ArcStyler turns business models into code

Software engineers won't have to write any code - at least that's the promise of model-driven architecture and a new tool that uses it

Software engineering without writing code could get a step closer with the launch of a new version of a software development environment. ArcStyler from Interactive Objects is based on model-driven architecture (MDA), a standard that looks like being the software engineering community's final word on how to derive software directly from business models. "We think that there are signs that MDA will take off in a significant way," said Ian Charlesworth, senior research analyst at Butler Group. "The essence of MDA is to separate the business model from the IT infrastructure, and in doing so to increase the productivity of business analysts, systems architects, and developers, whilst enabling the easy communication of concepts between them." Software development tools that produce finished code from specifications have been promised for a long time, and development environments such as Microsoft Visual Studio .Net (and others from Borland and IBM that got there first) have gone some way to realising this. However, software now has to link across distributed systems and between companies and it has to include legacy code. "Infrastructure standards are constantly evolving, from client/server, through Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), Enterprise Java Beans (EJB), and on to Web services," said Charlesworth. "But it is difficult to encompass these new developments without significant upheaval." Standards maker the Object Management Group has gained some support for the use of MDA and a "universal modelling language" (UML). However, said Charlesworth: "There are not many tools available that directly support MDA. ArcStyler is an early example." Version 3.1 of ArcStyler is launched this month, adding Web services support and a wireless cartridge which supports J2ME, the Java 2 Mobile Environment, as well as links to other software development and deliver products such as IBM WebSphere. "We are the first product in this evolution," said Richard Hubert, chief executive at Interactive Objects of Freiburg, Germany, who is also the author of the first textbook on the subject, from the OMG press. "Our biggest competitor is inertia." "Microsoft is still code-centric," said Hubert. "Code management is getting very good, but our approach is model-centric." The two approaches can be used together, with a product like Visual Studio .Net being used to examine the code from ArcStyler, and tweak it, he said. Credit Suisse and Dresdner Bank are already using ArcStyler, said Hubert. Interactive Objects has been acting as an IT architecture consultant since 1990, eventually launching products to deal with object-oriented development and CORBA.

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