Sidebar: Waiting for UML 2.0

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Selic: As a general rule, we are building complex systems, and I think some understanding of the technology in the end is not something that can be avoided because it's easy for me, for example, to write my application perhaps, but out of that [there's] interplay with the entire system and so on. So some degree of technical understanding of the underlying platform will always be necessary. I don't believe that programmers will disappear, or whatever their equivalent is, 10 years, 20 years from now. There will always be a need for that kind of expertise. But that doesn't necessarily mean that people who are nonprogrammers will not be able to take advantage of and synthesize their own bits of software.
How will MDA and UML evolve going forward?
Selic: I think we are in the infancy of modeling languages. UML certainly is the most successful one and the one that perhaps has created the spark that was necessary to fire up this model-driven development approach. I'm sure that we will look back, 20 years [from now], on UML and say it in many ways was rough in spots. The one thing I'm sure of is that modeling language technologies are going to really leap ahead in the coming years. Things like aspect orientation, intentional programming possibly as an even more general thing, will wind their way in there. And we will understand better how to put them into modeling languages and how to make them closer to people because if you're using UML now, you still have to have a certain degree of specialist knowledge. You have to know what a class is and so on, and maybe some day that kind of stuff will be under the hood rather than straight up.
Booch: In the shorter term, we certainly see movement to apply the UML in the area of modeling Web services. Service-based architecture is one style of architecture for enterprise systems. And our teams already spent some time doing some deep thinking about how one models services. The last thing you want to do is have a developer worry about the details of WSDL [Web Services Description Language]. This is the assembly language of services. And so there are tremendous opportunities to apply visualization, which is what the UML can provide, and then generation and wiring together of systems via modeling for service-based architectures.
What's your long-term vision?
Booch: It's amazing to realize that people are still using Cobol and all sorts of ancient languages, languages that tend not to die, especially those languages that provide fundamental economic value to an organization. I see that to be the future of UML. ... UML is a mainstream technology and I expect it to preserve that beachhead for some time because of the value it provides. As I look in the longer term, I see down the MDD path great potential there, especially in the area of asset-based development, where we're not just talking about wiring services together, but taking much larger conceptual chunks, these larger collaborations and being able to embed them in our system. ... I think asset-based development in the longer term is a place where languages like the UML can really play because primarily this is a space where you're dealing with a cacophony of traditional programming languages and the UML being really the only standard visual language that transcends these traditional textual languages.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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