Gábor Privitzky

-

CTO

Technology

Basics of Meta-modeling

Modeling in software engineering is a process that aids software developers and business domain experts to work on projects together effectively...

Gábor Privitzky

March 26, 2019

Modeling in software engineering is a process that aids software developers and business domain experts to work on projects together effectively. The aim of modeling the logic and structure of software before the actual development is to identify possible logical fallacies, misunderstandings with the client, and to unravel system and environment requirements. Moreover, modeling is key to make the development faster and smoother. Let’s explore what a model really is and how the whole process looks like.

What is a model exactly?

A model is a truthful abstraction or a representation of a system to be developed. It is independent of the supporting system, so developers and business domain experts can contemplate about the software itself without having to know the exact IT requirements and specifications. Thus, a model is an external and explicit representation of reality, that the people aim to redesign, transform or explore. Due to the presence of this technology, they can reason about the new system in a simple way.

The process of meta-modeling

Modeling takes place in a modeling space, and it uses DSLs, Domain Specific Languages, to describe the details of the project. DSLs are a subset of languages that are specialized for a certain domain. Their scope is narrower but they are more detailed, in contrast with general programming languages, like C++ or Java. This trait makes them a perfect choice for the illustrious description of any model.  Business experts and developers define the requirements and functions of the new software using the DSL, thus the process puts both parties on the same page. Moreover, this approach enables domain experts to understand, validate, or modify the system.

The modeling space, which is an architecture defined by the meta-model, has 4 layers built on each other. The first layer, M0, is the reality, or the software itself that you would like to develop. The next level, M1, is the level of the meta-model. This level, as we have explained before, describes the software to be developed in an abstract, platform-independent manner. The next layer, M2, is the level of the meta-metamodel. It is the language that is necessary for the definition of the meta-model. A meta-metamodel has a different level of abstraction in order to make statements about the meta-model from another point of view. Finally, the last layer, M3, is the MOF, the Meta Object Facility, that is a standard type system for model-driven software engineering.

As UML, (Unified Modeling Language) that programmers use to describe a modeling language, is not able to illustrate the modeling structures in a generalized way, there is a need to utilize another approach. With the use of model transformations, they can create interoperability between two meta-models. Thanks to this procedure, developers can quickly and easily create and modify models, which again paces up development and prototyping.

What is a model-driven architecture (MDA)?

Model-driven architecture is the system of generalized models, that have been written in a modeling language. Its objective is to provide guidelines for structuring software specifications. Due to the fact that this model architecture is distanced from the underlying platform technology, developers can effectively inspect the complete system for inconsistencies, errors or fallen structural concepts.

People working on the project don’t necessarily need coding knowledge to suggest modifications in the structure. As the model is free from hardcore IT technicalities, people from the business domain can also express their thoughts before programming initiates. As a result, domain experts don’t have to wait for the release of alfa or beta versions to test and see the system as a whole. Thanks to this model-driven software engineering vision, programming time significantly decreases, as there are fewer modification requests from the clients.

The advantages of meta-modeling

  • Systems can be specified independently from the supporting platform
  • Provides the means to specify the best supporting platform for the app
  • Helps to transform the software from one platform to another
  • Helps to unravel system and environment requirements
  • Helps to uproot hidden misunderstandings and undetermined factors
  • Facilitates communication between developers and business domain experts
  • Clients can finally suggest modifications before the start of development
  • With the use of model transformation, it is easy to convert one model into another
  • Empowers companies by making development time significantly faster

Meta-modeling coupled with low-coding

Low-coding is an alternative development solution, which enables developers or business individuals to put together an application within a blink of an eye. Low-coding platforms are most of the time visual solutions, where the people working on the project can easily select the necessary software elements from a prewritten library and place it into the architecture. With the use of low-code platforms, developers or domain experts can execute their software plans from the previously conceptualized model. This approach cuts coding time from months to weeks and empowers developers to create the first version in a couple of days. Consequently, the clients can see the actual working software considerably sooner.

The shorter development time does not mean that programmers need to take away from quality. The pre-coded library enables them to freely move or place the elements within the architecture without having to stress about coding quality. Besides decreasing coding time, low-code platforms are also perfect for minimalizing human error.

Conclusion

Meta-modeling coupled with a low-coding solution is a top-notch choice for companies working with any kind of software. Let it be the internal database, business workflows or user interface, they are pretty solid execution procedures to curb unproductiveness, wasted resources, and ineffectiveness.

Do you want to know more about meta-modeling in software engineering? Download our detailed e-book, which introduces this process in-depth, and shows you the procedure our company uses to fulfill client requirements.

Give Judo a Try!

  • We have a  slack community as well, where you will find up-to-date information and you can also contribute with others.
  • A ton of documentation and video tutorials are available for our members.
  • You get scores for your activity and you can take home some JUDO goodies!