Tool Set Eases Integration

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-02-11 Print this article Print

Sybase Inc.s Sybase PowerDesigner 9.0, released last month, does more than any other tool set eWeek Labs has seen to coordinate the definition of business goals, the specification of enterprise systems, and the development of specific database designs and application logic.

Developers who fear the overhead of a modeling tool will be pleased by its exceptionally smooth integration of multiple modeling methods and notations; theres exemplary ease of interoperation with a development teams established suite of editors, compilers and other aids.

Most system modeling tools have at least some prescriptive character, a definite and often intrusive hint of "This is how you should do it." In our tests of PowerDesigner, priced starting at $1,000, we got just the opposite sense—that the product was there to solve our problems, not to create new burdens of changing the ways we thought and worked.

For example, many modeling tools enable a choice among different labeling schemes for conceptual data model diagrams, but PowerDesigner allowed us to use more than one notation in a single diagram to take best advantage of the clarity and expressive power of each. Many code generation tools allow incorporation of a preferred external source code editor, but PowerDesigner allowed us to integrate several such tools and invoke any one at will from a pop-up menu.

Many architecture tools have flexible report generators for documenting models, but PowerDesigner allowed us to produce a comprehensive view of a complex project without unwieldy consolidation of logically separate models.

In addition to these out-of-the-box capabilities, PowerDesigner 9.0 offers many paths for extension and for integration with other tools and processes. A development team can use VBScript to automate its own conventions, such as using distinctive colors or fonts to indicate underlying metadata values or relationships.

Reporting needs that cant be met with the built-in tools can be handled by external software using RTF and/ or HTML (with automatic hyperlink) export facilities. We found extensive documentation of file formats for every aspect of the product, enabling support for additional development languages and interoperation with other tools to any extent desired.

PowerDesigner 9.0 can exchange model information with other modeling tools or with a teams own custom applications, using convenient import and export facilities based on the industry-standard XMI (XML Metadata Interchange) schema. Unified Modeling Language 1.3 and XMI 1.0 or 1.1 are supported. These interchange capabilities include the standard class diagrams and use case diagrams, with object language definitions for Java, C++, Visual Basic and PowerBuilder, plus uncertified support for C# and Web Services Description Language.

The XMI import options also include sequence, component and activity diagrams, but any diagram interchange using XMI is still an emerging standard. We find varied claims of portability being made by different tool vendors.

Even when PowerDesigner merely talks to itself, so to speak, we found that exporting a use case diagram to XMI and reimporting that file produced a diagram with a different (and less logical) arrangement of symbols and with loss of descriptive annotations (although logical connections were accurately preserved).

PowerDesigners versioning and branching tools will accommodate the frequent need to maintain a version of a system that is currently in production while proceeding with development of the next release. Extensive, fine-grained security controls will make it feasible to use PowerDesigner as an information hub for a project without the risk of inadvertent changes by personnel without development duties.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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