GSA builds EA-based development platform

The General Services Administration has assembled a software suite that can be used to generate application templates directly from its enterprise architecture.

'What we are trying to do is make business models more useful,' George Thomas, chief architect for GSA said at the Business Process Management conference held last fall by the BrainStorm Group Inc., of Northboro, Mass.

The Open Source eGov Reference Architecture is an implementation of GSA's reference architecture being developed by GSA's Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The goal of the OSERA project is to 'maintain explicit traceability from higher- to lower-level architecture abstractions, such that business and logical models can be used to generate code required by various runtime platforms,' Thomas wrote in a follow-up e-mail.

Runtime platforms that OSERA could support include Microsoft's .NET, Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Web services.

'The business and logical models ' are likely to remain consistent over longer periods of time, while the underlying platform technology enhancements churn more frequently,' Thomas wrote.

Using GSA's Enterprise Architecture, OSERA can create a business model which, in turn, can be used to generate a logical software model that defines the functional roles as services.

'In this way, we are able to structure the code base and minimize manual implementation required,' Thomas said in his e-mail. 'Implementers are ' given requirements specifications that are aligned with business drivers and existing services across the enterprise.'

Model Driven Architecture provides the overview for the task, Thomas said. The team uses modeling plug-ins for the Eclipse integrated development environment to create a set of service definitions.

These definitions can then be used to generate deployment descriptors for J2EE containers such as JBoss and Java code, as well as templates or assets, in Thomas' parlance, written in the Web Services Description Language and the Business Process Execution Language. They also use Jena, a Java toolkit for developing semantic web applications.

Although still in the beta testing stage, OSERA is starting to be put to work. Thomas demonstrated this software stack last month at a Washington government working group meeting held by the Object Management Group. GSA is using this technique to streamline the capital planning and investment control process and collapse the systems development lifecycle.

GSA also plans to release assets and reference architectures and implementations produced under OSERA. It already has released the OSERA-generated Federal Enterprise Architecture Reference Model Ontology, a rendering of the Federal Enterprise Architecture in the Web Ontology Language. Next spring, the team hopes to offer a distributed object-based model that would run on the JBoss open-source application server using Business Process Execution Language.

Of these OSERA artifacts and tools, Thomas added in the email that 'we'd love to see these be expanded to meet the needs of a larger constituency of service and tool providers and consumers.'

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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