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Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - August 2004

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

* Microsoft to Extend the Range of Visual Studio in 2005

Microsoft recently unveiled the planned evolutions of its Visual Studio tool. Its goal is to extend the current functionalities of this product. A new Team System architecture will offer the following tools:

  • Team Architect includes a Web services designer and a class designer.
  • Team Developer provides code analysis (static and dynamic), code profiling and code coverage functions.
  • Team Test includes functions for test case management, unit and load testing.
  • Team Foundation offers project management and configuration management tools, extending the current SourceSafe version control.

Although Microsoft seems to be careful not to scare its current partners in the software engineering world, this evolution is clearly an attempt to squeeze out some competition. The Redmond giant has already used the same strategy in the operating system area when it included disk compression, an Internet browser, a media player or web security in its core product. Competitors will have a harder time to justify the additional dollars that their products require when similar functions will be already available "for free" in Visual Studio. The creation of Microsoft's own modelling notation is also clearly designed to weaken UML. This decision could also have been driven by the fact that last year Rational was bought by IBM and TogetherSoft by Borland. Therefore the UML modelling tool market could be considered as less independent than before.


* Red Hat Enters Application Server Market

At the beginning of this month, Red Hat announced its intention to provide an Application Server. Part of the product is based on the Jonas project of the ObjectWeb consortium.

There is already plenty of competition in the application server market where BEA, IBM and Oracle are the market leaders. Red Hat said that it will test its product to ensure interoperability with products of these companies. At the low-end (financially speaking at least) of the market, Red Hat will meet competitors like JBoss that has been there for a time. JBoss has a good reputation, a growing market share and support from hardware suppliers like HP. The impact of Red Hat on this market should therefore be rather limited.


* Computer Associates Goes Open Source

In May, Computer Associated (CA) announced that it will release Ingres under an open source license, CA-TSOL, a derivative of the common public license available from CA also launched this month a $1 million contest to reward creation of database converter programs from Oracle, Sybase or SQL Server towards Ingres.

Ingres acquired Ingres from Ask Computer Systems. At the end of the 80s, Ingres was a major competitor of Oracle and Sybase on the RDBMS market. As usual, CA was more interested by the captive market than the product and Ingres evolutions since then have been very limited. Officially, CA preferred to push its own Jasmine database. Have you heard of this product? It should have been one of these proofs that CA was a real technology company, with the capability to create innovative software. However it never succeeds in the database market. The product was abandoned after meeting scalability problems.

The funny part is that Ingres could be considered as an ancestor of Postgres, one of the main open source database product. Ingres was developed in the 70s by Michael Stonebraker at the University of California, Berkeley. After spending some times with Ingres Corporation, Stonebraker quitted Ingres to return to Berkeley and work on the Postgres project.

This move from CA exemplifies also some grey areas of "commercial open source" releases, where it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the intention to provide valuable products or code to the open source community and the tactical goal to harm the commercial operations of competitors.


* More Product News

You can look at the last press releases from software development tools vendors on our forum

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

* Quality of Open Source Tools

Our last M&T poll was asking you to rate the quality of open source software development tools (examples: Eclipse, MySQL, PHP, JUnit, etc...) versus the commercial tools.

We had 312 respondents with the following opinions:

32% Open source tools have the same quality than commercial tools

26% Open source tools are superior in quality than commercial tools

24% There is now easy answer to this question

13% Open source tools are inferior in quality than commercial tools

4% I do not use open source tools

1% I do not use commercial tools

We can see that it was not always easy to answer this question, perhaps because quality can vary between tools, whether they are commercial or open source. However, for a majority of the participants, open source tools are at least as good (or bad... ;-]) as commercial tools. For 26% they are even better than commercial tools. This is not good news for the commercial software developers, even if we know that quality is not the only criteria used to select a supplier. Ironically, lack of support is often a point raised by companies that refuses to use open source tools. Is this related to the quality of commercial tools? ;-)


* Web-based development

The current M&T poll is investigating the percentage of new applications that are developed using a Web technology (using a browser as an interface) at your location.

