Message sequence chart
The purpose of recommending MSC (Message Sequence Chart) is to provide a trace language for the specification and description of the communication behaviour of system components and their environment by means of message interchange. Since in MSCs the communication behaviour is presented in a very intuitive and transparent manner, particularly in the graphical representation, the MSC language is easy to learn, use and interpret. In connection with other languages it can be used to support methodologies for system specification, design, simulation, testing, and documentation.
The first version of the MSC standard was released in March 12, 1993.
Latest version has been published in February 2011.
Symbols in MSC
The existing symbols are:
- MSC head, lifeline, and end: a vertical line with a box at the top, and a box or a cross at the bottom.
- Instance creation: horizontal dashed arrow to the newly created instance.
- Message exchange: horizontal arrow.
- Control flow: horizontal arrow with the 'call' prefix, dashed arrow for reply symbol, method and suspension symbols in between.
- Timers: start, cancel, time out.
- Time interval: relative and absolute with a dashed vertical arrow.
- Conditions: usually used to represent a state of the underlying state machine.
- Action: a box.
- In-line expressions: alternative composition, sequential composition, exception, optional region, parallel composition, iteration (loop).
- Reference: reference to another MSC.
- Data concept: The user can use any data concept, if binding is undefined the default data concept is the one from SDL as defined in Z.121 recommendation.
- Coregion: a double dashed instance line to describe unordered events.
- SDL-RT has introduced:
- a semaphore instance representation.
- a save symbol to save messages.
Comparison to UML
UML 2.0 Sequence Diagram is strongly inspired by the ITU-T MSC. Still, for historical reasons, the default basic principles are quite different:
- In an MSC, the vertical lines are autonomous execution entities. They usually represent state machines executing in parallel. The state machines need not be on the same computer.
- In a Sequence Diagram, a vertical line is usually an object. The object can be active (in its own thread of execution) or passive (in the execution context of an active object).
- In an MSC an arrow is usually an asynchronous message sent from one entity to another one. Once the message is sent the sending entity resumes its execution.
- In a Sequence Diagram an arrow is usually understood as an operation call on a class. It is therefore synchronous and the calling entity hangs until the operation returns.
Live Sequence Charts
David Harel thinks that MSC still has several shortcomings such as:
- MSC propose a weak partial ordering semantics that makes it impossible to capture some behavioral requirements,
- The relationship between the MSC requirements and the executable specification is not clear.
- PragmaDev Tracer Free tracing tool based on MSC.
- MscGen – Automatic generation of diagrams based on text descriptions of the messages.
- MscGenerator - Advanced version of MscGen, designed for telecom message flows.
- Web-based MSC Generator
- Msc2Svg – Generates charts as SVG from a simple text description file
- EventStudio – Message sequence chart generation tool
- LTSA – Supports the drawing and subsequent automated verification of message sequence charts.
- PlantUML – Versatile UML sequence diagrams based on text description.
- Sequence Chart Studio – Extends Microsoft Visio to draw and verify Z.120 compliant sequence charts.
- Trace2UML – Tool for drawing and recording sequence charts.
- MSC Latex package – a LaTeX package for creating message sequence charts.
- Online PCAP to MSC chart Generator – Generates MSC arrow diagram charts from PCAP files.
- PSC Property Sequence Chart, a way to describe properties in an MSC or a Sequence Diagram.
- SDL Specification and Description Language, an MSC related ITU-T language.
- Interaction diagrams in UML.
- "HMSC". sdl-forum.org. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- Øystein Haugen. "MSC 2000". Ericsson. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- "What is new in MSC 2000 relative to MSC 96.". sdl-forum.org. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- Ekkart Rudolph, Jens Grabowski, Peter Graubmann (1999). "Towards a Harmonization of UML-Sequence Diagrams and MSC". University of Göttingen. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Øystein Haugen (June 2000). "UML 2.0 vs. SDL/MSC – Ericsson Position Statement". Ericsson. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- David Harel (2003-04-08). "Message Sequence Charts". Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- David Harel (2005-02-22). "LSCs: Breathing Life into Message Sequence Charts". Formal Methods in System Design. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- David Harel (2002). "Multiple instances and symbolic variables in executable sequence charts". Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- Emmanuel Gaudin, Eric Brunel (2013). "Property Verification with MSC". Springer.
- ITU-T Recommendation Z.120 message sequence chart (MSC)
- Michel Reniers: “Message sequence charts – syntax and semantics”, PhD thesis, Eindhoven University of Technology, 1999