UAModelDesignExport Library

# UAModelDesignExport Library

Preface

The Address Space concept based on types can be a foundation for exposing any process information. The main role of the Address Space is a selective replication of an underlying process, i.e.copying of data from a real process to one Address Space so that all users share the same process state and behavior description. Using the Address Space concept implementation (services) users could also control the underlying process. It is worth stressing that by design the replica hides selected details, hence we can recognize it as an abstract representation of the underlying process. The Address Space is also a cache of the real process data.The data stored in a cache might be the result of an earlier computation or a copy of data stored elsewhere. Concluding, it is a component that stores data so that future requests for that data can be served in a unified and more efficient way.

To make the Address Space a meaningful representation of the real process for a variety of generic data users it must expose data of the real process in the context of metadata. The Address Space is a collection of nodes that are instances of predefined types (NodeClass). Each NodeClass is defined as an invariable set of named attributes and a collection of references that shall be assigned (given) values when the node is instantiated.

Numerous elements contribute to the overall process of creating and managing real process replication using the Address Space concept. A detailed description of this topic is covered by the section Information Models Development.

In general, two scenarios can be applied to create an instance of the Address Space:

  1. step-by-step: users manage it using services available by the API (Application Program Interface)

  2. en block: a hosting software application instantiates the Address Space as one whole using a formal description

At run-time, the step-by-step approach can be applied using NodeManagement Service Set defined in OPC UA Part 4: Services. This Service Set defines functionality to add and delete nodes and references between them in the Address Space that is part of the OPC UA Server application.

Because the step-by-step approach shall be recognized as the run-time custom approach where the Address Space nodes graph depends on the behavior of users functionality it will need a migration path targeting generation of reusable deliverables (subsection How to reuse models created in a step-by-step scenario).

To promote en block scenario and to create all nodes all together in a united group making up the Address Space content there is a need for a standard syntax that can be used to represent it in a form that can be read by a computer program. The OPC UA Part 6 - Mappings defines an XML-based schema for this purpose:

http://opcfoundation.org/UA/2011/03/UANodeSet.xsd

The XML documents compliant with this schema are called UANodeSet. This schema can also be used to serialize (i.e. import or export) an arbitrary set of Nodes in the Server Address Space. This serialized form can be used to save Server state for use by the Server later or to exchange with other applications (e.g. to support out-of-band configuration by a Client). The UANodeSet documents could also be obtained as an output of a compiler processing OPC UA Information Model as the input.

Regardless of the method applied to the generation of the UANodeSet manual modification of the document compliant with this schema is impractical or even impossible.

To promote reusability, the publication of process real-time data and metadata in the Address Space requires a prior model development at design-time. From the section Address Space Model Life-cycle, we can learn that design, development, deployment, and maintenance is a multi-phase engineering process. Moreover, the model deployment process varies depending on the server implementation. From this section, we can learn that there is a need for a domain-specific language that can be used to represent the OPC UA Information Model in a form that can be suitable for a selected development environment helping architects, engineers, and developers accomplish the above-mentioned tasks and follow the best practice rules. A domain-specific language is developed to meet a specific need. In this sense, a domain is a narrow area of interest, i.e. representation of the OPC UA Information Model.

A language, domain-specific or not, consist of the following main ingredients:

  • alphabet: a set of readable letters or symbols in a fixed order

  • syntax: defines the notation with which users can express the relevant information (in this case the OPC UA Information Model). It may be textual, graphical, tabular or a mix of these

  • semantics: a set of rules that can be used to assign the meaning to the notation that is valid against syntax rules

The OPC UA Part 3 defines a graphical notation for this purpose. It is normative, however, it is not required to be used. Graphical languages have the following drawbacks:

  1. the drawing becomes huge and hard to maintain in case of complex models

  2. it is impractical or even impossible to track the model modifications

  3. the graphical representation is hard to be processed by computers

Additionally, according to the specification, this graphical notation provides no mechanism to represent some important information required by a generic OPC UA Information Model representation.

In some development environment, the Unified Modeling Language (UML) is also used instead. It is a standardized modeling language enabling developers to specify, visualize, construct and document artifacts of any information processing system. Because it is a generic language it doesn't have any related to the OPC UA Information Model well-defined semantics rules, so the association of the diagrams and their meaning must be based on intuition limiting the possibility to share the models.

Therefore instead of graphical notation, a textual UAModelDesign notation is commonly used as the domain-specific language supporting OPC UA Information Model design.

UAModelDesign - what's this

This library provides an implementation of the functionality aimed at the generation of the XML files compliant with the following schema

http://opcfoundation.org/UA/ModelDesign.xsd

The documents compliant with this schema are referred to as ModelDeign. The schema definition is in the local file UA Model Design.xsd attached to the project.

By design, the UAModelDesign schema describes the syntax of XML documents that are to be a representation of the OPC UA Information Model. These models may be defined by standardization organizations, vendors or end-users. More on designing and deploying OPC UA Information Model is covered by the section Information Models Development.

UAModelDesign - how to use it

Introduction

From the above, we can learn that design, development, deployment, and maintenance of the OPC UA Information Model is a multi-phase engineering process. Moreover, the model deployment varies depending on the server implementation. All of that causes that configuration, behavior and process data binding of the server is a complex task and that is why a development environment is required to help architects, engineers, and developers accomplish this task following the best practice rules. This development tools should support all aspects of the model deployment process including edition, validation, visualization, behavior/data binding definition, and generation of all files allowing the server to expose real-time process data in the context of metadata.

