Update on Semat moving forward

Time flies. Semat seems to have been quiet for a long time, but for very good reasons. Silence doesn’t imply inactive. On the contrary, activities have been going on quietly and have never stopped. In this blog, I give you a few glimpses of what’s new with Semat, and how you could get involved and contribute.

Basically we have been working on three things:

  1. Moving the work on the kernel and the language to OMG.  A Request for Proposal (RFP) was submitted on Feb 21, 2011, and this proposal was discussed one month later in an OMG meeting.

  2. Working on a Semat response to the RFP.  This is basically just continuing what we started before.  The intention is to have the first version of the response by early this summer.

  3. Working on how to move Semat forward.  Even the kernel and the language have been moved to Object Management Group (OMG), there are still a lot to do within Semat to implement the Grand Vision.  As a first effort, we have been working on two papers: a) Semat – The Three Year Vision, and b) Towards The Vision.

Since mid November 2010 around 20 people have been working on these three subjects.  Bertrand and Richard have become part of the advisory board; many other people have stepped up to work on implementing concrete ideas.

The story so far

As you may recall, the Grand Vision of Semat was to refound software engineering based on a widely agreed upon kernel representing the essence of software engineering.  The kernel would include elements covering societal and technical needs that support the concerns of industry, academia and practitioners.

Within a short period of time, a dozen corporate and academic organizations, and some 3 dozen renowned individuals from the field of software engineering and computer science, have become signatories to support the vision.  In addition, more than 1500 other supporters agreed to the call.

In November 2010, the troika agreed that we would move the work on the kernel and the language to OMG to get the proper governance we needed.

Moving the development of the kernel to OMG

In order to move the work to OMG, we have to follow a standard procedure for all OMG related work.  First, a request for proposal (RFP) has to be worked out and presented to a couple of groups within OMG.  Upon approval, people can submit proposals as responses to the RFP.

In our case an RFP has been developed by a couple of people from Semat and a couple of OMG members.  The RFP is called ‘ESSENSE: A domain-specific language and a kernel of essentials for software engineering.’  This RFP draft was first presented in early December 2010 in Santa Clara, CA. It was positively received, and then followed up by a RFP document, which was discussed at an OMG meeting in Arlington, VA, in March this year. The feedback was very constructive and passionate.  The RFP will be improved to address the relationship between the current proposal and the previous OMG standardization of SPEM (Software Process Engineering Metamodel).  The RFP will also detail the requirements for the ESSENSE language and the kernel.

The next time when an updated RFP proposal will be presented will be in June 2011 in Salt Lake City.

Our proposal to a kernel

Since March last year a group of 12-15 people have been working on a proposal for a kernel.  This team is continuing with its work and plans to respond to the OMG RFP. Despite the work has been slowing down due to focusing on the OMG RFP, we will deliver some results of value that can be used by industry within the next few months.  Those who are involved in this effort are as enthusiasm as ever about Semat, and believe even more strongly today than before based on the ongoing work that a kernel of widely accepted essentials will successfully be achieved.  The kernel will not be large.  We are estimating the initial version will only have 7-8 elements, but we have already begun to see the potential value this kernel can bring to the practitioner, to industry and to academia.

The kernel is just a first step towards the Grand Vision of Semat; much more work needs to be done from different aspects by different teams.

Semat moving forward

With the development of the kernel moving under the OMG umbrella, Semat remains active with tackling the other challenges set out in the Grand Vision. For example, we need to:

  • collaborate with OMG to make sure that the results delivered meet the community’s needs

  • support the community in its effort to get reusable practices,

  • transfer the work to the academic community to inspire the development of new curricula and practical research.

Therefore, a vision for the next couple of years is needed.  A team of eight people has been working for more than a month to develop a proposal for a Three Year Vision of Semat. It focuses on the anticipated impact on Semat’s three key user groups: the practitioners, industry and academia, and discusses how Semat’s benefits can be realized and assessed.

As a self-organized community, the governance of ourselves is important. However, first and foremost, we need to agree on the direction we would like to go.

Call for participation

Moving forward we need competent people to actively participate in the different task groups.  We need people with the following expertise: user experience design to give the language a graphical, intuitive syntax; formal language designers to make sure the concrete syntax is mapped to meaningful semantics; identifying and defining kernel elements (modeling expertise); metrics and measurement experts to help measure the impact of Semat on the external world and to help measure each of its practices; open source tool support for language and kernel; requirement specification of what Semat should do, and more.

Final words

Arguably, the goals of Semat have from its beginning been very ambitious: to refound software engineering as a rigorous discipline based on a kernel of widely agreed upon elements.  Such a kernel works as a common ground for everything we do when developing software, thus it is the essence of software engineering.   The work will reveal many differences to the past history of process engineering, but it aligns very well with new ideas such as now promoted by agile approaches.  In fact it prepares us better for even the next ‘big thing’ living harmoniously with what we already have and have had.

Please contact me if you feel you can and are willing to contribute.

Thank you!

Shihong Huang
Member of the executive committee

No comments yet. Be the first.