Building a Process

Model driven architecture could be the next wave of software methodology for companies.

While browsing through a bookstore in Santa Clara, Calif., Daniel Austin spotted a book on IT Model Driven Architecture written by Richard Hubert, founder and president of InterActive Objects Software GmbH.

The decision by Austin, senior technical architect at W.W. Grainger Inc., to buy "Convergent Architecture, Building Model-Driven J2EE Systems with UML" set him on a three-year path to revamp his companys business processes and, eventually, its overriding IT systems architecture.

"What were looking at is the next wave of software methodology," Austin, in Lake Forest, Ill., said of MDA. "In the 1970s, we had the technical specification wave, and in the 90s, it was unified process. This may be that next wave of software methodology based on that business model."

A little-known company pushing its way into the integration space, InterActive Objects Software GmbH, based in Freiberg, Germany, announced this week the next generation of its ArcStyler platform that, starting from the business process layer, allows companies to develop MDA implementations that govern their IT systems.

Similarly, Q-Link Technologies Inc., of Tampa, Fla., last week announced partnerships designed to help companies build business process applications.

ArcStyler 3.0 enables system architects to model the integration of business processes using a code-generating architecture. When low-level code changes occur, new code can be generated from the ArcStyler software, negating the need to redo old work at the application level.

"Weve been doing architecture projects for 12 years, and there is no such thing as a standard project or a green field," said InterActive Objects Hubert. "You always have an install base, and there are always idiosyncrasies. The architecture has to adapt to the old and bring in the new."

ArcStyler complies with the MDA standard developed by the Object Management Group, of Needham, Mass., an industry consortium that maintains specifications for interoperable enterprise applications.

The process for building the MDA is something like this: Create a business process model using an open, standardized language. The model is then refined in automated transformation steps by the technical details for the implementation platform. The results are separated, precise models at various levels of abstraction.

Finally, the code and infrastructure for the system, including Web clients and services, deployment, and test infrastructure, are automatically generated on the basis of the platform-specific models. ArcStyler supports the transformation steps with its MDA-Automatic-Cartridges, which contain technological details.

ArcStyler 3.0 features a new module, MDA Enabler, which parses existing Java sources and Enterprise JavaBeans archives to automatically generate the corresponding Unified Modeling Language model elements.

It also comes with new and extended MDA-Cartridges that generate code and infrastructure for leading Java application servers from BEA Systems Inc., IBM, Iona Technologies plc. and Borland Software Corp. A standard MDA-Cartridge for Microsoft Corp.s .Net infrastructure will ship soon, officials said.

Graingers Austin said the emerging MDA model will help him move his company forward. And while he is working on the project to move toward MDA, Grainger will also be working on a much larger project of IT convergence.

"This is starting in my department and growing out, but it will affect the way everyone in the whole company works," Austin said. "Very few companies do business process modeling in any full sense. Not only do we have to go through and figure out how it affects IT, but businesspeople have to figure out [how to] organize and formalize their business processes."

As part of the project, Austin will also look to break down his large, monolithic implementations into components. Integration will be handled in a componentized fashion, using Web services that will allow it to fit into the model.

InterActive Objects has partnerships with several software makers, including iWay Software, of New York, which provides more than 200 adapters to various software applications.

Q-Link is looking to solve business process integration by providing a componentized approach. Its also partnering with iWay to expand its integration points. Q-Link last week announced a partnership with iWay to enable Q-Link users to integrate composite applications back into their existing enterprise systems.

The Q-Link platform interacts with iWay connectors through a component-based workflow engine powered by Q-Links Process Action Components, or Q-PACs, which are the building blocks for modular process design by representing business process actions as a reusable software component. The two companies will deliver a suite of Q-PACs that enable the iWay connectors to be accessed at any step of a business process, officials said.

Q-Link and UnBound Technologies Inc., of Houston, announced a partnership in which UnBound will provide a platform for instant messaging and mobile communications. The partnership will enable users to extend Q-Links composite applications forward to mobile and wireless devices.

This story was edited after it was originally posted to correct the spelling of W.W. Grainger Inc.