Agent-Oriented Approach to System Architecture: 
Models and Analysis Tools

a CITO Research Project

Funding agency:  Communication and Information Technology Ontario
  with support from Mitel Corporation.

Principal Investigators:
John Mylopoulos, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Toronto
Eric Yu, Faculty of Info. Studies, U. of Toronto
Yves Lesperance, Dept. of Comp. Sci., York Univ.

Industry Team Members:
Tom Gray, Engineering R&D, Mitel Corp.
Sergei Mankowski, Engineering R&D, Mitel Corp.

Duration:  2 years  (1998 -- 2000)

Introduction and Overview

This project aims to develop models and analysis tools to support software systems development, with a special focus on an agent-oriented approach to link requirements, specification, and architectural design.

Software systems today need to be highly flexible in order to deal with technical and business environments that are open and diverse, rapidly evolving, physically dispersed yet highly interconnected. For examples, builders of enterprise communication systems are facing the pressures  (and opportunities) of media convergence, changing customer demands, and constant shifts in competitive and regulatory environments. Systems with inflexible architectures unable to respond to these changes are quickly ending up as ill-fated “legacy systems”.

Software designers and researchers have been experimenting with flexible agent-based architectures as the foundation for next generation systems. However, the success of these systems will depend on how well they fit into the embedding technical, business, and organizational environments, and on their ongoing ability to respond to changes in these environments. A critical piece of technology, therefore, is the ability to model and analyze the architecture of software-based systems in relation to their complex, evolving organizational and business environments. An important component of the capability is the systematic treatment of non-functional requirements (such as maintainability, reliability, performance, and other quality issues) during design and their monitoring during execution.

We will apply, adapt, and extend two complementary agent-oriented frameworks from recent research -- i* and ConGolog to deal with system architectures.  The project will draw on the experiences of the industry partner (Mitel Corp.) to study existing systems as well as systems that are currently being designed. Enterprise communication systems will be the primary example domain, although we expect the results will be applicable to a wide range of systems.
Keywords:  systems analysis, system architecture and design, agent-orientation, requirements engineering, legacy system, non-functional requirements, design rationale, telecommunications software.