Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IBM's 'grammar checker' catches code gotchas and errors in the early development process

It's no secret that the earlier you find a software bug the easier and cheaper it is to correct it, and an upcoming IDC report claims that fixing bugs can cost companies anywhere from $5.2 million to $22 million annually, depending on the size of the organization.

Lone Ranger IBM is riding to the rescue with a new application that catches bugs and other defects at the coding stage, rather than in testing or, in a weak-case scenario ... in the field.

The latest IBM Rational Software Analyzer, announced today, works sort of like a grammar checker for word processing, scanning software for quality and defects before the application is built. IBM says it can reduce errors in the field by 15 to 20 percent. Whoo-hoo!

Catching bugs earlier in the process speeds up time to market by reducing the amount of time development teams spend on manual testing and the effort of fixing bugs at the error-prone testing stage, when 90 percent of the code has already been written. Makes Monday mornings a lot nicer, too.

Built as a plug-in for Eclipse version 3.3, the software analyzer finds software errors, flags them, and makes suggestions for fixing them. The software can automatically scan each line of code up to 700 times, "grammar checking” the code before it goes into deeper testing and/or production.

This approach sure makes sense for dynamic languages, too, where testing is not always, shall we say ... standard operating procedure. IBM's latest grammar jammer supports Java and C++ and "more [languages support is] available through extensions," says IBM. How about helping out the webby apps and rich Internet apps makers directly, too, eh?

At least Eclipse-oriented software developers can use the new IBM software to provide insight to their management team through detailed reporting on software code status and to offer direction into governance and compliance of corporate coding guidelines and requirements. IBM partners and customers can also build an adapter to use the code-scanning technology to improve the code quality and development of their custom-built offerings.

The classic reference for the cost of software bugs to industry is a 2002 report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which estimated that defects cost businesses $59.9 billion. With the world and business moving at "Internet speed," that six-year-old estimate may be a little low today. Companies are leaning more heavily on agility and the necessity of responding quickly to shifting competitive positions in a global economy.

Other studies have indicated that the cost of fixing a bug during testing is 7 times higher than during the coding phase, and the cost of fixing it in the field is 14 times higher than during coding.

SC Magazine, which reported on the upcoming IDC study, says it blames Web 2.0 and service-oriented architecture (SOA) for the financial impact of bug fixes:
Increased software complexity from multicore, Web 2.0 and SOA are said to be increasing code problems and hiking up costs for companies that develop both in-house and through third parties, such as offshore firms.

“The increased complexity of software development environments and the cost of fixing defects in the field (rather than early in the software cycle) combine in exorbitant ways to drain income and to hamstring businesses as a result of critical software downtime,” said a statement issued by IDC.
IBM Rational Software Analyzer is currently available. Pricing for the Developer Edition is $3,500 per user while pricing for the Enterprise Edition is $50,000 per server with unlimited users. More information is available at the Rational Web site.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cast Iron rolls out updated appliance to ease SaaS-to-enterprise integration management

No one has said that the road to software as a service (SaaS) was going to be smooth, but Cast Iron Systems is trying to soften some of the bigger bumps with the latest offering in its "configuration not coding approach" to integration.

The Mountain View, Calif. company last week announced the Cast Iron iA4000 series, an appliance designed to expedite integrating on-demand services with other on-demand services or with on-premise applications. Capabilities include data conversion and profiling tools, an extensive library of pre-configured integration templates to enable out-of-the-box synchronization of one-to-one and many-to-many application endpoints, and an advanced process flow designer.

The latest offering replaces the company's iA3000 version and can be deployed on-site or hosted in the cloud.

The pre-configured components, called Template Integration Processes (TIPs) help solve common integration problems out of the box. In cases where company-specific configuration is needed, configuration wizards are available to help customize the TIPs.

The process flow designer allows users to visualize business processes, the flow of information, and the movement of data on screen. The user interface maps data flows to actual business processes and creates integration workflows between on-demand and on-premise applications.

Other features include:
  • Data profiling, which assesses the quality of the data before beginning migrations.

  • Intelligent data cleansing, which removes duplicate values, and includes "fuzzy lookup" -- rules to highlight and fix such errors as common misspellings, and abbreviations.

  • Data enrichment, which performs lookups with third-party data providers to add value to data.
Fellow ZDNet blogger Phil Wainewright has some good insights into the power and promise of these new means to manage the transition and boundaries between on-premises and SaaS or cloud-based services and applications.

A lingering question is whether integration means such as Cast Iron's will remain as a third-party addition, be supplied by the enterprise or SMB that needs integration, or become a required service that the SaaS provides themselves will pony up. At least for some time, we'll see all three.

But as Internet scale has its effect, I expect that the major SaaS providers will also need to increasingly become integration services and platform providers too. The easier the integration, the more enticing the move to SaaS and the more sticky the relationship ... easy on, and perhaps not so easy off.

And the SaaS leaders will be or are seeking out best of breed approaches to build, buy or partner on to make integration a seamless and tidy value add to the rest of the budding portfolio of enterprise-caliber services. Indeed, convenient integration could be the killer app of SaaS.

