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OMG CEO Soley on software modeling, fast data distribution

Richard Soley, head of UML steward OMG, reflects on the rise of software modeling, new means of distributing fast middleware, cloud standards and more. caught up recently with Richard Solely, CEO at the Object Management Group (OMG), for a look at industry trends. Under discussion were recent OMG technical achievements, cloud computing, fast data distribution, middleware standards and the birthday of UML, the Unified Modeling Language, which turned 15 in 2012. Industry veteran Soley posits UML and software modeling at the head of the class of technology game changers.

Listen to the Q&A now:

We've been talking about UML for a number of years -- 15 years in fact -- but we'd like to get your perspective on what UML has meant to application development and to IT.

Richard SoleyRichard Soley, CEO,
Object Management Group

Richard Soley: It is pretty clear that modeling is the right way to develop systems --either executing those models directly or generating code from those models. But more importantly, generating documentation … and integrating those structures into future systems and changing them as the world changes. With 90% of all systems cost being maintenance and integration, it's very important to keep accurate blueprints of the implementation, rather than just the code.

UML isn't the only modeling language, but it is the central one and the grandfather of a lot of other languages that are used in system engineering; there are SysML, SOAML and others.

In 1997, just before the UML standard was adopted, the worldwide market of modeling tools, despite the importance of models to high-quality software, was about $30 million. Within five years, beginning of 2002, it was at least a $4 billion market, and we stopped looking after that.

The big change was that many companies were now developing tools under the same standard. That's what a standard gives you. It gives you the opportunity to innovate over a single standard API, language or whatever.

Many standards in the day arose out of the conflict between two big powers -- Microsoft and "everyone else," often led by IBM and Oracle. We have discussed this in the past. It doesn't seem to me that we have the same battle going on now. Has it just shifted emphasis?

Soley: There are definitely battles going on. It's just that the battlefield moves and changes. I think in the modeling tools business it was recognized by Microsoft and others that clients were building plugins for their tools to support UML so they might as well support UML directly. It's what customers wanted. There isn't a battle around modeling language any more. That battle is over, and UML and its descendants, profiles and relatives like BPMN, have won.

There are definitely battles going on. It's just that the battlefield moves and changes.

Richard Soley,

But there are still battles going on, and you only have to look at cloud computing for 15 seconds to realize that while the cloud computing standards organizations are already working together to define requirements and priorities and avoid stepping on each other's standards … there are still major competitions in the market as to how people will use cloud computing.

If you develop a Force application for the [] cloud, it runs on the Salesforce cloud. If you develop a Python application for Google apps, it runs on the Google cloud. If you build an Amazon Web Service, it runs on Amazon cloud. You already have compartmentalization of implementation against multiple cloud venders, and that comes not just from attempts to lock in customers, but also because customers ask for different things and vendors work separately to build different tools and APIs and so forth.

If you look at cloud standards, or rather the standards organizations that are making standards that just happen to be cloud related, some of those are cloud specific, like the Cloud Security Alliance, but most are standards organizations that have been there for a long time, focusing on the things that go into clouds. OMG, for example, our focus in the cloud space is on service level agreement and on modeling, to implement brokers and move cloud implementations and deployments from one cloud to another. 

Cloud security alliance is looking at cloud security, obviously. SNIA has taken their existing storage specs and moved them to the cloud as well. Probably the most exciting two things about cloud standards for end users are expectations of portability and interoperability for cloud implementation and deployment.

I wanted to ask you about something that OMG has been involved with, DDS -- Data Distribution Service. It's a fast middleware format. That being the case, did it come out of the efforts of military or NASA folks?

Soley: The answer to the question is yes, but let me give you a little bit more history, which might surprise you. You and I have discussed this before, although a lot of publications have told you otherwise, CORBA is alive and well. The last CORBA project that I saw planned for was about a month ago. And there're huge CORBA deployments going on.

From the perspective of real-time embedded systems, and high-performance computing, the interesting thing about CORBA is the IDL, the [interface definition language] for specifying what information is to be shared and what it looks like on the wire.

DDS actually came out of our CORBA experience and is a real-time, high performance, publish and subscribe middleware that uses CORBA's IDL to describe the info to share, but has a completely separate API, because it's publish-subscribe instead of point-to-point.

You have publishers, and anyone with appropriate security can subscribe to that information and get it as soon as it's available. It's distributed around the ship or trading floor, whatever's appropriate. I said "security," so you can guess that it came out of military or aerospace, and that is correct. It did. One of the first major announced users of DDS, which is Data Distribution Service, was a U.S. Navy ship design.

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