Laboratory for Systemic Modeling LAMS

All text marked with a * is quoted from "ITU-T Rec. X.901 | ISO/IEC 10746-1: Overview".


For an accurate modeling of business and software systems it is important to clearly define the vocabulary of basic terms needed for the modeling. The meaning of these terms and the relations between them should be precisely defined; this is what an ontology should provide. We analyzed a few existing ontologies and we decided to base our work on the ISO/ITU standard "Reference Model for Open Distributed Processing". Our choice was motivated by the facts that RM-ODP is already an international standard, and it is a good base for an ontology for general system modeling.

Intro to RM-ODP

The rapid growth of distributed processing has led to a need for a coordinating framework for the standardization of Open Distributed Processing (ODP). This Reference Model provides such a framework. It creates an architecture within which support of distribution, interworking and portability can be integrated.

The Reference Model of Open Distributed Processing, ITU-T Rec. X.901 | ISO/IEC 10746-1 to ITU-T Rec. X.904 |ISO/IEC 10746-4, is based on precise concepts derived from current distributed processing developments and, as far as possible, on the use of formal description techniques for specification of the architecture.

The RM-ODP (ISO/IEC 10746) consists of:

  • ITU-T Rec. X.901 | ISO/IEC 10746-1: Overview:
    This part contains a motivational overview of ODP giving scoping, justification and explanation of key concepts, and an outline of the ODP architecture. It contains explanatory material on how this Reference Model is to be interpreted and applied by its users, who may include standards writers and architects of ODP systems. It also contains a categorization of required areas of standardization expressed in terms of the reference points for conformance identified in ITU-T Rec. X.903 | ISO/IEC 10746-3. These common texts are not normative.
  • ITU-T Rec. X.902 | ISO/IEC 10746-2: Foundations:
    This part contains the definition of the concepts and analytical framework for normalized description of (arbitrary) distributed processing systems. This is only to a level of detail sufficient to support ITU-T Rec. X.903 | ISO/IEC 10746-3 and to establish requirements for new specification techniques. These common texts are normative.
  • ITU-T Rec. X.903 | ISO/IEC 10746-3: Architecture:
    This part contains the specification of the required characteristics that qualify distributed processing as open. These are the constraints to which ODP standards must conform. It uses the descriptive techniques from ITU-T Rec. X.902 | ISO/IEC 10746-2. These common texts are normative.
  • ITU-T Rec. X.904 | ISO/IEC 10746-4: Architectural semantics:
    This part contains a normalization of the ODP modelling concepts defined in ITU-T Rec. X.902 | ISO/IEC 10746-2, clauses 8 and 9. The normalization is achieved by interpreting each concept in terms of the constructs of the different standardized formal description techniques. These common texts are normative.

Goals for RM-ODP

    The objective of ODP standardization is the development of standards that allow the benefits of distributing information processing services to be realized in an environment of heterogeneous IT resources and multiple organizational domains. These standards address constraints on system specification and the provision of a system infrastructure that accommodate difficulties inherent in the design and programming of distributed systems.

    Distributed systems are important because there is a growing need to interconnect information processing systems. This need arises because of organizational trends such as downsizing, which demand the exchange of information both between groups within an organization and between cooperating organizations. Advances in technology are making it possible to respond to these trends by giving increasing importance to information service networks and personal workstations, and by permitting the construction of applications distributed across large configurations of interconnected system

About ISO/IEC and ITU-T standartization

    ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (the International Electrotechnical Commission) form the specialized system for worldwide standardization. National bodies that are members of ISO or IEC participate in the development of International Standards through technical committees established by the respective organization to deal with particular fields of technical activity. ISO and IEC technical committees collaborate in fields of mutual interest. Other international organizations, governmental and non-governmental, in liaison with ISO and IEC, also take part in the work.

    In the field of information technology, ISO and IEC have established a joint technical committee, ISO/IEC JTC 1. Draft International Standards adopted by the joint technical committee are circulated to national bodies for voting. Publication as an International Standard requires approval by at least 75 % of the national bodies casting a vote.

    International Standard ISO/IEC 10746-1 was prepared by Joint Technical Committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology, Subcommittee SC 33, Distributed application services, in collaboration with ITU-T. The identical text is published as ITU-T Recommendation X.901.

Who's who

Groups and Projects in RM-ODP Research

  • LAMS, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.
  • Computing Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury UK.
  • FORMOSA (Formalisation of ODP Systems Architecture), University of Stirling, UK.
  • Systèmes Répartis et Coopératifs, UMPC, Paris, France.
  • ILR, Networks and ComputerScience Department of ENST, Paris France.
  • Distributed Systems Technology Center, Australia.


