The Meta-Object Facility (MOF) is an Object Management Group (OMG) standard for model-driven engineering. The official reference page may be found at OMG's website. 
MOF originated in the Unified Modeling Language (UML); the OMG was in need of a metamodeling architecture to define the UML. MOF is designed as a four-layered architecture. It provides a meta-meta model at the top layer, called the M3 layer. This M3-model is the language used by MOF to build metamodels, called M2-models. The most prominent example of a Layer 2 MOF model is the UML metamodel, the model that describes the UML itself. These M2-models describe elements of the M1-layer, and thus M1-models. These would be, for example, models written in UML. The last layer is the M0-layer or data layer. It is used to describe real-world objects.
Beyond the M3-model, MOF describes the means to create and manipulate models and metamodels by defining CORBA interfaces that describe those operations. Because of the similarities between the MOF M3-model and UML structure models, MOF metamodels are usually modeled as UML class diagrams. A supporting standard of MOF is XMI, which defines an XML-based exchange format for models on the M3-, M2-, or M1-Layer.
MOF is a closed metamodeling architecture; it defines an M3-model, which conforms to itself. MOF allows a strict meta-modeling architecture; every model element on every layer is strictly in correspondence with a model element of the layer above. MOF only provides a means to define the structure, or abstract syntax of a language or of data. For defining metamodels, MOF plays exactly the role that EBNF plays for defining programming language grammars. MOF is a Domain Specific Language (DSL) used to define metamodels, just as EBNF is a DSL for defining grammars. Similarly to EBNF, MOF could be defined in MOF.
In short MOF uses the notion of MOF::Classes (not to be confused with UML::Classes), as known from object orientation, to define concepts (model elements) on a metalayer. MOF may be used to define object-oriented metamodels (as UML for example) as well as non object-oriented metamodels (as a Petri net or a Web Service metamodel).
As of May 2006, the OMG has defined two variants of MOF:
- EMOF for Essential MOF
- CMOF for Complete MOF
In June 2006, a request for proposal was issued by OMG for a third variant, SMOF (Semantic MOF).
The variant ECore that has been defined in the Eclipse Modeling Framework is more or less aligned on OMG's EMOF.
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