Go to to disclose the situation at your location and to see intermediate results. The final results will be published in a next issue.

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

* Software Development as a Journey

Software development seems to be a discipline of artifacts; we developers spend our time producing stuff and attempting to find ways to measure just how well and how fast we make that stuff. And then managers tend to judge us by looking at the stuff - "That's a nice, meaty spec you've written, Dave."

Although this isn't surprising, it's a tad disappointing. Most of us joined the industry because we like doing things. We get pleasure from the act of creation and from activities that surround the creation process. But as time goes on, we start to lose sight of this. Companies aren't interested in the process as much as the product. Managers can't measure the thought that goes into a specification; they only see the document. In a previous company, Andy used to have a sign on his desk:

  • It is the artistry, not the art.
  • It is the process, not the product.
  • It is the journey, not the destination.

The management made him remove it. And so we gradually learn to stop thinking about the doing and instead start concentrating on the end products.

Consequently, even though we're a bunch of folks who like to do things, we've become wedded to nouns, not verbs. Just look at the vocabulary of methodologies: requirements, design, quality, communication, tests, deliverables - all good solid nouns, and not a verb in sight. Yet increasingly, Andy and I are coming to believe that these things, these nouns, aren't really that useful. Instead, we see that the real value lies in the processes that lead to the artifact's creation; the verbs are more valuable than the nouns.

[...] Whatever the reason, software delivery rarely represents the end of development, at least as far as the customer is concerned. Instead, the delivery simply represents a further refinement of our understanding of the requirement. Many developers treat a delivery as a chance to say "Here's the software you asked for," but they should be saying, "How's this version?" This is why iterative development is so useful: It gives the business folks and developers numerous opportunities to refine their ideas and discover the system's hidden potential. If we view deliverables as nouns, we tend to ship them and run. But if we treat deliverable as a verb - as something to do to help improve the way we add value to the business - we encourage communication, cooperation, and feedback between developers and customers.

[...] Let's end with a challenge. Think of some of the common nouns we fling around without a second thought (test, UML, diagram, architecture, and colleague might be interesting starting places). Then, try to recast them (somehow) as verbs. Where do you find the value? Should we be emphasizing the doing of things more and the artifacts less? How?

Source: Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt, "Verbing the Noun", IEEE Software, July/August 2003

Results are important, but the quality of the software depends mostly on how you produce it.

*** Conferences ********************************************************

Software Business 2004: The Premier Conference on Business & Technology
September 22-23, Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, California.
This is the third annual event, focusing on key critical issues facing software executives such as financial strategy, sales and marketing, executive strategy, and product development. It serves owners, chief executives, presidents, vice presidents and division directors or department managers of leading and fast-growing software companies.


Agile Business Conference - Where Agile Business Meets Agile Development
October 21-22 QEII Conference Centre London
Presentations and Workshops and Tutorials
Agile Methods, XP, Scrum, DSDM, Project Management, CMM, ITIL, Testing, Teamwork, Programme Management and more!


JAOO 2004, September 20 ­ 24 in Denmark.
Java, .Net, Web Services, MDA… and more! JAOO is the premier European conference on software development, methods and process. Meet international speakers from: Microsoft, Sun, IBM, SAP, Intersystems, Oracle, TheServerSide, BEA, Borland…
Sign up 2 from same company and save 15% on registration!


Agile Alliance Europe Events
Agile Special Interest Groups are free events that provide developers, managers, testers - a wide range of software development stakeholders - a forum for knowledge-sharing and learning.

*** Web Siteseeing *****************************************************

* Open Source Surveys

In my last editorial, I mentioned some surveys of the open source developers population. The full PDF reports on these surveys can be found at the following web sites:

Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study

The Free/Libre/Open Source Software Survey for 2003

*** M&T News ***********************************************************

* Coming UP

In the Fall 2004 issue (published at the end of September), we will have articles on

  • reuse in process definition,
  • managing your way through the integration and test black hole,
  • decision tables.

In our Winter 2004 issue, we should focus more on the agile approaches of software development with articles on Feature Driven Development and Agile Multidisciplinary Teamwork.

Stay tuned!

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