Digital innovation begins with information systems

While professional computing as practiced by organizations (large enterprises, SMEs, public services...) was able to benefit at first from a number of empirical approaches based on the use of emerging technologies, this period is now over.

Faced with the omnipresence of computer applications in all the activities of the organization, faced with the imbroglio of the existing systems and the lack of documentation (or even shared knowledge) available, the IT services are requesting :

  • rigorous methodologies for the realization of their projects
  • integration, as far as possible, with existing systems
  • reduction, as far as possible, of the production and management costs, and more particularly those of maintenance
  • minimization of the risks of technical interventions (maintenance, evolution...) on the continuity of the activities of the organization
  • recoverering and valorization of the accumulated data over time

In other words, it is imperative that professional IT goes from the craft stage to become more industrial, which implies on the part of the technical actors to evolve from the technological approaches that they usually practice towards engineering methods as practiced, for example, by chemical engineers or those of metallurgy.

In this respect, it is striking to note that, faced with a somewhat complex problem, engineers in "traditional" industries have the habit of "modeling" the problem (i.e. drawing a plan) and then building a solution from this model. Surprisingly, this common practice in the industry hardly existed in the computer world until a few years ago, and it emerges today without yet being generalized.

The practice of working from models is called "Model Driven Engineering" (MDE) and it is by focusing exclusively on the problems of data and their use by the programs that was born "Model Driven Data Engineering" (MDDE).

The method and its innovative features

In order to better understand the value of the MDDE approach, it is possible to bring it closer to industrial production processes by using a 3D printer, as illustrated in the diagram below.

© Rever 2016

It includes :

  • the models which, at the outset, make it possible to specify the technical elements to be produced
  • the printer (the program generator) that will produce the part from the specifications defined in the model
  • the part (the data) that is the result produced by the printer (by the program)
  • the monitoring mechanisms of the results produced to ensure that the result conforms to the specifications

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, the use of models makes it possible to develop numerous functionalities almost impossible to realize with other approaches. Without wishing to be exhaustive, we shall mention in particular :

  • A unified view of several databases of different technologies : this unified view provides access to data as if there was only one database
  • The ability to access data according to a functional logic and not a technical logic
  • The comparison of databases that don't have the same structures

Understanding existing systems

The starting point for the whole MDDE approach is indeed the model from which it is possible to achieve the objectives of the projects (migration, etc...). Moreover, in most situations, these models that describe the application are either non-existent or outdated.

To resolve this paradoxical situation, we must allow the reconstruction of these models through a process of "reverse engineering". This process makes it possible to modulate the degree of precision of the reconstructed model according to the objectives of the project.

MDDE's approach and the resulting innovative features have enabled Rever to develop the most generic solutions possible so that they can operate in a wide range of technological environments.

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Dominique Orban de Xivry