More than one way to skin a framework

written by Dr Graham Bleakley

The words “to skin” in the title of this blog are used in two senses. The first refers to the stripping back of a number of frameworks to their constituent parts and underlying meta models, then finding the common patterns that exist in these frameworks and abstracting that commonality into a generic framework. The second way in which “to skin” is used is when you apply a presentation layer of a specific framework across the generic metamodel. Literally adding a skin to it. This is the process that the UPDM group has been employing over the past 7-8 years in developing the Unified Profile for DoDAF and MODAF and which has now been taken to another level and resulted in the Unified Architecture Framework and Profile (UAF/P).

The scope of the term Unified in the UAF is across the frameworks that contribute to the UAF. It is not intended as a catch-all for all enterprise architecture metamodels or frameworks. The framework that contributed to UAF were MODEM (and by association NAF), DoDAF 2.x, DnDAF security views, Human Views and Systems of Systems Lifecycle Views. This rich combination of frameworks led to a complex and overlapping array of Viewpoints with many common features. It was while reconciling these frameworks at the viewpoint level that it became apparent that a new approach was required to present the various viewpoints.

Taking a leaf from the developers of MODEM the UPDM group refactored all the viewpoints to a grid. The rows define the levels of abstraction and the columns different forms of architectural representation. This resulted in a generic framework and a set of viewpoints with an underlying meta-model that allows all the donor Frameworks to be expressed in their own skins, that also stands as a framework in its own right.

The UAF/P (which is being developed under the governance of the Object Management Group) has two levels of specification. The first is a domain meta-model that specifies the constituent concepts, relationships and viewpoints in an IDEAS Lite format. This provides the means for any Enterprise Architecture tool vendor to support the UAF. The second part of the specification defines a profile for SysML tool vendors to follow. It is expected that Tool Vendors will provide presentation layers or Skins” appropriate to the contributing donor Frameworks, I.e. DoDAF, MODAF, NAF etc. as well as providing a standard version of the UAFP.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows users to work with the base UAF without a skin or any of the connotations of working with an Architectural Framework based upon the defence domain. Commercialising it and making it more accessible to users and developers of Systems of Systems architectures. The other advantage is that it provides a basis for mapping other less formal reference frameworks like Smart Grid or the Industrial Internet Consortium onto a more formal framework that provides many of the core concepts and relationships needed by them to develop the complex Systems of Systems architectures that they work on.

To find out more about the UAF/P, the rationale behind it, what it is, how it was developed and how it is envisaged it will be used, two of the co-chairs of the UPDM group and architects of the UAF/P, Dr Graham Bleakley and Dr Aurelijus Morkevicius will be presenting a paper at IEA 2016 on this subject.