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Methods & Tools - News, Facts & Comments Edition - November 2003

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

* Happy Birthday Borland

Borland will celebrate this year its 20th year of operation. This is a venerable age in the software tools industry. If current times are difficult - Borland recorded a net loss $ 12.2 million for the last quarter - this company has managed to survive in difficult times, even when it tried some weird ideas, if you can remember the "Inprise" years. I think that this survival is due to its good performance in its basic business: good tools for software developers.

With its recent acquisition activities (Starbase, VMGear and Togethersoft), Borland has built the product portfolio necessary to propose a complete application life-cycle management strategy. It also launched recently Enterprise Core Objects (ECO) a model-driven runtime platform that automates part of the Model Driven Architecture (MDA) process (see our Fall 2003 for more about the MDA). Competition in this area will be intense, but Borland could provide an independent solution for companies that do not want to deal with Microsoft, IBM or Oracle. In the IDE market, Borland will also have to face the growth of open source competition like Eclipse for instance.


* The Softer Side of Sun

The recent months have been pretty difficult for Sun. Sales are down 37% from their peak and it lost $3.4 billion for its last fiscal year ended in June. The company has pursued repetitive restructuring program to slash cost and lay off large percentages of its staff. According to many analysts, most of the problems comes from the shrinking demand for high-end server hardware, the niche where Sun put most of its effort with its own Solaris operating system and Sparc chips. Today companies are shifting towards comoditized servers with Intel chips and Linux.

The company is still far from bankruptcy with $5.5 million cash in the bank and $126 billion of Sun equipment installed worldwide. If some of the turnaround strategy is dedicated to fighting in the server area with the same weapons than competitors (Intel chips & Linux OS - see the recent announcement of alliance between Sun and AMD), Sun also sees part of its future in the software market. This market will perhaps not produce important revenues, but the hope of Sun is that it could help sales of its hardware.

Among the recent efforts in this area, we have seen the "rebranding" of Sun's products to integrate its Java franchise. Sun ONE Web Server was for instance renamed Java System Web Server. For some Java users, this is not a good idea to link what is suppose an "open" standard (even if it is managed by Sun) to commercial products. Another event was the partnership with Zend Technologies to integrate PHP with Sun's Web Server. According to Netcraft, PHP is the most-used script language on the web and Sun's hope to attract PHP developers to its product. Zend and Sun are already cooperating to improve the interaction between Java and scripted languages.

Sun also recently reached an agreement with JBoss regarding the Java certification of its application server. JBoss sees this an important step in its effort to be implemented by large organisations. Finally, Sun is considering the move to join the Eclipse consortium. Eclipse develops open-source tools for Java. Part of the controversy resides in the fact that the name of the IBM-led Eclipse was intended to be anti-Sun. According to Sun, it would not abandon it own Java open source tool (NetBeans) if it should join Eclipse. Some 1.6 million copies of NetBeans have been distributed.

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

* Linux Adoption

In our last edition, we mentioned the growing importance of Linux in the commercial offer of traditional hardware vendors. Here are some numbers indicating how the development managers consider Linux.

- 34% of organisations have Linux in the supported platform

- 59% of managers are favourable to Linux

- 48% of organisations are favourable to Linux

Main factors motivating the use of Linux:

- Stability 65%

- Total cost of ownership 63%

- Deployment cost 61%

- Performance 58%

- Platform security 50%

Main obstacles for the use of Linux:

- Technical support availability 35%

- Application availability 27%

- Technical support quality 23%

- Training availability 22%

- Ease of installation/deployment 21%

Source: SD Times, June 15, 2003, issue No 80, available on


* Java IDE usage

What Java/JSP IDE do you use?

  1. Eclipse                          34% [1836]
  2. IntelliJ                         18% [995]
  3. NetBeans/SunONE/Forte4Java       17% [964]
  4. JBuilder                         12% [679]
  5. Something else that's way cooler! 5% [300]
  6. WebSphere                         4% [219]
  7. Visual Age for Java               0% [42]
  8. BlueJ                             0% [23]
  9. Who needs an IDE?                 5% [314]

Total Votes: 5372


Here are the results from an informal pool on Java IDE usage. As we can see, the vast majority of the participants are using free tools. These results are perhaps slightly biased by the fact that the audience was not composed of Java developers working for large organisations where the support requirements are more important (and therefore the will to pay for products). According to the related posts, there seems to be also an important usage of "simpler" software like emacs, xemacs, or vi/gvim.

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

* Internet Project Risks and Mitigation Strategies

Risk: Personal shortfalls


  • Bring on a skilled core team.
  • Have the team mentor new people.
  • Make training and teamwork part of the culture.
  • Hire top-notch personnel while the market remains soft.

Risk: Misalignment with business goals


  • Align developments with business goals and highlight importance of development.

Risk: Unrealistic customer and schedule expectations


  • Make the customer part of the team.
  • Set schedule goals around frequent deliveries of varying functionality.

Risk: Volatile technology


  • Introduce new technology slowly, according to a plan.
  • Use technology because it supports business goals, not because it is the latest and greatest thing to do.

Risk: Unstable software releases


  • Stabilize requirements and designs as much as practical.
  • Plan to refactor releases from start.
  • Don't deliver applications when quality is poor and systems crashes (say "no").

Risk: Constant changes in software functionality


  • Managing functionality using releases.
  • Deliver working prototypes before you target new functionality.

Risk: Even newer methods and more unstable tools


  • Introduce new methods and tools slowly, as justified by the business case, not merely because they are new and appealing.
  • Make sure methods and tools are of production quality.

Risk: High turnover


  • Set clear expectations and measures of success.
  • Make staff feel they are learning, growing, and gaining valuable experience.
  • Risk: Friction within the team


  • Staff the team carefully with compatible workforce.
  • Build team and provide it with leadership.
  • Manage conflicts to ease friction.

Risk: Unproductive office space


  • Acquire dedicated workspace for the team.
  • Appropriate collaboration team.
  • Lot of space available for meetings and pizza.

Source: "Ten Deadly Risks in Internet and Intranet Software Development", Donald Reifer, IEEE Software, March/April 2002

As Internet-based applications are forming a major trend in software development these days, many of these risks are faced by new projects. Some of the risks and the mitigation's strategies have perhaps lost some of their pertinence (like the high turnover for instance), but most of them could still be valuable.


The content of this publication cannot be reproduced without prior written consent of the publisher - Copyright 2003, Martinig & Associates

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