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Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - April 2001

*** Products ************************************************************

* UML Tools

Sparx Systems announced recently the release of the version 2.0 of Enterprise Architect, its UML-based software design and construction tool. New features include support for UML data modelling, import and generation of C++/Java/Visual Basic code and DDL generation.

This is just an example that Rational's UML domination has not "killed" competition. There are many smaller companies working on UML related tools and I hope that they will be able to survive the announced difficult times of the economy.

Here are some Web sites where you can find "free" (completely or limited usage) UML related tools: - Enterprise Architect: 30 days usage, 6,4 M - java tool, free edition, 40 M - partially free usage, 35 M - HAT, a UML process based tool, 5.8 M - free java-based tool - 870k - mUML, free java-based tool, 1.8 M

*** Companies ***********************************************************

* Novell: Stayin' Alive?

Novell announced in March the agreement to acquire Cambridge Technology Partners, a global IT services company. According to Novell: "This acquisition significantly expands Novell's ability to deliver consulting support to customers and other IT services companies".

Cambridge was incorporated in the 90s and has had successful early years as an ERP specialist offering fixed-prices contracts. However, Cambridge has been in trouble since the slowdown of ERP spending after Y2K, the emergence of pure e-consulting companies and has suffered heavy losses in the recent years. If Cambridge was perhaps priced cheaply relatively to its earnings' potential, it is however hard from an external point of view to see short and medium term synergies between both companies. Sure, Cambridge will operate in a quieter environment being now linked to a profitable company. The deal could also add some additional brainware to Novell, but the strategy of Netware's editor will have to change its focus if it really want to integrate Cambridge.

* Sybase Looking to Shine Again

Sybase announced at the end of February the acquisition of New Era of Networks (NEON). NEON is the editor of NEON Adapters, an application integrator that allows software packages like SAP, Siebel, i2 or BroadVision to collaborate.

After many difficult years, Sybase is coming back, even if the company has not regained its status of "Oracle's menace". Like Oracle, its goal is to expand its sales' opportunities from its traditional database market. NEON products should complete Sybase's Enterprise Portal solution and integrate a newly formed e-Business division. Having focused on distributed and mobile databases, Sybase seems well-positioned to meet some of the needs of IT developers.

* Last March for MarchFirst

April 12, MarchFirst announced that it has filed for bankruptcy. In March, MarchFirst announced plans to cut 1'700 jobs (or 30% of its work force) and an agreement to sell its SAP practice and Central Region business unit for $70 million payable over five years and additional $55 million contingent on the units future performance. MarchFirst also closed its Australian operations.

Named after is "birth date", MarchFirst was officially formed March 1st 2000 from the merger between USWeb/CKS and Whittman-Hart. Having loaded too much debt to finance its expansion and performed too much "work for stock" projects for failed dotcoms, many e-consulting companies are now trying to cut jobs as fast as they can to save their life. Other companies operating in the same sector like Scient, Razorfish or Viant are hurt by the same troubles than MarchFirst. How many will succeed to survive as independent corporations? Few...

*** Numbers *************************************************************

* Ellison Could be Right

"We have more than 100 percent of what you need. We don't have 100 percent of what you want".

Source: Larry Ellison (Oracle CEO), Oracle AppsWorld, from

You can certainly think that Oracle and its Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison are arrogant, but in this case, and if you do not tie this statement specifically to Oracle's products, Ellison is on the right track. It is an important issue for a project's success to speak with customers and to make the difference between what they want and what they need.

*** In Other's Words ****************************************************

* It's All About Interfaces

"Software's future is indeed all about interfaces, but probably not the interfaces you think I'm talking about. As all software developers know, the computer world has two types of interfaces: one as old as software and one new. The new interface is the one between humans and software, commonly known as the 'user interface'.

The interface I want to write about is the older one, the interface between two different pieces of software. It's typically called an Application Programming Interface, or API, and is seen only in source code. The invention and evolution of APIs drives the computer industry and defines the character of everyday computing.

Programmers naturally understand that they must design user interfaces for the user, but few programmers realize how vital it is for them to create the APIs deep inside the software with the user's goals as the foremost consideration. History is proof: Business successes for software for the Web directly result from APIs that effectively serve end-user needs, even if the end-user never uses them directly.

[...] I'll say it again - it matters a lot who you design for. The challenge for design and development professionals - you and me - is to always remember this maxim. When we understand our target audience, we can create useful APIs for properly designed user interfaces and unlock the creative power of the new generation of Web integrators."

Source: Allan Cooper, " It's All About Interfaces", The Future of Software, Winter 2000/2001

Developing software components that can act as services for multiple applications is a key success factor for software development organisations that can see farther than project deadlines. And I am ready to bet that also under the pressure of tight deadlines, taking the time to design before to build is beneficial for the vast majority of projects... and project teams! It is therefore important to think about and standardise the communication mode between your software components to deal with systemwide issues like error management, multi-language capabilities and data changes identification.

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