StrikeIron adds data delivery punch to Serena Software's mashup exchange

In what could be described as a win-win situation, StrikeIron, which provides solutions for delivering data over the Internet, has joined the Serena Mashup Exchange, an online marketplace for businesses and their partners to connect through mashups.

The move will allow StrikeIron, based in Cary, N.C., to make its Web services available to a wider audience. At the same time, it will help Redwood City, Calif.-based Serena Software extend its mashup footprint. The combined forces will provide business users with access to key external data, while allowing them to focus on creating mashups, without having to worry whether the data has SOA hooks.

The Serena Mashup Exchange provides packaged mashups, template workflows and professional service offerings. The StrikeIron Web Services Marketplace provides over 100 data services from leading technology suppliers including Cortera, Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Gale, MapQuest, Midnight Trader, NASDAQ, Tax Data Systems, Wall Street Horizon, and Zacks.

One example of a successful Business Mashup is the Serena Salesforce.com Credit Approval Mashup. The Mashup automates the interaction with D&B credit information via a StrikeIron Web service and allows sales personnel to request approval to extend credit to prospects. It can be downloaded for free along with a demo from the Mashup Exchange. A subscription to the data can be obtained from StrikeIron.

Friday, July 18, 2008

WSO2 adds data services and security features in Mashup Server 1.5

Open-source SOA provider WSO2 Monday will unveil version 1.5 of its WSO2 Mashup Server, which allows enterprises to consume, aggregate, and publish information in a variety of forms and from a variety of sources.

The latest version from the Mountain View, Calif., and Sri Lanka company adds WSO2 Data Services and security features for enterprise-class service composition. Mashup Server 1.5 is built on the WSO2 Web Services Application Server based on Apache/Axis 2. It can be used as an individual service development and deployment tool or can scale up to support team, enterprise, or Internet communities. [Disclosure: WSO2 has been a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The original mashup server debuted in January of this year. Key features of the new version include:
  • Integrated WSO2 Data Services, providing mashup-ready Web service interfaces to relational databases and other data sources such as Excel spreadsheets, and comma-separated values (CSVs).

  • An integrated user interface (UI) for easily managing secured mashup services based on WS-Security. Users can choose among some 20 popular enterprise scenarios providing various types and combinations of authentication, encryption, and signing.

  • Application programming interface (API) and configuration extensions, facilitating the consumption of secured services based on WS-Security—from enabling communications between secured services to defining who is allowed to access a service and in what ways.

  • User login using OpenID, which complements existing login options based on username/password and Microsoft InfoCard-based electronic IDs.

  • Google Gadget support, offering stubs, templates, and try-it pages for Google Gadgets that can be hosted within the WSO2 Mashup Server or externally, such as in a user’s iGoogle page. It also includes a beta dashboard add-in for hosting Google Gadgets within the mashup server itself.
Version 1.5 will be available for download Monday. It carries no software licensing or subscription fees, although WSO2 offers a range of service and support options, including training, consulting, and custom development.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

DaaS solves schools' Internet parity problem with help from IBM and Desktone

The Pike County, Ky., schools have solved an Internet access parity problem with a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution from IBM and Desktone. As part of a five-year agreement, IBM will provide the county's classrooms with service that gives older PCs the same Internet ability as newer models.

Not unlike many companies, the county's 25 schools purchased and replaced computer equipment on a staggered basis, meaning some classrooms had computers that were over six years old, while other classrooms had spanking-new models. This created an inequality among students that school officials felt was unacceptable.

Under the agreement with IBM, and using the Desktone DaaS software, the schools' 1,400 Internet-enabled computers will have access to the district's standard desktop image, regardless of the age of the device or whether it's a PC or a thin client. The hosted architecture will also include IBM storage, xSeries servers, and VMware software.

An added benefit of the solutions is that homebound students will be able to keep up with their coursework using home computers, and teachers who need to work from home will have access to their materials with the same security and filtering as if they were in the classroom.

Desktone burst on the scene a year ago, when it announced an infusion of venture capital funds. Since then, it's continued to make news, most recently when it announced that HP has signed on as the first member of its partner program.

The broad affection for the term "cloud computing" and all that sticks to that nowadays will mean broad affection too for desktop as a service. Desktone has its sights set on helping service providers ramp up DaaS offerings, but enterprises will be in this one too. Citrix, VMware and Microsoft will make sure they allow enterprises to do DaaS as well as the cloud providers.

I'd bank on a rich environment where a continuum of offerings develop, with myriad business models and packages of services. Most interesting will be whether the DaaS providers can mimick the traditional desktop providers as a channel for ... apps, services, ads, (craplets!), business services, as well as maintenance and support.

Hey, if it worked for the hairball, why not the cloud ball?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Serena Software brings business mashups to mainframe application release process

"Mainframe" and "Web 2.0" aren't used together very often. Serena Software, Redwood City, Calif., hopes to change that with the release of its Serena Application Release Manager (ARM), a mashup aimed at the application release process.

ARM combines Web-2.0-type workflow capabilities with Serena's ChangeMan ZMF, a software change and configuration management application for mainframes. This is designed to allow companies to manage the application release process from initial change requests through to final deployment, and is part of Serena's goal to be a leading provider of software for application lifecycle management (ALM) services.