Before nodes making up the Address Space can be instantiated by the server, the Address Space must be designed first. Model designing is a process aimed at defining a set of types and their associations and, next, creating an Address Space representation in a format appropriate for implementation. The UAModelDesign files are used by many tools to help:

  1. Design and instantiate the Address Space

  2. Add custom behavior represented in the Address Space by Method nodes

  3. Bidirectionally bind Variable nodes Value attribute with a real process data

A more detailed description of this topic is captured in the section Address Space Model Life-cycle

In the next sections, two tools supporting the OPC UA Information Model deployment process are described. Both use the UAModelDesign files format as the input for further processing.

OPC Foundation UA-ModelCompiler

XML documents compliant with the UAModelDesign schema may be used as the input for the compiler tool OPC Foundation UA-ModelCompiler. This compiler generates XML files that may be used to instantiate the UA Address Space complaint wit the OPC UA Part 3. It also creates the C# and ANSI C source code files which include the UA Services, data-types, error codes, etc.; and variety of the CSV files that contain NodeIds, error codes, and attributes, etc. Visit the above-mentioned home page of this tool to learn more. It is command-line tools and doesn't provide any UA Information Model design functionality.

Address Space Model Designer

The main challenge of the project OPC UA Address Space Model Designer (ASMD) is to offer the designers a user-friendly tool supporting all aspects of the OPC UA Address Space model designing process. It brings together: designing, learning, and deploying. Description of the main features of the tool is covered by the section Design and Deployment Support.

To make this tool as useful as possible, the definition of the created Address Space can be saved to the XML file compatible with the UAModelDesign schema used by the OPC UA Software Development Kit released by the OPC Foundation.

The ASMD implements conceptual containers called solutions and projects to apply their settings. Any solution contains one or more projects and it manages the way the designer configures, builds, and deploys sets of related projects. Any project includes source files containing the model representation and related metadata such as properties and references to other projects. The designer integrated development environment provides tools that help you edit and manipulate models, namespaces, and add references to external resources.

Documents compliant with the UAModelDesign schema may be opened as an existing project. Visit the help documentation to learn how to manage the solution OPC UA Address Space Model Designer Online Help.

How to get started

Figure 1 visualizes dependencies across the code available in the SemanticData solution folder on the code map. This code map helps you see how the code fits together without reading through files and lines of code.

Figure 1 Architecture

For the sake of simplicity the unit tests have been removed from the diagram.

The library UAOOI.SemanticData.UAModelDesignExport.dll (UAModelDesignExport) is used by the asp.exe (asp) tool to export UAModelDesign files using the UAOOI.SemanticData.UANodeSetValidation.dll (UANodeSetValidation). The UANodeSetValidation implements functionality of the Address Space Management described in the section Semantic-Data Processing Architecture.

The following code snippet contains the most relevant lines of code copied from asp.exe that could help you to get started development of a custom application based on this library.

IAddressSpaceContext _as = AddressSpaceFactory.AddressSpace; //Creates Address Space infrastructure exposed to the API clients using default messages handler.
ModelDesignExport _exporter = new ModelDesignExport(); //creates new instance of the ModelDesignExport class that captures functionality supporting export of the OPC UA Information Model represented by an xml file compliant with UAModelDesign schema.
...
_as.InformationModelFactory = _exporter.GetFactory(options.ModelDesignFileName, BuildErrorsHandling.Log.TraceEvent); //Sets the information model factory, which can be used to export a part of the OPC UA Address Space.
...
_as.ImportUANodeSet(_fileToRead); //Imports a part of the OPC UA Address Space contained in the file compliant with the `UANodeSet` schema.
...
_as.ValidateAndExportModel(options.IMNamespace); //Validates and exports the selected model.
...
_exporter.ExportToXMLFile(options.Stylesheet); //Serializes the already generated model and writes the XML document to a file.

How to install the library using NuGet package

This library is available as the NuGet package UAOOI.SemanticData.UAModelDesignExport. NuGet packages contain reusable code that other developers make available to you for use in your projects. See What is NuGet? for background. Packages are installed into a Visual Studio project using the Package Manager UI or the Package Manager Console. The article Quick start: Install and use a package in Visual Studio demonstrates the process.

How to reuse models created in a step-by-step scenario

  1. Generate UANodeSet file using your favorite Software Development Kit (SDK)

    • instantiate Address Space using the available functionality or custom code

    • export the Address Space to UANodeSet file

  2. Generate UAModelDesign file using Address Space Prototyping Tool (ASP) tool

    • import the already generated UANodeSet

    • export the UA Information Model to UAModelDesign file

  3. Continue the model design using ASMD tool

    • create new or reuse existing solution

    • open the UAModelDesign as the existing project

  4. You are ready to modify the model according to your needs using ASMD tool

  5. If done generate all required files using build functionality offered by the ASMD tool

How to reuse models designed in UML

  1. Design the UML model according to your needs

    • using a favorite tool design UML diagrams representing expected OPC UA Information Model

    • export the model to a suitable form supported as input by UANodeSet a custom generating tool

    • generate UANodeSet using the custom UANodeSet generating tool

  2. Generate UAModelDesign file using ASP tool

    • import the already generated UANodeSet

    • export the UA Information Model to UAModelDesign file

  3. Continue the model design using ASMD tool

    • create a new or open existing solution

    • open the UAModelDesign as the existing project

  4. You are ready to modify the model according to your needs using ASMD tool

  5. If done generate all required files using build functionality offered by the ASMD tool

See also