Software Quality in the City by the Bay

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-08-27

Software Quality in the City by the Bay


Software Quality in the

City by the Bay"> Quality software is not to be taken for granted in the city by the bay.

While San Francisco and the "bay area" have long been associated with the software business, Im talking about a city near another bay: the Chesapeake Bay. Im talking about Baltimore, the place I call home.

There are a few software companies in the Baltimore area that are turning out quality software and that focus on helping developers enhance the quality of the software they create. Tops among these companies are AVIcode Inc., Codign Software LLC and Artifact Software Inc.

AVIcode, based in Baltimore, is a leading provider of application monitoring solutions for the Microsoft .Net Framework.

AVIcodes products are designed to protect software investments by simplifying maintenance and troubleshooting, thereby reducing defect resolution time.

The companys flagship product is Intercept Studio, which detects crashes, critical exceptions (both handled and unhandled) and performance degradations in production applications. These runtime event details and associated root cause information are collected immediately and presented to the people responsible for the health and management of production applications.

I once referred to AVIcode as Microsofts "secret weapon" in the software giants push toward more autonomic computing as part of its Dynamic Systems Initiative. The Dynamic Systems Initiative is a commitment from Microsoft and its partners to help IT teams capture and use knowledge to design more manageable systems and automate ongoing operations. AVIcode is helping with that effort by delivering tools that benefit both developers and IT staff.

The "AVI" in the companys name stands for Alex and Victor, the companys co-founders—Alexandre Zakonov, now chief architect, and Victor Mushkatin, chief technology officer. And AVIcode stands for Alex and Victors code.

Mike Curreri, the president and CEO of AVIcode, is a Baltimore native, and, like me, an aficionado of the Maryland blue crab.

Curreri also is quite familiar with the Chesapeake Bay, particularly one of its estuaries: the Severn River. Curreri graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, which sits upon the banks of the Severn in Annapolis. After Annapolis, Curreri graduated from law school, did a stint as a prosecutor and as a litigator with a national firm. Now hes traded in his dress whites and pinstripes for the business casual attire of the software industry.

Curreris built AVIcode into a formidable software provider, which services a variety of customers including Intel, CSC, McGraw Hill, Sylvan Learning, JPMorgan Chase, T-Mobile, Rite Aid, MSNBC and the University of Oregon, to name a sampling.

Peter Campbell, Information Systems Coordinator, Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon, said: "Before Intercept Studio, the users just had to live with the bugs."

Curreri is a true homeboy and I hope to crack crabs with him again real soon.

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Meanwhile, Joe Ponczaks Codign Software, also focuses on helping developers eliminate buggy software.

Ponczak, a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), is co-founder of Codign, said the focus of the company is on software testing, and the overall premise behind the Codign products is to help developers design their code to be testable.

The name Codign is a play on the term "code design," Ponczak said, adding that he is not offended if people view it as a misspelling of the word "coding" because it means he has their attention.

Essentially, Codigns tools—CoViewDeveloper and CoViewManager—provide quality metrics for the developer. And from the metrics developers can create unit tests, he said. Finding defects in the development stage of the software lifecycle increases quality and reduces the cost of maintenance efforts, he added.

"Our unit test product [CoView] goes through and shows you all the paths and well create about 70 percent of the test cases, and the developer will have to do the rest," Ponczak said. "Its very much of a developer buddy; we dont try to automate everything. I never believe in an easy button when it comes to unit testing or coding."

Ponczak and his co-founder (now CTO) in forming Codign, John Miller, launched the company in 2004. They set out to form a company with a simple pricing model and have standardized on Eclipse—offering their solutions as Eclipse plug-ins.

The flagship product is $99 a year "and we give it away to open source developers [committers] and to universities," he said.

CoViewDeveloper helps Java developers build better JUnit tests through its wizards and code analysis by focusing on the codes data and logic flow and reporting path coverage. CoViewManager collects and reports on numerous metrics including cyclomatic complexity, branch coverage and the number of contributing tests.

CoViewDeveloper is $99 a year per user and CoViewManager is $199 a year per user.

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Software Quality in the

City by the Bay"> "Genuitec is teaching us all how to price an Eclipse product," Ponczak said. Genuitec LLC sells its MyEclipse integrated development environment for $29.95 per year for the standard edition. Both Codign and Genuitec are members of the Eclipse Foundation.

Mike Curreri, who is affiliated with practically every technology council in Maryland and heads one sanctioned by the states governor, Martin OMalley, is on Codigns advisory board. Ironically, Curreris AVIcode resides on a portion of the campus of Ponczaks alma mater, UMBC, that has been set aside for technology transfer, innovation and advancement.

Meanwhile, in addition to his CEO duties at Codign, Ponczak holds the position of director of product management at Artifact Software, based in nearby Columbia, Md.

In June, Artifact introduced a key upgrade to Lighthouse, its popular software development management solution. The new version, code-named Cozumel, empowers users to fully customize any data elements captured by Lighthouse. Software teams can adapt Lighthouse to their own development process and methodology, use their own terminology, and track the data most important to their business, Ponczak said.

Moreover, Ponczak said Lighthouse is used by thousands of companies worldwide to manage, monitor and measure their software development projects. It is available in a free version called Lighthouse Pro that includes everything needed to manage tasks, resources, costs, schedules, requirements, testing, bugs, issues, documents and more.

With the paid version, Lighthouse Premium, organizations can customize reports, data fields, and process methodologies, such as agile, the Rational Unified Process [RUP, from IBM Rational], and waterfall, or create their own unique process methodology.

Lighthouse Premium also includes priority support and personalized branding.

"Artifact is similar to IBMs Jazz in that its meant to provide online collaboration for project managers," Ponczak said.

"Codign and Artifact talk to each other," Ponczak said. "So when a JUnit test case fails, a defect is created within Lighthouse and all parties are notified."

Speaking on Artifact, Curreri said: "In addition to his work at Codign, Joe is the director of product management at another start-up that is trying to establish a collaborative business portal for managing off-shored application development projects. Basically his responsibilities there include mapping out the product future, interacting with clients, managing the product development and their offshore vendors, defining requirements on future revenue-generating solutions, and acting as the liaison between clients, developers and their sales people."

So Baltimore has an interest in software quality. And Im not so foolish or crazy enough to even attempt to make a true comparison between the software business in and around San Francisco and that of Baltimore. However, a lot of people dont know that Baltimores Johns Hopkins University has contributed a lot to the software industry, including many open source ideas and thinkers that have helped shape the course for open source software. Jim Jagielski, chairman and a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation, came out of the Hopkins computer engineering program. He also worked at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in nearby Greenbelt, Md., which also has been a hotbed for open source innovation.

And there are actually a bunch of similarities between Baltimore and San Fran. Both places are wild about crabs. SF has its Dungeness crabs and we have our blue crabs and crab cakes. Both cities have pro baseball teams that use orange and black as the primary colors in their logos and uniforms. But I wont get into what or who is "better." I just wanted to shed some light on some of the software activity going on in my local area.

Yet, as much as I like the place, I used to always cringe a little whenever Id hear San Francisco referred to as "the city by the bay"—because I grew up fishing, crabbing, boating and beaching on the Chesapeake. And as we near the Labor Day holiday I start to think more about getting out on the water. While most folks are putting up their rods and calling it quits for the summer, Im just beginning to gear up for some serious fall fishing on the bay and off the Atlantic coast.

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