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Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - February 2006

*** News ***************************************************************

* Does Oracle Want to Take-over Open Source?

There have been recently a lot of rumours about the take-over of open source related companies by Oracle. The most cited target is JBoss, but other companies are also mentioned. The first one is Zend, the company driving the development of the PHP language. Another company was Sleepycat, linked to the Berkeley DB open source database. The price mentioned for these three companies was 600 million US dollars. Apparently JBoss has been on the market for a long time, but is asking for a very high price, discouraging in the past other possible buyers like BEA Systems.

A first part of these rumours has turned true with the acquisition of Sleepycat Software by Oracle. Oracle and Sleepycat plan to continue to develop, support, and sell the entire family of Berkeley DB products, including Sleepycat's XML and Java Editions. Oracle has no plans to change the dual license and will continue to serve both open source and commercial users. The amount of the deal was not disclosed.

From the point of views of the founders of these open source companies, this is an opportunity to get rich rapidly. Many have invested their personal life in the development of the open source software and the company supporting it. Even if money is not mentioned at the start of a project, it is human to be tempted by an offer like the one Oracle could produce. JBoss has also been backed since 2004 by venture capital companies that will be pleased to have a quick and rich exit. Even if their $10 million gave them only half of the company two years ago, a selling price of $200 million will mean a very good return on investment. The requested price from JBoss mentioned on Internet is above $400 million.

For Oracle, buying these companies can be considered like spending petty cash after the 19 billions used to acquire Peoplesoft or Siebel. These acquisitions will nonetheless provide a new opportunity to improve the sales of its database and middleware products. A collateral benefit would be to put some pressure on competitors in markets where Oracle has not been in a dominant position, like BEA Systems in the application server market.

As far as developers and users are concerned, the situation is more ambiguous. On one hand, an Oracle take-over could mean a solid financial backup for the software evolution and increase the adoption of the product by larger companies. This will help Oracle make more money supporting this product. On the other hand, the evolution of the product could depend on how Oracle would like to influence future versions. We may see a split between a basic open source or "community" version that will evolve more slowly and a "commercial" version that will get most of the funding from Oracle and the focus from the developers of the acquired company. There will be therefore an improved situation for commercial users, but a less stimulating situation for smaller companies or those who would like to contribute and influence the future of the application.

These situations where an open source product is largely linked to a unique commercial company are ambiguous. The open source part means that you can get the original code and largely obtain the product for free, but the evolution of the product is controlled by a commercial company with its own agenda. It is true that the majority of people interested by JBoss or PHP are only "consumers" of this technology. As we saw in the Mambo/Joomla case, the open source license allows independent minds to take the code basis to another direction if they do not agree with the "managing" entity. I think however that a large majority of the users will rather continue to use the products managed by or Zend, even if they are Oracle's subsidiaries.

More info on:


* Borland Changes Skin

Borland has recorded a loss in 2005 and decided to abandon the integrated development environment (IDE) business. It has acquired Segue Software for $100 million to improve its offer in the application life cycle management market.

At the beginning of this month, Borland has released its financial results for the year 2005. Revenues for 2005 are $276 million, $33 million less than in 2004. But behind this global number, service revenues increased $18 million and license revenues decreased $51 million, around 25% less than the 2004 numbers. Net loss for the year is $28 million versus a net income of $11 million in 2004. Usually licenses sales have higher margin but higher fixed marketing costs than the service business, this is why increased service revenues do not compensate for lower licenses fees.

This explains why Borland announced that it is seeking a buyer for the IDE business, including the Delphi and JBuilder product lines. We have already mentioned the problem faced by Borland in this market with the growth of free open source alternative like Eclipse and the competition provided by companies that gave their product for free, like Oracle with JDeveloper. It could be the last minute to find a buyer for this division, even if this is hard to imagine one right now. In past years, companies like Computer Associates could have bought this business to gain money with captive customers, but it is more difficult to play this kind of game in the software development market.

The acquisition of Segue is meant to fill the quality control space in the application lifecycle management. By refocusing on this area, Borland hope to get a strong position in a market forecasted to grow at around 10% each year according to IDC. This is a space that is currently less targeted by open source projects, at least at certain level of sophisticated solutions. Borland could play a role with its size against smaller competitors, without having to face the challenge of larger companies.


