Domain-specific Modelling: Meta-modelling and Model Transformation

February 22, 2006
2:50 pm - 4:00 pm
Halligan 111


The complexity of systems we study and build keeps increasing at a phenomenal rate. To cope with this complexity, a "model-oriented" viewpoint is suggested. Engineering (design) and Science (analysis) invariably use models to describe structure as well as behaviour of systems. Models may have components described in different formalisms, and may span different levels of abstraction. In addition, model transformation is often used to transform models into a domain/formalism where certain questions can be easily answered.

More in particular, the virtues of domain-specific modelling (of physical as well as of software systems) will be demonstrated by means of an example: the modelling, analysis, simulation, and eventual synthesis of software components for Traffic networks.

Using domain-specific modelling environments maximally constrains users, allowing them, by construction, to only build syntactically and (for as far as this can be statically checked) semantically correct models. Furthermore, the domain-specific, often visual syntax used matches the users' mental model of the problem domain. The time required to construct domain/formalism-specific modelling and simulation environments can be prohibitive. Thus, rather than using such specific environments, generic environments are typically used. Such generic environments are necessarily a compromise. In this presentation it will be shown how meta-modelling and model transformation enable the efficient construction of domain-specific modelling environments.

In meta-modelling, one explicitly models the syntax of modelling formalisms. This simplifies the construction of domain-specific formalisms (by slightly modifying existing meta-models). Above all, an appropriate meta-modelling tool will support synthesis of a domain-specific (visual) modelling tool from the meta-model.

Model transformations are important: to describe operational semantics of formalisms, to answer certain questions by transforming models into an appropriate formalism, to optimize the model with respect to some performance metric while preserving some properties, ... As at some level of abstraction, all models are graphs, one general way of explicitly modelling transformations is to use graph grammars. Furthermore, graph grammar models are an executable specification.

The presented examples will use the tool AToM^3 (A Tool for Multi-formalism and Meta Modelling).

Biography: Hans Vangheluwe is an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He holds a D.Sc. degree, as well as an M.Sc. in Computer Science, and B.Sc. degrees in Theoretical Physics and Education, all from Ghent University in Belgium. He has been a Research Fellow at the Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal, Canada, the Concurrent Engineering Research Center, WVU, Morgantown, WV, USA, at the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, and at the Supercomputing and Education Research Center of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India. At McGill University, he teaches Modelling and Simulation, as well as Software Design. He also heads the Modelling and Simulation and Design (MSDL) research lab. He has been the Principal Investigator of a number of research projects focused on the development of a multi-formalism theory for Modelling and Simulation. Some of this work has led to the WEST++ tool, which was commercialised for use in the design and optimization of bioactivated sludge Waste Water Treatment Plants. He was the co-founder and coordinator of the European Union's ESPRIT Basic Research Working Group 8467 ``Simulation in Europe'', a founding member of the Modelica ( Design Team, and an advisor to the Flemish Institute for the Promotion of Scientific-Technological Research in Industry (IWT), as well as to the European Commission's 5th Framework programme. He is an Associate Editor for the journal Simulation: Transactions of the Society for Modeling and Computer Simulation. His current interests are in domain-specific modelling and simulation. The MSDL's tool AToM3 (A Tool for Multi-formalism and Meta-Modelling) developed in collaboration with Prof. Juan de Lara uses meta-modelling and graph grammars to specify and generate domain-specific environments.