  • Financial Systems Architects(FSArch)
  • Domain Architects
  • U.S. Deparment of Defence
  • Electricité de France, R&D

Standardization Groups Refering RM-ODP:

  • OMG / EDOC profile for UML
  • OMG / MDA

RM-ODP Related Formal Description Methods:

    (referenced in RM-ODP part 4 (ITU-T Rec. X.904 | ISO/IEC 10746-4))

  • LOTOS:  ISO/IEC 880. "LOTOS – A Formal Description Technique Based on the TemporalOrdering of Observational Behavior", 1989.
  • ACT ONE: H. Ehrig and B. Mahr. "Fundamentals of algebraic specification". EATCS Monographs on Theoretical Computer Science, vol. 6, Springer-Verlag, 1985.
  • SDL-92: ITU–T Recommendation Z.100. "CCITT Specification and Description Language (SDL)", 1993.
  • Z:  S. M. Brien, J. E. Nicholls. "Z Base Standard version 1.0". Oxford University, Programming Research Group, Technical Monograph PRG-107, November 1992.
  • Z: J.M. Spivey. "The Z Notation, A Reference Manual". International Series in Computer Science, Second Edition, Prentice-Hall International, 1992.
  • ESTELLE: ISO 9074. "Estelle, a Formal Description Technique Based on an Extended State Transition Model", 1997.
Our Research

Our goal is to model systems generically. So that we can use the same kind of models for business systems and for software systems. The benefit is a better integration of business modeling and software modeling. As we focus on generic models, we put our emphasis on RM-ODP Part 2. An important problem with Part 2 is that it is written in a natural language (i.e. English). This leads to multiple interpretations and creates difficulties for tool vendors who would like to base their tools on RM-ODP. To alleviate this problem, we have done a formalization of Part 2 using Russells Theory of Types,   Set Theory and regular predicate logic. Our contribution is a model of Part 2 written in Alloy (a specification language developed by Daniel Jackson at MIT). One of the most innovative aspects of our work is the formalization of the relationship between the reality perceived by the modeler and the model itself. The formal model of RM-ODP part 2 now gives us solid foundations for our other research projects in business and software modeling. In addition we can influence industrial standards. For example, RM-ODP Part 2 is conceptually very close to the Unified Modeling Language meta-model. Our interactions with the UML task force at OMG are done via our partner Financial System Architects.


RM-ODP standard documents

Books related to RM-ODP

  • G. S. Blair, J.-B. Stefani. "Open Distributed Processing and Multimedia", Addison Wesley Longman Ltd, 1998.
  • J. R. Putman.: "Architecting with RM-ODP", Prentice Hall, 2001.

