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TC Methodology. Massimo Cossentino (Italian National Research Council) Radovan Cervenka (Whitestein Technologies). Outline. AOSE (Agent Oriented Software Engineering) today Our goals The proposed approach What is Method Engineering The TC Modeling work plan. AOSE Today.

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tc methodology

TC Methodology

Massimo Cossentino (Italian National Research Council)

Radovan Cervenka (Whitestein Technologies)

  • AOSE (Agent Oriented Software Engineering) today
  • Our goals
  • The proposed approach
  • What is Method Engineering
  • The TC Modeling work plan
aose today
AOSE Today
  • Several methodologies with different advantages:
    • Gaia
    • Mase
    • Message
    • PASSI
    • Prometheus
    • Tropos
  • No standard modeling language
    •  Modeling TC activity
  • Different tools
    • How to make them interact?
our goals
Our Goals

Let the developer of a multi-agent system create his own methodology:

    • Suited for the specific problem/system to be built
    • Not conflicting with his (development) environmental constraints
    • Coherent with his (or his group) knowledge and skills
    • Supported by a CASE tool
    • Using a standard modeling language
  • In this work we are also contributing to a standardization action within the FIPA Methodology Technical Committee1


the proposed approach
The proposed approach

Method Engineering

  • The development methodology is built by the developer assembling pieces of the process (method fragments) from a method base.
  • The method base is composed of contributions coming from existing methodologies and other novel and specifically conceived fragments

Modeling Language:  Modeling TC activity

method engineering people artifacts and tools
Method Engineering:people, artifacts and tools

The Method Engineer uses a CAME tool to compose the new methodology by reusing fragments from the repository

The Method Engineer analyzes the problem and the development context/people to deduce new methodology features

The CAME tool is used to instantiate a methodology specific tool

The System Designer using the CASE tool specifies and develops the agent solution

what is a method fragment
What is a (method) fragment
  • A fragment1 is a portion of the development process, composed as follows:
    • A portion of process (what is to be done, in what order), defined with a SPEM diagram
    • One or more deliverables (artifacts like (A)UML/UML diagrams, text documents and so on).
    • Some preconditions (they are a kind of constraint because it is not possible to start the process specified in the fragment without the required input data or without verifying the required guard condition)
    • A list of concepts (related to the MAS meta-model) to be defined (designed) or refined during the specified process fragment.
    • Guideline(s) that illustrates how to apply the fragment and best practices related to that
    • A glossary of terms used in the fragment (in order to avoid misunderstandings if the fragment is reused in a context that is different from the original one)
    • Other information (composition guidelines, platform to be used, application area and dependency relationships useful to assemble fragments) complete this definition.

1According to the FIPA Methodology TC definition (see FIPAmeth/metamodel.htm)

the new methodology production process
The new methodology production process

Fragments are identified and described according to the previous discussed definition

New fragments are defined if necessary

All methodologies are expressed in a standard notation (we adopt SPEM - Software Process Engineering Metamodel – by OMG)

The desired MAS-Meta-Model is composed according to problem specific needs (for instance including or not self-organizing agents)

A CASE (Computer Aided Software Engineering) tool is used to effectively design the multi-agent system

A new and problem specific methodology is built

A method fragments repository is composed with all existing fragments

The multi-agent system has been coded, tested and is ready to be deployed

A CAME (Computer Aided Method Engineering) tool assists in the selection of fragments and composition of design process

oo vs ao method engineering
OO vs AO Method Engineering
  • Method Engineering has been introduced in the object oriented (OO) context some years ago
  • It could seem that introducing the method engineering paradigm in the agent oriented (AO) context is a plain operation.
  • It is not so, because in the OO context the construction of method fragments (pieces of methodology), the assembling of the methodology with them and the execution of the design rely on a common denominator, the universally accepted concept of object and related model of the object oriented system.
  • In the agent context, there is not an universally accepted definition of agent nor it exists any very diffused model of the multi-agent system.
mas meta models
MAS meta-models
  • It is the meta-model of the system to be built
  • It specifies
    • which elements (agents, roles, behaviors, communications, …) will constitute the agent solution
    • which relationships exist among these elements
  • The MAS meta-model (when chosen before of the methodology) provides a guideline for the methodology pieces selection and assemblying
work plan
Work Plan
  • Creation of the meta-model. It is necessary to formally represent method fragments in order to store them in the method base.
  • Identification of the method base architecture. The method base needs of a technological infrastructure for the instantiation of the method meta-model previously described.
    • the details of this architecture strongly effect the possibility of a CASE/CAME tool support and availability.
  • Collection of method fragments. They can origin from the most diffused methodologies and other specific contributions. After the formalization they will be introduced in the method base.
  • Description of techniques for method integration. Product-oriented integration allows the composition of different fragments emphasizing their inter-relationships, process-oriented integration facilitate the composition of the logical sequence of steps of the methodology.
  • A specification document of fragment methods meta-model;
  • A specification document for the architecture of the method base;
  • A set of reusable methods obtained from existing agent-based development methodologies;
  • A collection of guidelines for method integration;
  • A glossary of methodology-related terms

06/2003 Initial specifications of the fragment methods meta-model

10/2003 Initial draft of the specifications for the method base architecture

02/2004 A set of documents describing reusable methods according to the meta-model specifications

06/2004 Initial draft of method integration guidelines

10/2004 Final draft of the meta-model and method base architecture specifications

12/2004 Final draft of method integration guidelines