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Combining Code Development, Modeling, and Simulation with Eclipse

Paul Urban has more than 20 years experience in the embedded and real-time systems industry developing systems, software, and hardware. Currently, Paul works for IBM Rational as a Senior Marketing Manager for Systems and Medical Devices. He has worked with the IBM Rational Rhapsody MDD environment since 1995 in various roles including application engineer, consultant, and in product marketing. Prior to his career at IBM, Urban developed custom hardware for high-performance computing applications.

Embedded systems and software developers juggle three critical challenges: rising design complexity, increasingly narrow time-to-market windows, and doing more with existing resources. To overcome these difficult issues, many development teams use the Eclipse open source platform for software development. One advantage of the Eclipse workspace is that it provides a highly customizable environment that can be tailored to the needs of individual software developers.

While working in Eclipse, many developers are also using model-driven development (MDD) to obtain automation, visualization, and abstraction capabilities to help improve team communication and design quality. MDD is becoming a mainstream technique to assist productivity and team collaboration. When your team effectively combines MDD and an Eclipse environment, you can create a powerful, customizable development environment that helps you improve overall team effectiveness.

There have been major hurdles for engineers in transitioning to a complete MDD environment with Unified Modeling Language (UML), such as giving up control over the structure of the code and learning to design at the model level. With the recent advances in MDD technology, however, engineers can now successfully use Eclipse C/C++ Development Tools (CDT) and Java Development Tools (JDT) to work at the code level and in a MDD environment. This approach allows users to obtain the benefits of abstraction and automation provided by a modeling, simulation and code generation solution with C, C++ and Java development capabilities -- helping users get a "best of both worlds" workflow.

Figure 1: An example of a MDD environment embedded within the Eclipse IDE

In the past, MDD environments and IDE forced users to work in one or the other with no substantive interaction between the two "worlds." A developer that wanted to work in the model faced the tedious task of writing the code themselves in an IDE and then the developer would have to maintain both the models and the code since they would easily lapse out of synch with each other. Early MDD solutions -- many of which still exist today -- that generated code produced black box code, which is often unreadable and lacks user control of the results. Getting the black box code to look right and operate as intended was difficult at best; if the user resorted to changing the code, it was a given that the model and the code would be out of synch, leading to a major maintenance issue. Writing the code from scratch was even worse, because the model was rarely updated to reflect any changes implemented in the code. With the model and code out of synch, the value of the reusability, communication and consistency of the model was lost. Now, with a strong Eclipse IDE and a UML-based MDD environment that also offers code generation with automated synchronization of the model and code, organizations have the help they need to develop software in a combined model-based and open-source environment.

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