Included in the release is a visual process designer with out-of-the-box process templates that can be customized, allowing stakeholders -- developers, IT operations teams, and business users -- to coordinate their activities. Participants can use any Web-based device to track and approve projects.

This doesn't come without cost, as Rene Bonvanie, Serena's vice president of worldwide marketing, partner programs, and online services, told eWeek's Darryl Taft:
This mashup is not a free mashup. There is a lot of labor you can replace with this mashup. Since there are fewer release engineers, developers are stepping in to solve the problem.
Bill Ives at AppGap has a good take on why this development is important:
There are many large companies that still generate an extensive number of mainframe applications. One of their clients created 484,000 new mainframe apps in the past year. The number of IT people who can sit and stare at mainframe green screens is getting smaller. Now users can monitor and communicate through a browser-based system that is more familiar to the current generation of IT people.
Serena jumped into the mashup world just a little under a year ago. At the time, I said I thought they were "taking a walk on the wild services side," but I saw great hope for their approach. Just last month, Serena made news again when it released its Mashup Composer service, which allows users to drag and drop a wide variety of consumer information and combine it with data from internal applications.

The new release joins a wide array of other business mashups from Serena. All are available at the Serena Mashup Exchange.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Amazon helps boost Engine Yard's cloud computing efforts with capital infusion

Engine Yard, which provides a cloud-based Ruby and Rails deployment platform, has completed a second round of financing, including a chunk from cloud-computing heavy hitter Amazon.

The San Francisco-based company today announced an additional $15 million in funding, following a $3.5-million injection in January of this year. Helping to provide the financing were New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), Amazon, and current investor Benchmark Capital.

Engine Yard officials say the new funding will help the company accelerate business, spur R&D for their forthcoming cloud-computing cluster platform, and continue their innovation with their open-source projects, Rubinius and Merb.

Rubinius, a project to develop the next generation virtual machine for the Ruby programming language, implements the core libraries in Ruby, making a system accessible for development and extension. Merb is a light framework that is ORM, JavaScript library, and template language agnostic.

Engine Yard, founded in 2006, offers a deployment platform with fully managed services. This platform combines high-end clustering resources to run Ruby and Rails applications in the cloud.

Amazon has been offering cloud-based services for more than two years, and their participation bodes well for Engine Yard's position in the forefront of two emerging markets -- Ruby and Rails and cloud computing.

Borland Management Solution offers visibility into software lifecycle delivery and refinement

In an effort to shine more light on the traditionally "dark art" of software development, Borland Software today announced Borland Management Solutions (BMS). The three-pronged, leverages Borland's Open Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) framework, and is designed to enable users to better orchestrate, measure, predict, and improve the software delivery organizations.

BMS, according to the Austin, Tex. company, plugs into a customer's existing ALM tooling infrastructure and provides what Borland calls a "cockpit" to give visibility and control over the entire application lifecycle.

Many companies are still hampered by the fact that, while they've made investments in some ALM tools, the processes still exist in silos, making it difficult to treat application delivery like any other business process, with end-to-end visibility, metrics and intelligence.

BMS includes three products:
  • TeamDemand, a business stakeholder’s “window” into IT, providing a view into all demand coming into the delivery organization. Business users can see, understand and collaborate with IT to make informed decisions about how IT is handling their needs. TeamDemand links directly with such ALM artifacts as requirements, user stories and tasks – housed in various existing tool repositories.

  • TeamFocus, an enterprise project management and execution environment that supports multiple delivery methods – agile, waterfall, iterative – and rolls up monitored project progress information across the portfolio of projects. TeamFocus is designed to keep management up to date without sacrificing production work for reporting overhead.

  • TeamAnalytics automatically collects and analyzes current and historic data from a broad set of ALM tools. It includes a configurable set of interactive dashboards – customizable by role – that present a broad set of industry standard ALM metrics to help management build predictable delivery models and communicate progress to business stakeholders.
Borland introduced its Open ALM in January of last year. The following April, I moderated a sponsored podcast with Carey Schwaber, a senior analyst at Forrester Research; Brian Kilcourse, CEO of the Retail Systems Alert Group and former SVP and CIO of Longs Drug Stores, and Marc Brown, vice president of product marketing at Borland. At the time, Brown explained the reasoning behind the push for ALM tools. [Disclosure: Borland is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

"If you look at most businesses today, IT organizations are expected to have very managed processes for their supply-chain systems and for their human resources systems, but when it comes to software delivery or software development, as you mentioned, there is this sense that software is some sort of an art.

"We would really like to demystify this and put some rigor to the process that individuals and organizations leverage and use around software delivery. This will allow organizations to get the same predictability when they are doing software as when they are doing the other aspects of the IT organization. So, our focus is really about helping organizations improve the way they do software, leveraging some core solution areas and processes -- but also providing more holistic insight of what’s going on inside of the application lifecycle."

You can listen to the podcast here and read a full transcript here.

The BMS suite is expected to be generally available in the Fall. More information is available from the Borland Web site.