Examining the MDA

The Model-Driven Architecture (MDA) defines an approach to modeling that separates the specification of system functionality from the specification of its implementation on a specific technology platform. In short it defines a guidelines for structuring specifications expressed as models. The MDA promotes an approach where the same model specifying system functionality can be realized on multiple platforms through auxiliary mapping standards, or through point mappings to specific platforms. It also supports the concept of explicitly relating the models of different applications, enabling integration and interoperability and supporting system evolution as platform technologies come and go.

Download: Point-Counterpoint article in IEEE Software (September/October 2003) (90k PDF)

As I have written in Enterprise Architecture Techniques I'm concerned about the viability of the MDA. My feeling is that although the MDA is a very wonderful idea I suspect that it will succeed in only a very small percentage of organizations. Because of my writings questioning the viability of the MDA vision I was invited to be involved in a Point-Counterpoint article in IEEE Software.

Interesting questions that I think need to be asked regarding the MDA:

  1. What level of education and training is required by developers to use MDA tools?
  2. What makes us think that the tool vendors will honestly try to support model sharing standards in a competitive marketplace? Particularly when past experiences with other industry standards such as CORBA have shown a willingness of vendors to announce support for standards but in practice to implement the standard in their own unique manner?
  3. What makes us think that the underlying modeling language, the UML, is sufficient for the task at hand? Perhaps we should define the modeling languages which we use via open source, not via committee? I suspect that we need to extend the UML beyond object and component technology.
  4. How will MDA-based models be tested?
  5. How will MDA-based models handle the inherent complexities of legacy system integration?
  6. What evidence exists that MDA isn't simply a repeat of the 1980s I-CASE vision?
  7. Is developing these complex models really more productive than other options, such as agile development techniques?
  8. How will configuration management of models work in team-based environments?
  9. How could you possible develop a "platform independent model (PIM)" when there isn't a standard action semantic language (ASL) supported across the toolsets of various vendors? The PIMs will be dependent on the modeling tool.
  10. Have you ever had one of your business stakeholders ask you to develop detailed, sophisticated, platform independent models using a precise industry-standard modeling language which describes their business?
  11. Are You Ready For the MDA?
  12. Is the MDA vision simply a solution desperately looking for a problem?
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