In an effort to grow up fast in the enterprise application lifecycle tools space, Microsoft Corp. has called on the help of a father.
Microsoft has tapped Ivar Jacobson, known as one of the fathers of the popular Rational Unified Process (RUP), to lead an effort to deliver a lightweight unified process to the Microsoft Solutions Framework.
Microsoft Monday is expected to announce that Jacobsons Ivar Jacobson Consulting LLC, of Alexandria, Va., has joined the Visual Studio Industry Partner program and is part of the Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) ecosystem.
Jacobson said the first fruits of his companys relationship with Microsoft will be through the delivery of the Essential Unified Process (Essential UP), which is based on the Microsoft Solutions Framework and integrated with VSTS.
In short, Essential UP is a simplified or lighter-weight alternative to RUP, Jacobson said. Essential UP is an evolution of the unified process Jacobson helped create more than 10 years ago that forms the foundation of RUP, he said.
“I started the work on process many years ago in a company in Sweden called Objectory, and that process would eventually become RUP,” Jacobson said. Rational Software, then an independent company, acquired Objectory, and Rational later was itself acquired by IBM.
“We need more lightweight processes,” Jacobson said, noting that RUP has become too heavyweight and cumbersome. “We have competition from India, China and the former Soviet Union,” he said. “It is not enough to be agile.”
Indeed, Microsoft has done a good job with its Microsoft Solutions Framework, and “their process agility is a clear differentiator for them,” Jacobson said.
“Essential UP stands on all the experience we have from RUP, but also offers us a chance to have a fresh start,” Jacobson said. “We start in a new way because weve learned what works and what doesnt work.”
Having worked on RUP in its formative stages, Jacobson likened it to a baby.
“RUP is one of my babies, and babies grow up, and some of them need correction,” Jacobson said.
Microsoft and its industry-leading .Net development platform represent an attractive target for Jacobson, he said.
“The ideas of unified process have long roots and go back many years,” Jacobson said. “What I want to do is make these ideas available to as many people as possible. … And we can do that on the Microsoft platform—a market-leading approach. Well be able to reach a lot of developers.”
Jacobson said he has no intention of bashing RUP.
“RUP has a lot of good stuff, but it needs a correction,” he said.
“First, I see RUP as raising the bar in many aspects. For instance, it is based on explicit knowledge and doesnt just rely on tacit knowledge,” he said. It has a meta model that makes it possible to grow the process to cover all areas of software development, he added. And it has adopted a number of classical concepts that will stay for a very long time, he said.
However, among the primary problems Jacobson said he has with RUP is that it is “heavyweight.”
Also, “the process architecture needs to be refactored,” Jacobson said. “It is very difficult to add new practices because it will force a big change in the base. For instance, adding in a streamlined way practices such as EA [Enterprise Architect], SOA [service-oriented architecture], ABD [asset-based development], re-engineering legacy systems and commercial off-the-shelf software would be very difficult, if at all possible. So I believe in starting all over fresh but not throwing away anything that is good.”
Microsoft views Jacobsons support as a major coup for the companys efforts to win enterprise developers.
“This is me putting my money where my mouth is, which is we will support many processes,” said Rick LaPlante, general manager of Visual Studio Team System at Microsoft.
“A lot of the processes out there become so heavyweight that they become unusable,” LaPlante said, referring mostly to UML (Unified Modeling Language), but also to other process models.
“Having an industry luminary build the next version of his tool for our platform is huge for us,” LaPlante said.
Meanwhile, IBM last month announced plans to donate portions of RUP to the open-source community through the Eclipse Foundation.
Essentially, IBM is contributing a portion of RUP, about 15 percent, to the open-source community so that others can take that subset and build on it to deliver an open industry framework and ecosystem around RUP-based software development. The lighter-weight version is known as the Basic Unified Process.
The IBM effort is supported by several companies, including Jacobsons.
“We would be happy to make these ideas widespread,” Jacobson said. “With the Microsoft platform we will be in the drivers seat. With IBM we would be only one of the partners and only able to make change in a minor way.”
Of the IBM strategy, LaPlante said, “You cant take a process and create a mass market, even if you give parts of it away to open source.”
Added Jacobson: “I strongly support the new IBM alternative, since it increases the spreading of our ideas and since there will be a lighter process available. We will help make their Basic Unified Process as close to the Essential Unified Process as possible. However, since we are not in the drivers seat, our impact may just be cosmetic. Still, we will try. With Microsoft, we are in the drivers seat and can make a fresh start.”
Moreover, to improve on what was started with RUP, Jacobson said: “We keep the best practices, but we improve them based on more than 10 years of experience. We learn from the agilistas on several ideas such as test-driven development and from the process improvement people on, for example, CMMI [Capability Maturity Model Integration]. We build a fresh new process architecture based on aspect-oriented ideas, and using the MSF and VSTS is a very good platform to instantiate such a process.”
Grady Booch, IBM Rationals chief scientist, who co-authored the UML, which can be considered a corollary language in support of RUP, said he and Jim Rumbaugh, another Rational software architect, were tasked with pursuing the development of the UML language, and another IBM software architect, Philippe Kruchten (now a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia), was tasked with heading up development of the methodology that became RUP.
Meanwhile, Jacobson became the third co-author of UML with Booch and Rumbaugh, although all three, and many others, had input into what is now RUP, Booch said.
LaPlante said that although Microsoft has not planned to support UML directly, it will do so through partners, such Borland Software Corp.
Jacobson agreed that the later versions of UML have become “very difficult to adopt.”
Meanwhile, he said he looks forward to making process invisible.
“What were doing today is taking one step to the next era, which is invisible process,” Jacobson said. “Process should be like the engine under the hood of a car—ever present, but invisible.”