Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Modelling Overload

Another day and another modelling language specification that will unify the world.

We are saved. All software development shops everywhere will use just one way of depicting systems, everyone will know exactly what the complicated constructs mean, this will make systems incredibly easy to develop and maintain and get rid of unnecessary documentation and the prosperity and world peace that will ensue and prevail will constitute a giant step for mankind etc etc.

For a classic example of how the IT industry wastes precious dollars in misguided quasi-unification initiatives ( I hinted on this in a previous post), check out the recent releases of the Service Modeling Language from Messrs. Microsft, BEA, Cisco etc. They were pre-empted by their well intentioned but increasingly irrelevant brethren at OMG who spewed forth SysML about a month ago. What impact these will possibly have on the real world I am not so sure as they do not address a problem anyone is actually trying to solve. There will obviously be enough to keep the tool vendors excited for 6 months or so though.
It's tempting and easy to indulge in nit picking the specifications but that's not my point. Why, when the history of software is littered with unsuccesful attempts to impose monolithic modelling constructs that virtually no one ever ends up adopting, do organisations persist in wasting time and money in dreaming up the next mega-specification ? Arguably the only modeling notation that has gained widespread currency is UML and that too in what Martin Fowler calls the UMLAsSketch mode. The MDA related fairy dust that was sprinkled on UML ( giving us the hallucinogenic UML 2.0) , never really caught on widely and exists these days to provide material for architecture conferences which seem to have a social obligation to schedule a "How MDA is changing the world" talk.

We don't need a meta- modeling specification. The whizziest modelling tools are often used as a substitute for clear thinking and there is no magic tool that can solve that particular problem.

Update - Harry Pierson at Microsoft responds to my post and makes a point about SML being a bottom up approach and therefore standing a better chance of working. The point is a valid one, but as I point out in the comments :
- Solutions increasingly involve technology from many vendors and a bottom-up approach has limitations here.
- Is the solution to a communication problem to have everyone speak the same language ?

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