* M&T Press Releases Forums

You can view the last product and company press releases from software development tools vendors on our forum.

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

* Unit Testing: Can You Repeat Please?

Our last poll examined the way unit testing is conducted at your location. Is it an informal activity that is done before integration if there is some time left after programming or is it the key element of the development effort? The question: How is unit testing performed at your location?

Unit testing is not performed .......................... 13%
Unit testing is informal ............................... 46%
Unit tests cases are documented ........................ 11%
Unit tests cases and their executions are documented ... 16%
We use a Test Driven Development approach .............. 14%

Participants: 460

As we can see a majority of participants is still performing unit testing informally. This is symptomatic of the small consideration that is given to the testing phase in most software development projects. When the pressure to deliver on time is big, an informal unit testing phase allows mainly to test poorly without being noticed. It is however recognised that unit testing is an important building block of system quality and that it costs more to correct errors discovered in later project phases.

At a time where agile approaches repeat the importance of unit testing, the glass can also be considered as half-empty. A Test Driven Development approach is used by 14% of the participants and 16%% document the execution of their unit test. These percentages are already important. They could be explained by the emergence of a wide range of open source unit testing frameworks.


* Do you Manage your Configuration

Our new poll examines how software configuration management (change management / version control) is performed at your location. Is it an informal activity or do you have formal procedures that are validated by an automated tool?

Go to [Poll] to participate and to see intermediate results. The final results will be published in our April issue.


* Archived Polls from Methods & Tools

We have created a poll archive where you can now view the results of all previous polls.

*** Jobs ***************************************************************

* Enterprise Scalability Architect

Sajan, Inc., a software solutions provider based in River Falls, Wisconsin, 35 miles east of the Minneapolis, St Paul metropolitan area, seeks an Enterprise Scalability Architect to analyze an architect enterprise level software and database solutions. Job functions include performing statistical analyses of application scalability, assessing load balancing requirements, assessing database scalability and performance, etc. In addition the position will assist in application design, development, technical documentation, and mentorship of junior developers. Requirements include M.S. in Computer Science or Statistics with relevant development experience; 5 yrs. exp. in dev and/or statistical analysis of app performance; MS VS 2003+, MS SQL db dev and design experience, professional experience developing in C#, C++, and java; plus the use of design patterns and UML. Proven experience with db and software modeling and analysis tools. Experience in writing technical documentation required. Applicant must attach a cover letter detailing experience in each job requirement listed.

Send resume to by March 1, 2006.

*** Books **************************************************************

* Competitive Engineering by Tom Gilb

In a period where the trend is to follow agile approaches with condensed guidance (see the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto for instance), it could seem strange to publish a book on software development with more than 500 dense pages. You should however not be frightened by this book. Beneath the size and the structured form lies an approach based on practical experience that incorporates change and flexibility without abandoning the quest for precision and delivering value.

The main concept of Competitive Engineering is Planguage, a word created mixing plan and language. Communication is the basis for working together. This is why Tom Gilb emphasises first the creation of a common vocabulary. He states that his glossary could be considered as the best contribution of this book. Beneath the definition of a common language, for me the "hidden agenda" of the book is to help us to think... further. The common language is only a tool that helps us express our thoughts more precisely and completely.

Fortunately for us, Tom Gilb didn't only write a dictionary of system engineering. A large part of the book is devoted to the activities of system engineering and project management. Based on Planguage, Gilb gives us a framework to elicit clearer requirements. He emphasises a measurable vision ("bad numbers beat good words") and presents tools to achieve this objective. He also helps us separate requirements from design. He devotes an entire chapter to quality control. Finally, there is a presentation of the techniques of evolutionary project management that supports incremental development based on the priority and impact techniques described in previous parts of the book.

In every chapter you will find examples and case studies that help to visualise how the concepts translate into practice. There is also an "additional ideas" part that presents material for further thinking. Beneath the seriousness of the topic, Gilb also manage to place some lighter parts and you will find how to compare seriously apples with oranges.

At the end, your realise that you have a book where process is not opposed to people, structure is not opposed to flexibility, precision is not opposed to allowing change, documentation is not opposed to active refinement, Gilb's proposed solution is not opposed to customisation for your needs. It is just a book that gives you new inspiration to deliver better software solutions to your customer.

