Solstice Greetings! I thought I’d write a review of the latter half of 2014 and a brief update of where we are now before we move into 2015. So, what’s happened since the last blog post in July?
In August we moved the forums to a new home at http://forum.archimatetool.com. The Google Groups that we had been using before were cumbersome to manage and not very user-friendly. We hope that the new forums offer a better experience in sharing your discussions related to Archi and ArchiMate. The new forums allow you to upload screen-shots, share models, and open polls. If you’ve not already joined the new forums, we invite you to do so.
Archi version 3 was released at the end of September. This was the biggest and most important event of this year as we had been working on this version of Archi for some time. The main reason why this update is so important is that previous versions of Archi had been built upon the older Eclipse 3.x framework. However, Eclipse 3.x is no longer supported since version 3.8.2 released in 2013. Eclipse 4.x is now the new supported version and, after the elimination of some bugs in Eclipse, we managed to migrate the Archi code-base to this new Eclipse framework with only a relatively few changes. This means that we can move forward with development. At the same time we introduced some great new features including a new look and feel, import and export to CSV files, an improved Magic Connector, Find/Replace, export image to PDF and many other features and fixes. Personally, the migration to Eclipse 4.x has been a great relief because there was a point where I wasn’t sure if it was going to be possible due to a range of issues and bugs in the Eclipse code.
Archi 3.1 was released at the beginning of December and represents a fine-tuning of the work delivered in Archi version 3. This is a maintenance release that fixes a number of bugs and adds some useful, new features. The focus of Archi 3.1 has been to improve the user interface response time when working with larger models, and to implement stronger integrity checking when loading and saving models to disk. This work came about at a time when I was working with a relatively large ArchiMate model. I noticed a sluggishness in response in the Models Tree when many nodes were open and when changing Viewpoints in the diagrams. I spent about three or four weeks experimenting with different threading techniques and algorithms before finding the perfect combination that improved overall response times. At the same time I added some defensive measures that checked the integrity of models and files before saving to disk. Archi 3.1 provides a more robust and smoother user experience.
The Open Group ArchiMate Model Exchange File Format
An important initiative concerning ArchiMate itself has been the ongoing development of The Open Group’s ArchiMate Model Exchange File Format. This initiative is being led by Andrew Josey of The Open Group, and I have been contributing to the development process, as have some other ArchiMate tool vendors. The exchange format is a specification for a standard file format for the exchange of ArchiMate models between different tools. It is not intended to be a definitive persistence representation of an ArchiMate model as you might find for a UML model, for example, since the ArchiMate language has not been formalised enough to create something like a MOF or XMI representation. It is, however, an XML format (validated by a XSD Schema) that so far has proved that it is possible to exchange basic ArchiMate models and diagrams between ArchiMate-aware tools. To date these tools are Archi, BiZZdesign Architect, and Corso’s System Architect ArchiMate plug-in. Clearly this is good news for all stakeholders and I think is important for the ArchiMate language itself, particularly from the point of view of those learning the language. The exchange format will allow users to exchange their models without worrying about target tools and proprietary formats, which is very important for those who may be new to ArchiMate and who do not want to be locked into one tool or framework.
What now for Archi? As it is, Archi is great for the single, file-based, user. But of course the number one request is for repository and multi-user support. This is not a trivial feature to implement, and one that would require many months of hard work. In order to support a transactional-based and multi-user work-flow Archi will need to be re-implemented in a new (Eclipse-based) framework. This has been under investigation over these last few months and we are moving slowly towards this goal. This will be our focus in 2015. Archi 3.x will continue to be supported with bug fixes and small features, but at the same time we will shift our focus onto the longer term aim – Archi 4.
And finally I’d like to offer some thanks. I’d like to thank all Archi users for their support and encouragement in 2014. Also, a special thank-you is due to Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie for his incredible support, encouragement, evangelism, contributions and vision. I’d also like to thank Gerben Wierda, author of the essential book, Mastering ArchiMate, for his support and advice. Thanks are also due to David Rose, and Andrew Josey of The Open Group who have allowed me to participate in The Open Group’s ArchiMate Exchange Format project. And finally, I’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone who has kindly donated to Archi by Paypal. These donations have kept the wolf from the door and encouraged me to continue developing new features in Archi. So, once more…thank-you!