Tasktop's SLI Could Be Something Really Special for Developers

NEWS ANALYSIS: Tasktop Technologies' Software Lifecycle Integration initiative is the best "decision" the company's Big 3 has made to help enterprises with large-scale software delivery.

I was looking for something special to write about for enterprise developers, and I think Tasktop Technologies' Software Lifecycle Integration (SLI) announcement from EclipseCon this week fits the bill.

Tasktop, which plays in the application lifecycle management (ALM) integration world, on March 25, announced its SLI initiative, which aims to address the growing fragmentation and complexity enterprises face in large-scale software delivery.

Mik Kersten, Tasktop's CEO and founder, has had this SLI vision for some time. He said it's been in his head for about 15 years since before his Ph.D. thesis, which is what spawned his Eclipse Mylyn open-source project. Mylyn is a subsystem of Eclipse for task management.

It's an implementation of the Task-Focused Interface. The task-focused interface is a type of user interface that extends the desktop metaphor of the GUI to make tasks, not files and folders, the primary unit of interaction. Kersten invented it while working on his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in 2004. Tasktop has since seen its software adopted by the big boys.

"We saw Mylyn come up in other tools," Kersten said. "The ALM vendors followed us—either through OEM agreements or imitation. You could see the concepts of Mylyn creep into Visual Studio." Tasktop has OEM deals with IBM, Hewlett-Packard and CA. And the company has integrations with a host of other tools as well as cloud-based offerings, including Microsoft Team Foundation Service, the Oracle Developer Cloud Service and Atlassian OnDemand.

"At the outset of 2012, many were expecting consolidation in the ALM market, due to the proliferation of Agile and ALM tools we saw the year prior," Kersten said. "Instead, we saw the reverse, with both established players and incumbents launching new offerings, often differentiated by being tailored to a particular stage of the lifecycle. Stakeholder-specific tools have become a fundamental and beneficial part of the modern ALM stack. But they cannot deliver benefits with an infrastructure that supports cross-tool collaboration and visibility."

Enter SLI.

"Tasktop has been an important contributor to the Eclipse community for many years, and the Eclipse Mylyn project has been incredibly successful," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "Software Lifecycle Integration is the next step in Tasktop's evolution as a leading ALM company."

Indeed, Kersten said Tasktop is "taking a leadership role" with SLI. It certainly is. The company is stepping forward to try to fill a void.

Moreover, said Kersten, without something like SLI, "we won't reach Marc Andreessen's forecast that software eats the world." Of course Kersten knows that software already is eating the world, but his SLI initiative could make it more palatable.

So this has been on Kersten's mind for a long time. But now the time is right for him to deliver on it. All the key factors have lined up, and the company is now in the right position to make a big bet—to make the big decision to attempt this.