If you are interested in software process improvement, you can read this book from the beginning and find practical material to examine your current practices with a different vision. If you are a lonesome project manager or developer, you could begin by just using the index to get Gilb's view on your current activity or problem. Be cautious, because there are many chances that you will be tempted to read more material ;o)

After reading this book, I browsed again my old copy of "Principles of Software Engineering" that I bought when it was published in 1988. I saw that many ideas from "Competitive Engineering" were already presented in this book. Tom Gilb just applied to his ideas the same concepts he proposes for system engineering. He refined, expanded and structured them to get a better product. The printing industry has just prevented evolutionary delivery, but you can bet that he will find a way to include this in the future.

To get more details on this book or buy it on click below:

To get more details on this book or buy it on click below:

*** Humour *************************************************************

* Waterfall 2006

After years of being disparaged by some in the software development community, the waterfall process is back with a vengeance. After visiting the web sites of our conference partners below, get a look a this interesting and funny parody...

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

* XP Day France, March 23-24, 2006, Paris, France

After London, Brussels, Rotterdam, Karlsruhe, the "XP Day" cycle of conferences is now coming to Paris. Come to meet practitioners of agile approaches like XP, Scrum, Crystal. You will discuss practical organisational topics like CMMI integration or project management and technical aspects like test-driven development.


* Software Practice Advancement Conference - 26-29 March, UK

Keynotes: Norman Kerth (Retrospectives) and Dave Thomas (Pragmatic Programmer). SPA provides a high-energy learning experience that’s different & fun. Exchange ideas with a community of software practitioners and experts.


* ICSPI Conference – April 3-7, Orlando, FL, USA

The International Conference on Software Process Improvement brings together the biggest names and the brightest minds in the field for a week of information sharing and learning, focusing on lively discussions and presentations about model-independent process improvement by experts who practice what they preach. 54 Feature and Track Presentations - 3 Keynote Addresses - 18 Full Day Tutorials


* MySQL Users Conference, April 24-27 2006, Santa Clara, USA - M&T discount

Discover. Connect. Succeed. Scale Your Business with MySQL. The 2006 MySQL Users Conference is the only event where you can join the core MySQL development team and over 1,000 users, open source innovators, and technology partners under one roof. Early Registration ends March 6. Use discount code mys06m&t for an additional 10% off.


* CMMI made Practical, April 24-25, London, UK

CMMI made Practical is aimed at IT directors, senior managers, process improvement specialists and project managers. One stream is devoted to people just getting started with CMMI, with the primary goals of education and providing an open forum for discussion on how to really apply CMMI. Listen and learn from leading speakers from the world of defence, government, finance, IT and make a difference to your company.


* Agile Open 2006, April 27-28, Mechelen, Belgium

The Agile Open 2006 conference is the second edition of the international Open Space conference on agile development. It is intended for software development and business people from all walks of life and takes place on 27th and 28th April 2006 in Mechelen, Belgium.


* PSQT West Conference - May 1-5 - Las Vegas, NV

48 Track presentations - 21 full-day tutorials.

PSQT teaches methodologies and approaches needed to:

  • Improve quality
  • Increase team confidence and morale
  • Lower support costs
  • Improve consistency
  • Lower customer returns
  • Gain greater political acceptance
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Speed up time to production
  • Improve productivity
  • Increase customer loyalty


* European SEPG 2006, June 12-15, Amsterdam

European practitioners of CMMI-based process improvement gather to learn and discuss best practice with inspirational speakers from Europe and around the world. This vibrant and informative event is a must for those who wish to make significant improvements in quality, cost and delivery precision with software and systems. A joint initiative with the Software Engineering Institute, Pittsburgh.


* NYPHPCon 2006 June 14-16, 2006

New York PHP, the leader in uniting business and community for open source, announces that it will host the New York PHP Conference & Expo, June 14 – 16, 2006. The conference, titled "The PHP Business Community," will be held at The New Yorker Hotel in New York City. NYPHPCon 2006 will emphasize both business and technical sessions, giving the audience a chance to learn how to better implement PHP within their enterprise and current infrastructures.


* EuroOSCON Call for Participation Ends Soon

EuroOSCON, the O'Reilly European Open Source Convention. September 18-21 in Brussels, Belgium

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

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The content of this publication cannot be reproduced without prior written consent of the publisher - Copyright (C) 2006, Martinig & Associates

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