Will there be a battle between Archimate and the UML?


A friend was kind enough to remind me, this morning, that Archimate is still kicking around and making noises.  In fact, for a modeling language that’s been in quiet development for many years, Archimate having something of a rebirth as it is now part of the Open Group.


Many Enterprise and Solution Architects are already quite familiar with the Open Group.  This is the standards body that originally formed around Unix standards and has since taken on a variety of different domains including the popular architectural process model and framework: TOGAF, which just released version 9.


Unlike TOGAF, many folks are not so familiar with Archimate.  This approach to modeling enterprise architecture was developed in the Netherlands by a public-private partnership of the Dutch government, industry and academia.  The IP for Archimate was handed over to the Open Group in 2008 and was blessed by that group as a standard last fall.  (If the Open Group were actually a group that represents EA, the blessing would have carried a little more weight, but that’s life.)


Alas, there were many sophisticated metamodels in existence before Archimate.  Each of the major vendors of EA tools uses a metamodel.  I cannot say that I’m familiar with all of them, but I am familiar with a few, as well as the metamodel that we’ve developed internally inside Microsoft IT.


Unlike the UML, Archimate didn’t start with a variety of different problems to solve, each with their own language.  UML (+BPMN) is a collection of models that has come together over time from sources in academia and industry.  What UML lacks is a solid and consistent metamodel that defines how the parts of different models are expected to relate to one another.  In other words, UML does not answer the question: how does a business process relate to an IT service.  Archimate does.


Archimate started with an understanding that these problems relate to one another;  that the entire complex and difficult business of understanding IT requires a rich inter-relationship of completely different domains, from business motivation to business process to managed services to systems to infrastructure.  Thus Archimate goes where UML doesn’t: it defines a metamodel that allows these relationships to be constructed, and constrained, and communicated.  The constraints allow analysis, traceability, governance, and consistency.  UML is unconstrained between model types.  Archimate is not.


That is its strength. 


It’s weakness is in the visualizations themselves.  For some reason, the Archimate foundation felt the need to redefine the visual language of architecture, reusing familiar images from UML while redefining their semantics.  This approach was used instead of leveraging and extending the UML notations.  I cannot say that I agree with the approach.  I find it unfortunate, with the consequences for confusion and a slow adoption process across industry.  


As for the metamodel: Archimate has one, or at least, part of one.  That puts it in good light with me.  That doesn’t mean I believe that the Archimate metamodel is correct. 


I’m not saying that Archimate is right or wrong.  I have not reviewed it in detail. (I cannot.  The open group ‘published’ the ‘standard’ to their members only, not to the rest of the world.  Is that what they mean by ‘open standard?’ hmmm.)  [update: since writing this post, a reader has responded with links to an online resource which provides details of the archimate notation and metamodel.  See the comments for those links.  They were NOT made available by the Open Group.]


Is it Archimate vs. UML then?  Maybe.  The diagramming model that is included in Archimate clearly overlaps with UML.  On the other hand, they solve different problems.  Archimate is a mechanism for understanding the meta-architecture of a technology environment.  UML fits nicely under the covers, describing the implementation of the systems (both technical and process systems) from various viewpoints. 


In effect, Archimate describes the structure of cities, while UML describes the structure of houses and office buildings.  Both are needed, and they solve different problems.  In that way, they do not intersect at all.  Unfortunately, the diagramming notations are not so consistent.


If the Open Group were to create an accord with the OMG whereby OMG would own UML intra-model semantics while the Open Group would own UML inter-model semantics, then the Open Group could simply use the UML diagramming notations in the Archimate specification.  I don’t know if something like that is possible, but we’d all benefit.  If not, then I’d like to see Archimate use completely different visual representations than the UML, so that there is never any confusion.


Either way, the metamodel, or part of it that Archimate represents, has started to emerge in standards.  This is a healthy thing.

Comments (11)

  1. A very interesting article thank you. I have a question… Will there be a battle between Archimate and the BPMN ???

    thank’s

  2. NickMalik says:

    Hello YL,

    BPMN is now widely considered to be one profile of the UML.  Note that the UML is composed of many profiles, so adding one more is not difficult.  Most UML tools handle both.

    Archimate competes with both.

    — N

  3. You say that ".. I have not reviewed it in detail. (I cannot.  The open group ‘published’ the ‘standard’ to their members only, not to the rest of the world.  Is that what they mean by ‘open standard?’ hmmm.) "

    Well you CAN review ArchiMate in full detail at its original ArchiMate web site which is open to all at http://www.archimate.org/ART/”>http://www.archimate.org/ART/

    This is the online version of the ArchiMate Resource Tree which you can also download (see below).