Selected publications

  • C. Bernardeschi, J. Dustzadeh, A. Fantechi, E. Najm, A. Nimour, and F. Olsen. "Transformations and Consistent Semantics for ODP Viewpoints". H. Bowman and J. Derrick, editors; Proceedings of Second IFIP conference on Formal Methods for Open Object-based Distributed Systems - FMOODS'97 - Canterbery UK, Chapman & Hall, July 97.
  • E.A. Boiten, H. Bowman, J. Derrick, P.F. Linington, and M.W.A. Steen. "Viewpoint consistency in ODP". Computer Networks, 34(3):503-537, August 2000.
  • H.Bowman, J. Derrick, P. Linington, M. Steen. "FDTs for ODP". Computer Standards and Interfaces, 17(1995):457-479, September 1995.
  • H. Bowman, J. Derrick, P. Linington, M. Steen. "Cross-viewpoint consistency in Open Distributed Processing". IEE Software Engineering Journal 11 (1): 1996, January 1996.
  • H. Bowman, E. A. Boiten, J. Derrick, M. W. A. Steen. "Viewpoint consistency in ODP, a general interpretation". Proceedings of the First IFIP International Workshop on Formal Methods for Open Object-Based Distributed Systems (editors: E. Najm and J.-B. Stefani), pages 189-204. Chapman & Hall, March 1996
  • F. Durán and A. Vallecillo. "Writing ODP Enterprise Specifications in Maude". Proceedings of ICEIS 2001, Workshop On Open Distributed Processing - WOODPECKER`2001, J. Cordeiro, H. Kilov (Eds.), Setúbal, Portugal, July 2001.
  • D. Johnson, H. Kilov. "An Approach to an RM-ODP Toolkit in Z". Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Component-Based Systems. Zurich, Switzerland, 1997; in conjunction with European Software Engineering Conference (ESEC) and ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering (FSE), 1997.
  • D. R. Johnson, H. Kilov. "Can a flat notation be used to specify an OO system: using Z to describe RM-ODP constructs". In Proceedings of FMOODS96: IFIP WG 6.1 Conference on Formal Methods in Object-oriented Distributed Systems; E. Najm, J-B. Stephani (editors), Chapman and Hall, Paris, March 1996, pp. 407-418.
  • P.F. Linington, J. Derrick, and H. Bowman. "The specification and conformance of ODP systems". In 9th International Workshop on Testing of Communicating Systems, pages 93-114, IFIP TC6/WG6.1. Darmstadt, Germany, Chapman & Hall, September 1996.
  • E. Najm and J.-B. Stefani. "A Formal Semantics for the ODP Computational Model". Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 27:1305-1329, 1995.
  • E. Najm and J.-B. Stefani. "Computational models for open distributed systems". H. Bowman and J. Derrick, editors, Proc. of FMOODS'97, Canterbury, 1997. Chapman &Hall.
  • R.O. Sinnott, K.J. Turner, "Applying Formal Methods to Standard Development: The Open Distributed Processing Experience". Computer Standards & Interfaces Journal, volume 17, pages 615-630, 1995.
  • R. O. Sinnott and K. J. Turner. "Specifying ODP Computational Objects in Z", Proceedings of 1st International Workshop on Formal Methods for Open Object-Based Distributed Systems, Paris, France, March 1996, pp. 375-390
  • M. W. Steen and J. Derrick. ODP Enterprise Viewpoint Specification. Computer Standards and Interfaces, 22(3):165-189, August 2000.

LAMS publications:

  • A. Naumenko, A. Wegmann
    "Two Approaches in System Modeling and Their Illustrations with MDA and RM-ODP"
    Proceedings of ICEIS 2003, the 5th International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems, Angers, France, April 2003, pp. 398-402.
    [ Full document ] [ BiBTeX ]
  • A. Naumenko
    " Triune Continuum Paradigm: a paradigm for General System Modeling and its applications for UML and RM-ODP"
    PhD Thesis number 2581, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - Lausanne (EPFL), June 2002.
  • A. Wegmann, A. Naumenko
    "Conceptual Modeling of Complex Systems Using an RM-ODP Based Ontology"
    Proceedings of the 5th IEEE International Enterprise Distributed Object Computing Conference - EDOC 2001, Seattle, USA, September 2001, pp. 200-211.
  • A. Naumenko, A. Wegmann
    "MDA and RM-ODP: two approaches in modern ontological engineering"
    EPFL-DSC technical report No. DSC/2001/047, August 2001.
  • A. Naumenko, A. Wegmann
    "RM-ODP part 2: Foundations in Alloy"
    EPFL-DSC technical report No. DSC/2001/041, August 2001.
  • A. Naumenko, A. Wegmann
    "A Formal Foundation of the RM-ODP Conceptual Framework"
    EPFL-DSC technical report No. DSC/2001/040, July 2001.
  • A. Naumenko, A. Wegmann, G. Genilloud, W. F. Frank
    "Proposal for a formal foundation of RM-ODP concepts"
    Proceedings of ICEIS 2001, Workshop On Open Distributed Processing - WOODPECKER`2001, Setúbal, Portugal, July 2001, pp. 81-97.
  • PhD thesis and Tutorial on foundations of RM-ODP framework: thesis entitled "Triune Continuum Paradigm: a paradigm for General System Modeling and its applications to UML and RM-ODP" (A. Naumenko, LAMS-EPFL) focusing on fundamentals of system analysis and, in particular, on foundations of RM-ODP.

    The presentation is entitled "Formalization of RM-ODP: Object-Oriented Ontology for System Modeling". It can serve you as a tutorial on foundations of the RM-ODP conceptual framework. This presentation is dedicated to Part III (the paradigm application to RM-ODP) of the PhD thesis, while Part I (the paradigm definition) and Part II (the paradigm application to UML) are not covered here.

RM-ODP | Goal Modeling | Business Plan | General Systems Thinking
  • Perform theoretical and applied research in business and IT alignment and related fields

    Teach graduate enterprise architecture and business plan disciplines

    Perform technology transfer to established companies and start-ups


Professor Alain Wegmann


Address @ EPFL

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    CH-1015 Lausanne
    Getting to LAMS
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    Fax: +41 21 693 66 10