IBM Corp has responded to our request for comment on why it has not so far backed the Eclipse-based Application Lifecycle Framework, ALF, project that seeks to provide standards-based interoperability between heterogeneous application development tools.
As we noted in an article in early November, the ALF project currently counts 16 vendors that have committed to support the initiative and ensure that their tools support the ALF certification when it is made available toward the end of the year. But there are several key names missing from the list of supporters, including IBM.
ALF is exploring some interesting problems in heterogeneous tool integration, said John Kellerman, IBM product manager for Jazz and Eclipse. Our efforts in the areas of tool integration and application lifecycle management are focused on the Eclipse platform and Jazz. While the direction they are taking, a looser integration through web services, doesn’t currently meet our needs, we continue to watch their progress.
It is ironic that IBM is not backing the Eclipse-based ALF initiative, considering that it was IBM Canada that started Eclipse itself. In November 2001, a consortium was formed to further the development of Eclipse as an open source venture, and in 2003 an IBM-independent foundation was created: the Eclipse Foundation.
The not-for-profit Eclipse Foundation describes itself as, an open source community whose projects are focused on providing a vendor-neutral open development platform and application frameworks for building software. Given that mission, it is surprising that IBM would not want to support the ALF project as it promises to improve the interoperability between heterogeneous application development and modeling tools.
But IBM is not the only one missing from the list. Other big names absent from the supporters’ list include Microsoft, Oracle, BEA, Mercury Interactive, Borland, and MKS.
A bit like IBM, MKS explained its lack of support for ALF by arguing that since it has a plugin that integrates with Eclipse itself, it sees no advantage in supporting ALF.
As we have reported, that statement was met with surprise by official ALF evangelist and Serena Software VP market development, Kevin Parker. MKS is missing the point completely, he said. While what they are saying is completely correct in that their tools can work with the Eclipse IDE, that is not the problem that ALF is aimed at solving.
Whether you are Eclipse-based or have Eclipse plugins is not the issue, Parker continued. So while for example MKS might support Eclipse, they would still have to build a separate integration to Borland tools and vice versa. Both might be Eclipse-based but you still have to do point-to-point integrations between the two, taking you back to brittle, fragile integrations. It also gives you nothing toward interoperability with other tools.
It seems on the surface at least that some vendors are shying away from ALF in the belief that it will erode their ability to differentiate their tools from the competition. A key plank of many of these application lifecycle management vendors’ marketing is the tight integration between their own tools.
But Serena Software, which kicked off the ALF initiative but insists that it offers a level playing field for all tools vendors, believes that the vendors shying away from ALF for this reason are worrying unnecessarily.
Serena’s VP of worldwide marketing, Matt DiMaria, told us recently that while the ALF project is designed to offer interoperability between various ALM tools, There is still tremendous opportunity for innovation for each tool, which is why we have been so surprised that some vendors either misunderstand the intention of ALF or try to ‘de-position’ it.
There are currently 16 companies committed to ALF support for their tools: Serena, Accurev, Active EndPoints, Aldon, BuildForge, Catalyst Systems, Cognizant, Compuware, Ivis, PlanView, Quality Park, Secure Software, Soft Landing, Tikal Knowledge, Urban Code, and Viewtier.