Oct 03

Mobile devices, Model Driven Architecture (MDA) and Model Driven Development (MDD)

Last week I attended Integranova’s Scientific Advisory Board meeting at Olivanova in Spain to speak about the significance of the new generation of mobile devices and how this applies to MDA and MDD. I was not the only one thinking like this. Various other speakers confirmed that mobile devices are a logical target for MDD, that MDA is a coherent way to approach such development and that Integranova’s Model Execution System (MES) is well placed to shape the design and then produces the executables for applications and apps for both iOS and Android mobile devices. Stephen Liddle, Director of the Rollins Center for eBusiness at Brigham Young University, even showed how this can be done.

In listening to the presentations, which confirmed for example that in MES Integranova joins Apple and Amazon in adopting HTML5 as a core element, the same question kept returning: why is there resistance to MDA and MDD? While Integranova has made progress, particularly in the defense and financial sectors, it is clear that this has been a tough, hard road to pursue with sales taking time. It (Integranova) is succeeding because it has been patient, continually refining the MES, and focused. It is also not alone. Other MDA and MDD vendors are finding the same resistance.

Such resistance is curious, especially when you think about what MDA and MDD deliver:

  • Faster and less error prone application specification and production (illustrations were offered where the time taken to develop an application was 30-40% less than traditional development and coding techniques, and with 75% fewer defects/errors in one case)
  • Lower cost life cycle software evolution (usually called ‘software maintenance’); Andrew Watson, the CTO of OMG produced estimates that 50-70% of the total cost of ownership of software over its long life is attributable to software evolution (and associated training, etc) and so anything that MDA/MDD which reduces this 50-70% becomes a major contributor to IT cost reduction
  • Interpretability: with ever more legislation and regulation and the associated compliance burdens, being able to demonstrate clearly from a detailed model (inherent in MDA) what processes do (and do not do) has huge value and many beneficial implications.

Each one of these benefits is attractive. Combined you might think they would be compelling.

The sad truth is that the innate conservatism of IT (“we know what we know and do not want to change”) added to common incredulity that MDA/MDD can really be that effective are two of the more obvious constraints holding back MDA/MDD adoption in the enterprise – though neither of these is really credible. More understandable is the view that learning how to exploit MDA/MDD requires a steep learning curve, which is a valid comment: but, once accomplished, the benefits – financial and technical – that flow are substantial.

MDA/MDD deserves more attention. It is not a panacea, but it works. If MDA/MDD can exploit the coming intense interest in developing mobile device apps to work with traditional applications it should open a huge door. “Vamos a ver” (“let’s wait and see”), as the Spanish would say, is inadequate. Enterprise organizations should be out and actively asking about how MDA/MDD applies in an increasingly mobile environment. They could be pleasantly surprised, if they can overcome their natural skepticism.

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