2007-05-04

Create your own Python

Model-driven development is getting more popular even in the automotive industry. Martin Karlsch, who is graduating as Master of Science in Software Engineering at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute in Potsdam, has recently published his master-thesis about a model-driven framework for domain specific languages (DSL) which is demonstrated on a Python-based test automation language he created with his prototype implementation of such framework, frodo.

DSLs are designed for implementations of special purpose software. Other than general purpose languages, Python for example, DSLs are strictly focused on particular and often very complex areas of application, such as pharmacy, genetics, aerospace, or automotive. Let's have a look on the latter: Complexity of software systems in modern automobiles is significantly increasing, not only in those of German brands such as BMW, Mercedes or Audi. Most innovations in cars are software-related and these software-components must often fulfill many requirements (e.g. safety regulations, real-time processing) and will be integrated with plenty of other components in a broad variety of vehicle models. I think there is no driver who has never heard of at least one mass car recall due to severe software-related defects in the past few years. So, manufacturers started to address the challenges involved with this progression and are looking for ways to strongly improve testing and software quality management at all. E. g., for test scenarios regarding integration of software-components and other components in a prototype car there is the need to have a domain specific language in which the engineers can easily specify the automatic tests they want to run and probably also to analyze the mass of information in the test reports. It is in the nature of DSLs that their user bases are rather small. Moreover it is not unlikely that a company which is facing such complex and cost-intensive challenges will find itself in the need to develop its own DSL.

Wait! ... What?

Anyone who has ever developed a programming language (I never programmed one myself, but nevertheless I felt free to make sassy design decisions) will know that this is all but an easy task to master.

As I understand Martin Karlsch's master-thesis, he has achieved to implement a prototype of this framework, that builds up on existing Python grammar and constructs which can be extended, reduced or modified by domain experts and software engineers, so the language is tailored for use in the target domain. These specifications are defined in domain meta models, syntax views with textual representations and semantic mappings. As result of the process the domain experts will finally have a special-purpose Python language available. - Python gets children!

I like it. I like the idea of combining Python's clean elegance and dynamic OO strengths with domain-specific elements. Martin's framework is capable to carry out the delicious Python flavor to many more gourmets, very specialized gourmets indeed. And I wouldn't be surprised if in a future not far this model-driven approach will become a popular alternative and add-on to the rich base of Python libraries and site-packages.

1 comment:

martink said...

Hi Anastasios,

i should watch my blog more often because i totally missed your comment. Sorry for that. Nice to see that somebody beyond my supervisors noticed my thesis. Thanks for the good summery. Currently I have no time to develop the framework any further but I'm still planning to open source it. In my opinion the ecore stuff is interesting for a large group of people. The other parts need some heavy refactoring. Lately i started porting some of the code to ruby and ANTLR3. I still have some nifty ideas for combining rails with MDD ;-)

greets from berlin,
martin karlsch