    You can also find a large hoard of useful information, download papers, language primer, presentations and best practice etc at http://www.archimate.org/

    At the ArchiMate project web site at https://doc.telin.nl/dsweb/View/Collection-4766 you will find a paper about a proposal for a UML profile for ArchiMate.

    At https://doc.telin.nl/dsweb/Get/Document-34522/ArchiMate%20Resource%20Tree.zip you can download the ArchiMate Resource Tree for studying offline.

    And finally, the answer to the question ‘will there be a battle between ArchiMate and UML?’ is no. Both languages serve different purposes and have different stakeholders (ArchiMate at the enterprise/strategic planning level and UML at the solution development level) and will coexist happily.

    In my experience many senior stakeholders (c-level executives etc.) in organisations, especially business ones, often find UML far too ‘techie’ and IT focused and are turned off by it, often refusing even to try and understand it. The same people usually find ArchiMate very much more understandable and approachable. They especially like the Layered Viewpoint which shows multiple architecture layers and multiple aspects all in one diagram.

    regards,

    Adrian

  4. NickMalik says:

    Thank you, Adrian.  The links you provided are very helpful.  I will take advantage of the info to provide a more detailed discussion.

    As you can see from the blog, I agree that UML and Archimate serve different purposes.  I will take a deeper dive before I blog again, so that I can speak intelligently about it.

  5. Marc Lankhorst says:

    To add to Adrian’s comments:

    In ArchiMate, some symbols were made to resemble those of UML (and BPMN), for easier understanding by those architects familiar with UML (and BPMN). The semantics of these are very close to the UML semantics. Other aspects of the UML notation were deliberately left out, because they provide more detail than necessary or wanted at the architectural abstraction level and thereby clutter your diagrams.

    I expect The Open Group to put the ArchiMate standard downloadable on its website in the near future, but their members get access earlier (like they did with TOGAF 9). They just need to flesh out the licensing terms, which will probably resemble those of TOGAF. The new standard document combines and integrates a number of the sources Adrian has mentioned.

    Regards,

    Marc

  6. Marc Lankhorst says:

    To add to Adrian’s comments:

    In ArchiMate, some symbols were made to resemble those of UML (and BPMN), for easier understanding by those architects familiar with UML (and BPMN). The semantics of these are very close to the UML semantics. Other aspects of the UML notation were deliberately left out, because they provide more detail than necessary or wanted at the architectural abstraction level and thereby clutter your diagrams.

    I expect The Open Group to put the ArchiMate standard downloadable on its website in the near future, but their members get access earlier (like they did with TOGAF 9). They just need to flesh out the licensing terms, which will probably resemble those of TOGAF. The new standard document combines and integrates a number of the sources Adrian has mentioned.

    Regards,

    Marc

  7. Andrew Josey says:

    The ArchiMate 1.0 Technical standard will be publically available during the week commencing April 27th 2009. The members only edition was for the period while the hardcopy and launch were being prepared. The launch event is in London at the Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference April 28 – May 1st.

  8. NickMalik says:

    Wow, I got some great responses to this post.  

    I’m glad that the Open Group is about to make the document public.  Perhaps it was unfair of me to expect that they would release the document at the same time as they voted to make it a standard.  😉

    Marc: Just as it is foolish to have a field in a database table that holds two different types of values, it is foolish to "reuse" a symbol from one standard in another with "similar" meanings.  

    I disagree that they were successful and I hope that wisdom will prevail to allow completely different icons to emerge in the final UML profile.  

    My cursory examination of the Archimate metamodel has shown me some pretty serious gaps and some very odd choices.  I’ll do a good bit more study before I blog on Archimate, but there is definitely a considerable amount of room for improvement.

    — N

  9. Craig Martin says:

    My quick 2 cents. In pursuing the holy grail of enterprise level MDA we began developing complex ontologies to define architecture building blocks. We had these ontologies "communicate" with each other to build relationships at the architecture description level and had each of the concepts and relationships mapped to underlying code generators. A little too ahead of its time since clients were only getting to grips with UML then.

    On the back of this we noticed the archimate revival and based upon our above experience, we pigeon holed Archimate as the following. I would value your view on this:

    An Archimate model is to an architecture building block, as WSDL is to a service. At a future level we would want to inter-operate at the archimate ABB layer AND the WSDL layer to cater for semantic heterogeneity that occurs in the architecture and especially the SOA landscape.

    One step closer to defining services in ontologies and having their definitions map to each other.

    Craig

  10. The new ArchiMate 1.0 Specification can now be seen at http://www.opengroup.org/archimate/doc/ts_archimate/

    Adrian

  11. Last month The Open Group formally announced that it had adopted ArchiMate® Version 1 as a standard

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