Development Tools Lighten Up

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-04-18
 
 
 

As much as eWEEK Labs admires what Microsoft has accomplished with its Visual Studio Team System, were also interested in the different approach to a well-tooled developer governance environment thats offered by Version-One, whose V1: Agile Enterprise product becomes available April 18.

Accessed through a Web browser interface and available either as a hosted service or for local installation, V1: Agile Enterprise gives development managers a well-thought-out workbench for task management as well as dashboards for tracking and analysis.

Click here to read about the importance of revisiting governance goals.

Application development is moving into an epoch largely defined by reducing the application footprint. VersionOnes design seems somewhat more in tune with the times than Microsofts somewhat heavyweight server-side product—especially given VSTS use of thick-client Office applications as user interface tools, no matter how ubiquitous Office has traditionally been in the PC-equipped workplace.

We would not quickly bet that Office will still be dominant five years from now or perhaps even 10 years from now.

The Labs spoke with VersionOne President and CEO Robert Holler prior to the products announcement. Holler discussed his own 15 years experience with past generations of developer tools and his belief that new processes will thrive on a more integrated diet.

"Our belief, with significant indications, is that theres a fundamental shift in progress from the way that software used to be done, just as theres been from the way that cars used to be made: a much more lean, much more just-in-time, much more return-on-investment--focused development life cycle," said Holler in Alpharetta, Ga. "We think that within five or 10 years, this will be the de facto standard for software development in general."

The Labs has also noted this trend in tools such as Klockworks K7 suite (www.klockwork.com), which combines both analytic and process aids, as well as offerings from other vendors. Within our own Labs, we see the forces that Holler described at work in all areas of IT tooling, not just in application development. Network accessibility through a standards-based browser is not yet quite an absolute requirement for any sales pitch aimed at an enterprise data center or development organization, but its getting close to that point.

The crucial error for a development manager today would be the comparison of one IDE (integrated development environment) and tool set against another—think Visual Studio and VSTS versus Eclipse and its growing life-cycle ecosystem—when there are fundamentally different alternatives.

A company might outsource its application development and operations platform, for example, to a hosted service provider such as Salesforce.com (salesforce.com/developer) while using an on-demand management infrastructure such as VersionOnes to manage the companys scarce and distinctive resources of line-of-business experience and development talent.

"As a traditional software person for the previous decade and a half, I saw a lot of tools available to drive the development process," Holler said. "IDEs, test management tools, defect trackers, project management tools, but they were all different tools. It was a disintegrated environment that didnt offer a full picture.

"Now theres an attempt to pull that together into a consolidated environment," Holler added, explaining the second prong of the VersionOne proposition.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of Visual Studio 2005.

Not only is the environment designed to be accessible; in the Labs walk-through of the product, we also found it a well-unified view of whats happening in a project.

The crux of the problem of enterprise development backlogs, cost overruns and costly project abandonments is lack of clear and tight connection between the need thats being met, the means by which its being addressed, the people with the responsibility for taking that action, and the opportunity to compare that action against the goal. V1: Agile Enterprise, with its straightforward links between plans and measures of accomplishment, offers a real prospect of improvement.

Development governance is a prerequisite for the predictability of time to market, the transparency of business processes, and the quality of the customer-facing internet presence and supply chain integration that combine to define whats required of todays competitive enterprise. The labs looks to technology providers like versionone to explore and offer new ways of meeting that need.

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