UML 25 years from

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-07-29 Print this article Print

now"> In your talk earlier you mentioned that you foresee UML still being around 25 years from now. Can you talk about that? I do. No matter how you approach the problem of looking at modeling large systems, theres a body of semantics one has to address. And UML has made a particular stab at it. And there have been hundreds of individuals and tens of thousands of person hours of really bright people who have studied the problem of what are those right semantics. If you were to start from green field, our expectation is youre going to end up in a very similar place to where the UML is …
Was that a pun? [Jack Greenfield, an architect for enterprise frameworks and tools at Microsoft, formerly worked as an architect building Rationals UML-based tools.]
It probably was (laughter). I didnt realize. But, youd end up probably in very same place. And so, the notation, I dont care to argue about that much. In fact the direction were seeing happen is that with the preservation of UML semantics, we actually embrace alternative notations that may speak to specific domain experts. But unifying all those different views by common kinds of semantics, starting from scratch youll end up in a very similar place to the UML. So if we were to even trash the UML and start over again, what we come up with is going to look a lot like it. And thats why I view that the UML is probably something thats going to be around for a long, long time. Especially as we see greater emphasis being placed, and tools in place, for the automation of models into running systems and the extraction of those models from running systems themselves. Then we start seeing lots of legacy UML, which creates inertia for the standard itself, which is in fact something that will keep sustaining it. There are areas … I know Microsoft in particular has focused upon this notion of domain-specific languages, and I respect their notion. I agree that that approach is where the world is headed. Where I disagree with them is that the UML is sufficient for expressing those domains of specific things. One of the things that you and I have talked about before is my efforts to build this handbook of software architecture. And in systems that I have studied thus far, theres not a single one which Ive encountered for which I have found UML to be insufficient for describing their systems. So I certainly have personal evidence and Rational at large has evidence that this stuff seems to stick for just about every domain you can think of. Will it work for the next generation of systems two or three decades out? Hard to say, because its hard to predict what those systems are going to look like. I mean theyll be more complex, theyll be more distributed, theyll be multilingual, but I think UML will keep changing along with it as well. You also mentioned that you think well still have windows. Did you mean Microsoft Windows? Not Microsoft Windows, but the windowing metaphor (laughter). And that seems to be the best one thats persisted over the years. If you couple that with huge displays, that changes the nature of windows, in that now 3-D models begin to make sense because I can have these things spread across the room in a virtual desk, wrap it up with me, and I can focus on particular pieces. Ultimately, its all windows and file cabinets. Like the guys who did "The Net" and had the special effects in that one where Sandra [Bullock] was moving files around. … I dont think theyre far off from reality. But ultimately its still a windowing metaphor. Next Page: Going Hollywood?


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