Serena to Unveil Vail

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-08-17

Serena to Unveil Vail


Serena to Unveil Vail

SAN MATEO, Calif.—Serena Software next month will unveil Vail, its business mashup tool, along with a software-as-a-service offering that will take advantage of the benefits of service-oriented architectures.

Serena, known for its change management and source code control solutions in the ALM (application lifecycle management) space, is entering the SAAS business, a la However, rather then promoting a development platform that requires professional programmers like Salesforce with its Apex language, Serena is delivering a GUI-based tool for non-programmers.

In a meeting at Serenas headquarters here, CEO Jeremy Burton and Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president for worldwide marketing, partner programs and online services, gave eWEEK the first public look at a prototype of the technology to come, known as Vail.

"When you start up the tool, it looks a lot like Microsoft Office," Burton said. "And we think the people who use this will be folks like the power users of Office."

The tool has a Mashup Explorer—a Google gadgets-like designer—and "you build your process flow, you design your forms and you complete your application and deploy it up to the cloud," Burton said. "Deploying up to the cloud for us is a very simple thing. Basically off the menu you hit deploy. And our Serena On Demand applications will run at OpSource in their data centers down in Santa Clara, [Calif]."

Burton said Serena will offer Vail so that business users who work with the business processes day in and day out will be able to quickly define an extension to the process flow, mash it up with something like the Salesforce interfaces, "deploy it out to the cloud and theyre not even bothering the IT guys."

He said Serena plans to formally introduce the technology in September. "By the end of the year, the Mashup Composer will be out in production and the online service will be in beta," he said. "By early next year well be out there running. Weve got a super aggressive timeline."

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Most folks would not expect something like this to come from Serena, Burton said. "Weve kind of got the sleepy change management reputation," he said. However, Serena is not giving up its ALM business, and even its legacy of delivering solutions for the mainframe will pay off, Burton said.

"The legacy business has some role to play because we have several interfaces into the mainframe world already built up and pre-canned that we can provide for users to mash up," he said.

Burton said when he interviewed for the job as CEO of Serena—a post hes held since February—one of the first things he asked to do was look at the technology. "The guys pulled out this project called Vail that they were working on at the time," he said. "The story behind the story on this is that some years ago, Serena built some [traditional ALM] applications—our defect tracking and help desk and incident management applications. These things we allowed folks to customize the applications with a little tool called TeamTrack that was all intertwined with it."

TeamTrack enabled users to build small functional applications, a use Serena had not envisioned for the technology. Some Serena developers decided they could package the tool, "but not target it at programmers but at semi-technical guys," Burton said. "They had been working on this thing for a couple of years and when they pulled it up, I was like: Oh my, where did this come from? But by and large, most folks in Serena I dont think knew what they had, and they brought it up to date with SOA and Web services support, and put this great visual user interface on it."

Page 2: Serena to Unveil Vail

Serena to Unveil Vail

He said he then asked the development team if users could deploy the applications they built with the tool to the Internet. They said no.

"I said, Well, look, the kind of applications you can build with a simple tool are simple applications," Burton said. "The only thing worse than not allowing a business guy to build an application is to enable them to build an application and then not be able to deploy it because theyve got to go fight with the data center and find a server and some storage, etc."

The Serena developers said they hadnt worked on Internet deployment because it was not something typically done in that facet of the companys business. "So we brought Rene onboard, whos done this a couple of times," Burton said.

Bonvanie had recently joined, but came to Serena to help launch the Vail effort. Burton and Bonvanie also had worked together at Oracle.

Meanwhile, Burton said one thing that stood out for him was that "youve got a little bit of functionality here that you built, and youve got a little bit here and a little there—thats a mashup. Most mashup talk to date has been to get Google Maps and a real estate company [so] you can see where a house is located—the very essence of GUI consumer apps. And this idea of a business mashup, I think, is still a fairly new concept. I really dont think theres an enterprise-strength tool available for doing business mashups."

Added Bonvanie: "Its pretty amazing because we were launching Salesforce SOA, which was the ability for Salesforce to focus on a SOA strategy, but there was no tools strategy at Salesforce [at that point]. So I went through a whole bunch of companies looking for a tool and they couldnt show me anything. They were all focused on hardcore developers. When I saw this, I said, This is it. This could become the hub through which you can orchestrate all this SOA stuff out there and then deploy to the Web, or to the cloud, so to speak. And then the opportunity to come and run this thing and put it into the cloud was super appealing to me."

Moreover, the new company direction not only contrasts but complements Serenas traditional business, where the company helps IT departments build complex applications. "We gather requirements and we manage source code and we help them build," Burton said. "Theres still going to be a bunch of that going on. But the problem is that the volume of applications are simple and theyre never going to get on the radar of IT departments. The only way out is youve got to enable the business guy to innovate on top of this SOA-based platform."

Burton said Serena will maintain and continue to grow its ALM tools business, because "we absolutely need to be a credible alternative to IBM, which is the largest player in the market."

But that is not the reason Burton came to Serena, he said.

"What got me thinking is I absolutely believe in this concept of enterprise technology being consumerized, if thats a word," he said. "If you look at whats going on in the consumer world right now, youve got the likes of Facebook and MySpace and a bunch of companies that have got precious data—photos and personal information. In order to drive innovation, what these guys are doing is exposing interfaces and allowing folks in their college dorm room to innovate without asking permission of the IT department inside Facebook.

Burton said that has to happen in the business world as well. "I think IT departments have got to stop being this bottleneck," he said. "Theyve got to publish interfaces using SOA. Weve tried for 20 years to define an enterprise architecture—CORBA [Common Object Request Broker Architecture] and DCOM [Distributed Component Object Model] and over the last 15 to 20 years I can name several component-based models where I thought wed cracked it, when now I think at last we have."

To get that consumerization of the business IT world, IT departments have got to expose interfaces using SOA, Burton said.

"And then it cant be that the IT department has the only guys that can innovate on top of those SOA interfaces," Burton said. "If youve got to be a programmer to build an app, then that backlog is never going to get reduced."

The combination of IT exposing SOA interfaces and then semi-technical guys being able to build on that will enable "IT [to] go from being a bottleneck to providing this platform for innovation, not unlike in the consumer world with Facebook and so on," he said.

What these folks are missing are tools, Burton said, and Serena is hoping to remedy that with Vail.

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