Creating an Open Market for IT Architecture Tools
Draft 1.2 Prepared by John Spencer 26th October 1999
The goals of the new Open Group Architecture Program:
- Define an open standard Architecture Description Language for IT architecture tools, providing portability and interoperability of architecture definitions across different tools from different vendors
- Create a viable market for open tools for IT architecture definition
- Use this language as the basis for an open "Building Blocks Description Language", to define open, re-usable architecture building blocks:
- Re-usable across customer IT architectures
- Fit for use in procurement (allowing real products to be conformance tested and procured to fulfil the defined functions)
- Cater for "fuzzy" definitions as well as tightly defined specifications
- Create an open repository in which to store such building block definitions (the "Building Blocks Information Base", or BBIB)
- Develop testing and branding programs to verify conformance of vendor IT solutions to the open Building Block definitions
Open Group roles:
The stakeholders in the new Open Group Architecture Program are illustrated below.
There are three complementary core projects that involve and affect all of these stakeholders:
IT architecture tools are a class of tools that deal with the definition (and usually the graphical representation) of entire IT architectures. They are analogous to, but distinct from, the system design and CASE tools that deal with systems and software engineering.
Unlike object-oriented design and modelling tools, which in recent years have coalesced around UML as a common industry standard, there is as yet no commonly accepted commercial or de jure standard for IT architecture tools. While UML is an excellent basis for system component design, and UML based tools are often used to model various aspects of IT architecture, UML has generally been found lacking as a basis for overall IT architecture design (see Sull et al, and Youngs et al in a recent paper in the IBM Systems Journal).
To date, almost all publicly published research into architecture tools has been done in the academic arena, where a number of different architecture description languages have been produced.
In recent years, one such language - ACME, developed at Carnegie-Mellon University - has come to be widely accepted in the U.S. academic arena as a standard for interchange of architecture description information.
Building on ACME, the MCC consortium has produced the Architecture Description Markup Language (ADML), as part of its Software and Systems Engineering Productivity (SSEP) project, which has been implemented as an XML Document Type Definition (DTD).
The goal of the Open Group project in this area is to create a market for open tools that support portable architecture definitions - i.e., the architecture definitions created by the various tools should be portable across tools from different vendors, and and to enable all or part of such architecture definitions to be re-usable / portable across different customer IT architecture definitions.
The strategy involves standardizing ADML as an architecture description language, and engaging the key IT architecture tools vendors to evolve it into an industry standard as the basis for IT architecture tools.
This in turn will produce the familiar benefits of open systems in the architecture tools market:
Some of the key players in the IT architecture and design tools market are (in alphabetical order):
In addition, a recent paper in the IBM Systems Journal indicates that IBM has become active in this field, at least internally.
The Open Group intends to use standardized ADML as a language for the definition of building blocks in architecture work.
This work aims to provide a means of defining architectural building blocks in a way that allows their interactions with, and dependencies on, other building blocks to be captured; and that allows real products to be conformance tested and procured to fulfil the defined functions.
The project has already established that MCC's ADML represents a proof of concept for such a "Building Blocks Description Language". The next stage is to standardize ADML (as described above), and then use the standardized ADML as a Building Blocks Description Language, to generate significant building block definitions.
It is envisaged that this definition work will be done by:
This will produce benefits for all sides of the market:
Building Blocks are in many respects "procurement-ready profiles". This third project will develop the conformance testing and branding programs to verify conformance of IT solutions to the Building Block definitions that are defined using the open Architecture Description Language, and stored in the open Building Blocks Information Base.
There is a significant possibility - yet to be investigated and confirmed one way or the other - that The Open Group's own Assertion Definition Language (ADL) could be used to facilitate the development of test suites in this field.
Organisations of all sizes are re-engineering their business processes, often as a result of mergers and acquisitions, creating a growing demand for reliable methods and tools for moving from a piecemeal set of loosely interconnected systems to a consistent architecture that can integrate disparate organizational units into a coherent business function.
The Open Group already has a significant track record in the Architecture field. It has developed and refined The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF) over the past six years, which in turn provides the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM) - a vendor-independent, technology-independent, high quality method that is dependable and proven in practice, for developing customer IT architectures based on open industry standards.
The Open Group is intending to build on its existing achievements in the Architecture field by focusing on its acknowledged strengths, of providing a forum for achieving consensus on open industry standards, and developing the necessary testing and branding services to support market growth.
Last Update: February 14, 2001
Name: John Spencer