Will MDD Ever Come to Fruition? by Ivar Jacobson

I am often asked the question: “will MDD ever be successful and will the tools ever really be put in place to support it?” and I was recently asked this again, so here are my thoughts.  

The following is solely my opinion and can be argued or agreed with, but it comes from 15+ years of experience building application and data modeles, modeling tools including ERwin, Rational Rose and other tools, writing 2 books on UML and working directly with clients who are modeling. 

Model Driven Development in concept is great, but to date the tools and the people who would have to use them have not been able to keep up with the concepts.  There are some very good tools on the market like Telelogic Tau, Rational RoseRT and a few others which do a fairly complete job of generating the needed code, but this is usually focused in the "systems" space and has not translated well to IT as it is based on state's and generating the logic from those states, etc.   

On the IT side, we do have similar concepts, but they start from business process models using tools like WebSphere Business Modeler and similar tools from BEA for example which connect to Business Process runtime engines and generate the connection points of existing applications to automate communication and business process execution.   

This all said, the uptake MDD has not been that of other areas for what I believe are 3 reasons: 

1.      Developers are developers because they want to write code and don't see models as being complete enough nor for their role to build models beyond simple architecture structures.

2.      Most projects today are starting with something already in production and therefore doing modeling of the architectures, use cases and processes are quite good to understand what needs to be done, how it connects together and prioritize work, but it makes it difficult to generate a system that is only a piece to connect up or an update.

3.      I believe #3 can stand on its own, but also lends itself to the first 2 comments and that is the creation of a "Black Box".  Using MDD tools creates a black box effect where runtime generation, transformations and other constructs are managed by a proprietary engine which is difficult to alter and manage. 

a.      For Developers, they often think they can do it better and faster and don’t want to rely on something they cannot touch. 

b.      Because of the black box approach, it is often requires a rewrite of the engines that have already been put into place for the existing systems causing added cost that nobody is willing to fund. 

We have tried in the past similar types of technologies which few have been successful as well.  Runtime Data Access is a great example where tools and companies popped up in the late 90's which created object-to-data mapping and automated the creation of the runtime access at what they claimed to be much faster and cheaper than doing it yourself.  Yes, this was good at least in theory, but few bought into it.  Why?  Black box approach, hard to test, developers think they can write faster algorithms, management doesn't trust something they cannot see, etc.  This is very similar to MDD and its lack of success in my opinion.   

That all said, I do have some collegues who are using MDD on some very interesting projects building components for airplanes for example which they feel are quite successful, but these also seem to be few and far between.

2 Comments
  1. Philippe Back | September 9, 2010 at 5:17 pm Reply

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    I’ve seen my share of projects spiraling down due to Hibernate for example.

    A bunch of well designed views and stored procedures would have done the trick better for 1/10th of the cost and been delivered 5 times sooner minimum. Add to that that the performance was bad, price of developers was sky high, and bugs were a nightmare to find and iron out.

  2. Juha-Pekka | April 7, 2008 at 2:42 pm Reply

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    You are absolutely right on your claim that MDD tools (like those you mention) create a black box effect and take control away from developers. These tools basically fix the way of modeling, way of generating the code, and way of working in general.

    Domain-Specific Modeling changes this “black box” effect totally as it gives the control to the experienced developers within a company: They specify modeling languages that works for their application area as well as generators that produced the code as it should be written based on their target, libraries, frameworks, etc. For such cases and tools see http://www.dsmforum.org

    Juha-Pekka