MDE for Managing Complex Systems

Towards an MDE implementation of the Macroscope

The ModelPlex European IP is now finished.  The target of the project was  the application of MDE to complex systems. The basic use cases were provided by Thales, Telefonica, WesternGeco ( Schlumberger) and SAP.

Among the lessons of  this project, we have learnt that MDE is a good technology to manage complex systems, maybe the only possible technology.

Some basic facts

Real problems are no more isolated.

They are global and usually very  complex.

Complex systems are difficult to manage.

Traditional technologies (like procedural, 00, XML, …) do not work well on global problems.

MDE may be able to help here.

The only possible weapons against  complexity are conceptual simplicity  and unification.

“Everything is a model” may be used as a guiding principle.

The basic charasteristics of Computer-Based Complex Systems (CBCS) may be outlined:

  • CBCS: Computer-Based Complex System
  • A complex system with a significant number of hardware/software components
  • Compare with de Rosnay’s biological or ecological complex systems
  • A CBCS is composed of a large number of components
  • A CBCS is constantly in evolution
  • Past, present, future
  • No stops when parts are added, removed or under maintenance
  • A CBCS has a structure (static architecture) and a dynamic behavior
  • A CBCS is composed of components that may be also CBCSs (no limit in nesting)
  • A CBCS has a goal defining its purpose in the context in which it is operating
  • The goal of a CBCS is part of its metadata
  • A CBCS has a heterogeneous-based engineering
  • A CBCS is a distributed system
  • A CBCS may not be understood by one unique human operator
  • The interactions between different parts of a CBCS follow specific patterns and may be characterized by the relations that hold between them
  • These relations may be implicitly or explicitly defined

Managing CBCS with the Macroscope

The objective is to implement the functionalities of the Macroscope proposed by Joel de Rosnay in practice, for example as a set of Eclipse Modeling tools.

The “Macroscope” is a  book on the systems approach

Dr. Joël de Rosnay, a molecular biologist, systems theorist, science writer, and futurologist, is presently Director of Strategy of the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie at La Villette (near Paris). He is an associate of the Principia Cybernetica Project.

Principia Cybernetica Web now offers the complete text and drawings of the book “The Macroscope” by Joël de Rosnay. It was originally published in 1979 by Harper & Row, (New York), but is now out of print. Therefore, they have made it available on the web at

This book is an excellent, easy to read introduction to cybernetics and systems thinking, with applications to living organisms, the economy and the world as a whole. The main theme is that the complex systems which govern our life should be looked at as a whole, rather than be taken apart into their constituents. The different systems, processes and mechanisms are beautifully illustrated with examples and pictures. Although the text is over 20 years old, this visionary document is still highly relevant to our present situation and state of knowledge. It is particularly recommended to people who wish to get an understanding of the basic concepts and applications of systems theory and cybernetics.

I have read this book several times and each time I learn something new. The book is about living organisms, biology or economics, but many lessons and ideas could also be made relevant to software based complex systems.



This entry was posted in Complex Systems, Macroscope, MDE, Models. Bookmark the permalink.

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