Atego Vantage, not just another tool?

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Content Copyright © 2014 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I’ve been following Atego for some time. Model-based development, systems engineering (systems of systems), standards (OMG UML and SYSML) support—what’s not to like?

Now it has launched Atego Vantage, which it says is “the world’s first integrated solution combining Model-based Systems and Software Engineering (MBSE), Asset-based Modular Design (SoS/CBD/SOA) and variable Product Line Engineering (PLE). The combination of these three proven approaches into Model–based Product Line Engineering (MB-PLE) can reduce development costs by 62% and bring 23% more projects in on time”.

Well, that sounds good (although I really don’t think those percentages can be guaranteed in any particular case; there’s more to good engineering than buying good tools), but what does it really mean? Is this just another systems engineering tool to keep IBM (Atego’s main and much bigger competitor) on its toes? Well, partly that. I like Atego’s software systems engineering tools, I like its strong sponsorship of open standards, I like its code generators and extending this offering with an integrated solution is a Good Thing.

But I think this could be a lot more than another systems engineering toolset, however powerful and innovative. For innovation, Atego is compliant with new standards: ISO 26550-2013 ‘Software and systems engineering – Reference model for product line engineering and management’ and ISO 15288 ‘Systems and Software Engineering – System Lifecycle Processes’ standards and supports integrated Product Line Modelling, going beyond the usual approach to Product Line Engineering (this is the engineering of a family of products, as variations to a core, reusable, design). Product line engineering itself is well-known systems engineering approach (available from, for example, IBM Rational in conjunction with BigLever).

Here are some key Vantage deliverables:

  • Vantage takes a niche idea, product line engineering, and integrates it with model-driven systems engineering generally.
  • More importantly, it takes model-based software development and extends it to model based design, which works just as model-based software development did, you, so you can validate systems to a very large extent before you waste any resources in building them.
  • And it takes the idea of code reuse (which promises to reduce costs and increase reliability and quality—since you are reusing stuff you’ve already built and which you know works) and extends it to design reuse. If reusing code is cost effective, reusing a whole design and its requirements can be orders of magnitude more cost-effective.

OK, so what is Vantage, in detail? Well, none of the tools in Vantage are original concepts but integrating them all into a single environment probably is. Hedley Apperly, Atego’s VP Product and Marketing, tells me that the Vantage offering is the product of considerable research, amongst non-customers (often overlooked but they are the people you couldn’t convince with your previous offerings) as well as its customers.

Atego Vantage comes with Atego Perspective, an implementation methodology based on best practice, which manages and integrates 4 tools (although it isn’t limited to Atego products):

  1. Cosmetically, Artisan Studio becomes Atego Modeler. It’s still important, but Apperly tells me that the focus of Atego’s customers (as measured by the proportion of code generator licenses customers need) is equally appealing for systems engineers and software engineers. It now lets you extend UML and SysML with Variability Modeling (using OVM, Orthogonal Variability Modeling), if you want to – this is a significant advance and Atego says it is the first modeling tool vendor to do this.
  2. Atego Asset Library is a rich tool which enables the reuse of systems engineering assets at the design, as well as code, level.
  3. Atego Process Director manages process (Atego Perspective is built in).
  4. Atego Check automates Atego Check automates development audit process, allowing review of project milestones and deliverables.

Finally, some speculation on my part. Atego designed Vantage for its existing software and systems engineering customerbase, but it didn’t build in limitations and there is one possibility that really excites me. A product like this could bring product line engineering and systems engineering principles to general IT development in areas like financial services software development and office automation. Not exactly safety critical, perhaps (although people can die if they lose their savings or don’t get paid) but important—and software development failures in general IT can be very expensive. I don’t think I’d expect Atego go move out of its systems engineering comfort zone in order go develop anything like this—but it could always OEM its technology to someone in the general IT space with a bit of vision.

I’m always complaining that systems engineering is still in a bit of a silo; now, perhaps as systems engineering tools improve generally (IBM Rational is doing some good things in Systems Engineering itself), it has a real chance to get out of its silo.