Its All in the Model

IBM embraces modeling code, application development, tools.

IBM has been working on enhancing the power of modeling to include not only modeling code but also modeling of business processes and data and to integrate modeling into all its tools as well.

Sridhar Iyengar, a distinguished engineer in the Application Integration and Middleware division for the Armonk, N.Y., company, said IBM is mapping BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) to UML (Unified Modeling Language).

IBM has created a specification based on these mappings, called BPDM (Business Process Definition Metamodel), and delivered it this month to the Object Management Group to become an OMG standard, Iyengar told eWEEK at the OMG Integrate conference here.

While many Web services standards are progressing through the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, IBM and some supporters are pushing the BPDM proposal through the OMG as the best way to figure out "how we use UML and extend it for business modeling and integration," Iyengar said. "And how do we map it to a very concrete industry standard like BPEL for Web services."

UML can model schemata, Web services and Web services choreography using UML class diagrams and activity diagrams, sources said.

The key point, said Iyengar, is to "extend integration to have the choreography of these processes. ... This is the work we have been doing with Microsoft [Corp.] and BEA [Systems Inc.] and others thats been progressing through OASIS."

IBM has been working on its modeling technology and adding it to its core products.

Eric Schurr, a vice president at IBMs Rational division, said IBM is working to "tool" more capabilities in the modeling space using MDA (Model Driven Architecture) and UML. "For business integration, theres a natural relationship between business process models and application modeling. So Rational is sitting right there. This stuff is mostly additive and synergistic."

Marie Wieck, IBMs vice president of WebSphere Business Integration, said, "We view modeling as the glue between the business transformation thought and the practical application of it."

"What we did was to pull a team together that said were going to try to find an industry-standard way of modeling business processes because there werent really standards for business modeling at that level," Iyengar said. "And we wanted to do it on a foundation that was well-grounded in MDA."

The team used a combination of the EMF (Eclipse Modeling Framework) and MDA, which is the foundation for IBMs WebSphere tools, and it will also be at the foundation for Rationals modeling tools and WebSphere Business Integrations modeling tools.

"The point here is using models for integration of all the development tools," Iyengar said. "So the previous generations of integration [were] to use APIs to integrate tools, so you had the basic Java Eclipse APIs for integrating tools. Now were saying we really want to share the artifacts at the data level and the semantic level, and thats what EMF brings to the table."

Developers can use models and metadata for integrating businesses and business processes. "The relevance to the UML and BPEL mapping is that now ... we have made [it] available to the OMG, and we have BEA, Unisys and others supporting us," Iyengar said. "Were also trying to get the people at to work more closely with OMG on this."

The group has proposed modeling business processes using a UML 2.0 foundation but allowing freedom of notation "so businesspeople can have less intimidating notation than UML. UML can get extremely detailed, and thats very good for technical developers, but businesspeople want something simple," Iyengar said.

In the upcoming months, the OMG committee will review the proposal to determine how to standardize it.

Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass., market research firm, said he sees BPDM "as being a critical piece of how Model Driven Architecture will provide the methodology for building service-oriented architectures. By modeling the business processes in a standard way, architects and business analysts will be better able to create and maintain the SOA metamodel that should govern how SOAs are designed and managed."