Some of the creators one of Sun Microsystems Inc’s Java testing tools have formed their own company to market a set of productivity and quality testing tools aimed at advanced Java developers writing large-scale Java applications. Their aim is simple: to be to the Java market what the likes of Rational Software Corp’s Pure Atria […]
Some of the creators one of Sun Microsystems Inc’s Java testing tools have formed their own company to market a set of productivity and quality testing tools aimed at advanced Java developers writing large-scale Java applications. Their aim is simple: to be to the Java market what the likes of Rational Software Corp’s Pure Atria unit and CenterLine Software are to the C/C++ market. Metamata Inc was started last November by four people, including the founder of Sun’s SunTest division and the creators of JavaCC (Java compiler-compiler), which is a parser generator. President and chief executive Sriram Sankar was one of the six people who started the SunTest division, which now has 60 people and JavaCC has been downloaded by more than 50,000 advanced Java developers. Sun has ponied up seed capital for Metamata to continue supporting JavaCC, but Sun does not have a stake in Metamata and the support contract expires this month. Anagha Raje, VP business development, says the company has enough money for the next three months and is now looking for its first round of venture capital. The integrated Metamata tools suite is designed to complement and augment the debugging and testing tools commonly found in integrated development environments (IDEs), such as IBM Corp VisualAge for Java and SuperCede Inc’s eponymous tool. Sankar believes those two tools in particular are the nearest thing to what Metamata does, but are still not sufficient to cope with the needs of large-scale Java development. Also, extending the edit- compile-debug cycle of software development to Java applications doesn’t really work, says Sankar, because Java’s dynamic nature requires the integration of repeated discrete edit-compile-debug phases in a continuous process during development. One of the company’s key advantages going forward, it believes, is its proprietary core technical engine that forms the basis for all its products. The engine, which is a module with a clutch of APIs enabling it to be extended, comprises a Java 1.1-compatibale front end and execution environment. It can execute both Java source and byte code – the point being that source code execution provides a richer set of error messages than byte code alone. The 1.1 compatibility was a piece of lucky timing, as the company got going just as Sun released Java 1.1 – there are a lot of complications trying to retrofit to Java 1.0.2. The core engine can also process partially-written programs, update statement by statement and works with any Java runtime environment – currently the engine runs on Windows 95/NT, Solaris and Linux. Other platforms will follow with more resources, says Sankar. There are four components to the Metamata suite. Browse is a source code browser that enables developers to view Java code (as opposed to a regular browser that views HTML) and acts as the interface for the other components. It is not an editing window – that’s left to the IDE. Debug enables the execution of any part of a Java application. Methods can be called using the command line interface and breakpoints can be inserted into lines containing multiple statements. In the next three months or so Metamata will add memory error checking, checks for validity assertions and thread debugging. Audit is a static analysis tool that works like Lint for C, says Sankar. It is a quality code checker built on a set of about 150 rules, some written by JavaSoft and some from the Java development community. The fourth component, Metrics provides quantitative metrics. As far as the competition goes, the Browse and Debug components go up against those provided by IDEs, while Audit comes up against CodeWizard from ParaSoft and Metrics against Total Metric from Reliable Software Technologies, but Metamata is confident that its core engine, incrementality, Java 1.1 compliance and integration win over the competition in what is largely an unexplored space thus far. Beta testers include IBM Corp, Oracle Corp, Fujitsu Ltd, Stanford University and Paralogic Software Corp. Fremont, California-based Metamata will sell the suite direct to start with, over the web and the phone, but is obviously looking for OEM deals with IDE vendors, as well as online resellers, consultants and system integrators. Debug costs $250; Audit $395; Browse is free for a basic version, and $95 for advanced while the basic and advanced versions of Metrics go for $500 and $995. Those prices are for single users and floating server license will costs about 50% more, says Raje. Metamata has eight employees now and the other two members of the founding group are Rob Duncan, a former staff engineer at SunTest and Sreenivasa Viswanadha, anther SunTest engineer who worked on JavaCC and JavaScope.