UML: A never-ending process

The Unified Modeling Language (UML) faced and overcame significant hurdles in its march toward becoming a standard. The modeling language was initially driven by a single vendor, frequently the kiss of death in a standards effort. But Rational Software avoided the mistakes of earlier efforts and was able to bring together competitors and skeptics. Key to Rational's success was the hiring of several top developers of object-oriented methodologies, gaining strong support from Microsoft Corp. early in the process, and finally turning over ownership of the technology to the Object Management Group. Even Rational's primary competitor, Platinum Technology Inc., jumped on board the UML bandwagon.

However, as Special Projects Editor Deborah Melewski notes in this month's cover story, "UML gains ground," backers of the UML cannot take their eye off the ball. The language is still very complex and ambiguous, and without some correction, could potentially turn off at least part of another generation of programmers to modeling. Microsoft has based its long-awaited development repository on UML. While that support was important in establishing the language, Microsoft has been known to take standards into uncharted and uncertified areas.

We have lauded the process of creating the UML standard in these columns before. The process has been unprecedented for its lack of controversy. But the potential for problems is still strong. We urge backers of the language to resist the temptation to extend the UML beyond its standard parameters. And we advise I/S development units to keep vendors on the straight and narrow. We don't need another example of a standards effort gone awry because a single vendor thinks it knows best.

And, as Melewski points out, the UML effort will continue to roll along throughout the rest of 1998. Some I/S units have started using all or part of the language in significant development efforts. OMG officials say that the standard has prompted more and more organizations to utilize modeling in their development efforts. The next year could be the key to UML's future. We'll be watching it closely and will be reporting updates through 1999.

Meanwhile, Senior Writer/Online Editor Jason J. Meserve updates the quickly changing and somewhat convoluted application server market in "Application servers come into focus." Meserve sheds some light on the ever-changing market, while noting that I/S development managers can expect a fast growing and constantly changing market for the next 18 months.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.