Welcome!

Eclipse Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, JP Morgenthal

Related Topics: Java IoT, Open Source Cloud

Java IoT: Article

Where Are the High-Level Design Open Source Tools for Java?

I have just finished reviewing the book Open Source Development Tools for Java

I have just finished reviewing the book Open Source Development Tools for Java, which provides excellent coverage of such topics as log4J, CVS, Ant, and JUnit. There is a chapter on UML tools though in which the author almost apologizes for the lack of good open source design tools. There is a plethora of projects on SourceForge.net from J2EE runtime frameworks to IDE plugins, yet there is almost nothing that encroaches upward into the arena of analysis and design tools.

One theory for this is that high-level design tools are the value-add that software vendors hold back from the open source community and sell in high-priced offerings. While this does occur to a certain extent, it can't be the real reason. Open source is a marketplace where useful things become free and commoditized, as witnessed by runtimes such as Tomcat and JBoss or tools such as Eclipse and NetBeans. An open source business model that certainly works is to give away a product and then charge for consultancy and help using it. Is it just a matter of time before a big vendor starts to give away modeling tools? They could benefit if their product became a de-facto standard for developers, potentially quashing the competition in the process and growing the marketplace for a specialized consultancy.

Another reason given by a colleague, whom I posed the question to, was that design tools just aren't that useful. His measure of worth is a product that creates something he can compile, touch, execute, and debug. There will always be those who subscribe to the opinion that high-level modeling is the realm of bluff and fluffware practiced by those who masquerade their inability to write code behind its numerous charts and methodology steps. It's an unfair view though that can be equally leveled at developers who drown themselves in worrying about obtuse coding techniques instead of just writing a program that lets users get their job done more efficiently. The best tools are those that bridge the gap between the high- and low-level software disciplines by seamlessly working with the same artifacts, presenting alternative views for disparate learning styles.

Visual learners prefer to think and work with charts and diagrams to analyze problems and communicate solutions, while I view coders as tactile or kinesthetic stylists who feel happiest with their IDE paused at a breakpoint showing them a stack trace from which they can explore and learn. There is a generation of tools that tended to be one way, where design charts generated code to be compiled and executed; these are probably the ones my colleague spoke about so scathingly. These changes to the source code don't get reflected back in the tool and the code is undoubtedly more bloated and less efficient than if it had been written by hand. The developer who has to debug problems in the spaghetti unfairly stores his or her frustration as a general disdain for all design tools. Such attitudes are unfair and often dated, however, as there are some excellent design tools available that happily round-trip between high-level diagrams and actual code. A good example of this is Sun's Visual Paradigm for Software Development Environment www.visual-paradigm.com/product/sde/nb/index.jsp for NetBeans or Rational Software's Rational Application Developer www-306.ibm.com/software/awdtools/developer/application/ that builds on an Eclipse codebase.

Returning to the plot line: Why then is the open source community starved of good, high-level tools? The reason I subscribe to is that the open source community just hasn't got around to creating them. The stack of open source software out there has been built from the bottom up, with small nimble runtimes and tight extensible IDEs. Such software is often built by those who use it themselves, providing a tight feedback loop between design and implementation that has resulted in the well-baked solutions that we take for granted as being freely available. For the most part, this space is well populated and there are a healthy number of offerings to chose from. I think that the future bodes well for a growth in open source tools that tackle and reach into the higher-level problem arena of software development. This could come about several ways. A tool such as ArgoUML (http://argouml.tigris.org/), a very solid open source UML product currently without an IDE home, might become more integrated with one of the major IDEs like NetBeans or Eclipse to piggyback a larger user base. The Eclipse Foundation has a tools project, Graphical Modeling Framework www.eclipse.org/gmf/, although this currently seems very focused on the Eclipse Modeling Framework as its high-level runtime rather than UML in general.

Another possibility is that a major vendor with a track record in open source tooling throws its product into the ring, or perhaps Borland will rediscover the mindshare it used to have with TogetherJ in one of its designer or architect products.

Whatever occurs with design tools and open source, I hope it's one that marries the best ideas from those with the knowledge of how a good high-level design tool should work with those who know how to code, implement, and manage a successful open source project. The outcome will be that we have a more productive suite of software development tools to choose from. Once this progression is complete, the problem arena will move even higher to open source tools that allow the end users to capture requirements in a form that communicates between their problem domain and the code. The sky's the limit.

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Jackie Luppi 02/28/06 12:40:26 PM EST

The fundamental issue I see with modeling tools is the lack of a feedback loop to keep the modeling/design materials up to date with the implementation. Starting from a blank sheet is easy but adding, modifying, and deleting typically requires a huge investment. I would like a streamlined tool that integrates my business analysis work, with my implementation artifacts, and finally with my test suites. I have not found a solution to date.

Jackie Luppi 02/28/06 12:39:45 PM EST

The fundamental issue I see with modeling tools is the lack of a feedback loop to keep the modeling/design materials up to date with the implementation. Starting from a blank sheet is easy but adding, modifying, and deleting typically requires a huge investment. I would like a streamlined tool that integrates my business analysis work, with my implementation artifacts, and finally with my test suites. I have not found a solution to date.

Tim Cramer 02/27/06 10:08:05 PM EST

Joe,
You make some great points in the article. You should check out the preview release of NetBeans 5.5 available at http://www.netbeans.org
It contains UML tools, a BPEL engine, and XML tools all for free.

Tim Cramer
Director: NetBeans

SYS-CON India News Desk 02/27/06 02:09:36 PM EST

I have just finished reviewing the book Open Source Development Tools for Java, which provides excellent coverage of such topics as log4J, CVS, Ant, and JUnit. There is a chapter on UML tools though in which the author almost apologizes for the lack of good open source design tools. There is a plethora of projects on SourceForge.net from J2EE runtime frameworks to IDE plugins, yet there is almost nothing that encroaches upward into the arena of analysis and design tools.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named "Media Sponsor" of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
Chris Matthieu is the President & CEO of Computes, inc. He brings 30 years of experience in development and launches of disruptive technologies to create new market opportunities as well as enhance enterprise product portfolios with emerging technologies. His most recent venture was Octoblu, a cross-protocol Internet of Things (IoT) mesh network platform, acquired by Citrix. Prior to co-founding Octoblu, Chris was founder of Nodester, an open-source Node.JS PaaS which was acquired by AppFog and ...
The Founder of NostaLab and a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, John is a unique combination of strategic thinker, marketer and entrepreneur. His career was built on the "science of advertising" combining strategy, creativity and marketing for industry-leading results. Combined with his ability to communicate complicated scientific concepts in a way that consumers and scientists alike can appreciate, John is a sought-after speaker for conferences on the forefront of healthcare science,...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...