Building a platform

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-07-29 Print this article Print

first"> Good segue. Im curious about what kind of ecosystem this will foster. In what ways will it bring stuff out of other people including partners and competitors? That was probably one of the hardest business issues. For the first two years, it was less about the technology and more about the business model. … One of the hardest or most challenging business-model decisions we had to make was, "How do we enable our partners to participate in the rising tide?" And so we started very early on with the strategy of not really building a set of tools, but building a platform. That resonated well with us because we get platforms. We understand how to be a platform; its what we do.
So one of the first strategy decisions we made was that the team system was a platform first, a … tooling infrastructure, and then a set of tools that we built on top of it.
So the design point, very early on, was we will expose everything we use. So the collaboration between the client side and the server—and sort of our integration layer—is completely Web service-based. We will make it completely available. There are no back doors that were using; therere no protocols, theres none of that stuff. So we did that; and sure we had challenging discussions when we started doing private briefings, and then when we got everybody together in November of last year. So in November when we first brought the partners in for the first time, two things were pretty interesting about that. The first one was, we were a year and a half from shipping and we were fully disclosing what we were building to everyone, including IBM. IBM was there; theyre a very good VSIP [Visual Studio Industry Partner] partner. Also, Mercury [Interactive Corp.], Borland [Software Corp.]—all their people were there and we were disclosing where we were going, that we were coming into this market, what we were roughly building, and that our intention was to build a platform. That was very risky, but it was absolutely the right thing to do because we are first and foremost a platform company. So I think that that was a great start. It was a challenging set of meetings. And if you talk to people youll find it was a challenging thing for people to hear. And it was like the 10 phases of grief. We worked through that to where now we have people saying; now we get this. We get what opportunities there are. We get how were going to play in this world. We get how Microsoft is going to create a mass market and those types of things. So I think the existing partners all have some interesting opportunities with the Team System. But I also think that the ecosystem will evolve in ways weve never even thought of. For instance, Ive had several people talking about building-process guidance. Because our tooling is completely configurable via an XML document that configures what we call a methodology template that can fundamentally change the behavior of the tooling. If you were to use an agile method of the methodology versus a formal version of the methodology, you almost wouldnt recognize the tool. You certainly wouldnt recognize the process. And so I think that people are going to create methodologies and sell them or open-source them and put them out on the community. I think people will build a ton of add-ins, because I think about the component world, where we have base functionality in the platform for things like "eventing" and notification. Somebody will build a really neat tool that sits on top of our reports and fires off a report any time an event threshold is crossed. So, there is just a ton of opportunity for people to fill in very interesting components. There is a list 30 things long that I wish we could have done—I think partners will step up and provide value by selling those things, too. So its not the existing business model that theyre in, but I think theres a ton of new opportunity opened up because of the platform thats the team system. Next page: The UML challenge.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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