projects.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to create new business models as significant as those that were inspired by the Internet and the smartphone 20 and 10 years ago. What business, social and practical implications will this phenomenon bring? That's the subject of "Monetizing the Internet of Things: Perspectives from the Front Lines," an e-book released today and available free of charge from Aria Systems, the leading innovator in recurring revenue management.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at 6th Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, to discuss how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices – computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be!
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehension and conference efficiency.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, will discuss single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example to explain some of these concepts including when to use different storage models.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridstore delivers vmOptimized™ Storage that self-optimizes to each application or VM across both virtual and physical environments. Leveraging a grid architecture, Gridstore delivers the first end-to-end storage QoS to ensure the most important App or VM performance is never compromised. The storage grid, that uses Gridstore’s performance optimized nodes or capacity optimized nodes, starts with as few a...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. These technological reforms have not only changed computers and smartphones, but are also changing the data processing model for all information devices. In particular, in the area known as M2M (Machine-To-Machine), there are great expectations that information with a new type of value can be produced using a variety of devices and sensors saving/sharing data via the network and through large-scale cloud-type data processing. This consortium believes that attaching a huge number of devic...
Innodisk is a service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies, with a focus on the enterprise, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries. Innodisk is dedicated to serving their customers and business partners. Quality is vitally important when it comes to industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products. That’s why Innodisk manufactures all of their products in their own purpose-built memory production facility. In fact, they designed and built their production center to maximize manufacturing efficiency and guarantee the highest quality of our products.
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. Download Slide Deck: ▸ Here
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. Over the summer Gartner released its much anticipated annual Hype Cycle report and the big news is that Internet of Things has now replaced Big Data as the most hyped technology. Indeed, we're hearing more and more about this fascinating new technological paradigm. Every other IT news item seems to be about IoT and its implications on the future of digital business.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
With the iCloud scandal seemingly in its past, Apple announced new iPhones, updates to iPad and MacBook as well as news on OSX Yosemite. Although consumers will have to wait to get their hands on some of that new stuff, what they can get is the latest release of iOS 8 that Apple made available for most in-market iPhones and iPads. Originally announced at WWDC (Apple’s annual developers conference) in June, iOS 8 seems to spearhead Apple’s newfound focus upon greater integration of their products into everyday tasks, cross-platform mobility and self-monitoring. Before you update your device, here is a look at some of the new features and things you may want to consider from a mobile security perspective.