Sun Microsystems is planning to increase its presence in application lifecycle management (ALM) during the next three months. However, it is adopting a strategy that shies away from the mass-market aspirations of others…
Sun expects to release Java Studio Enterprise 7.0, codenamed Bow, by the end of the calendar year. Bow integrates Unified Modeling Language (UML) from Embarcadero Technologies, now owned by Sun following a deal between the companies in May, with refactoring and profiling for Java code, and improved collaborative features to assist team-based development across distributed groups.
Bow will debut at a particularly active time in the ALM world. IBM’s Rational plans to release its latest client and server tools package, codenamed Atlantic, this year, while the first half of 2005 will see Microsoft launch Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) and Borland Software debut Themis, updating the company’s ALM tools around roles-based access for individuals in development teams.
The common theme to these companies’ strategies is to simplify ALM to help streamline software development processes, and ensure development meets business objectives. Companies are also attempting to bring ALM to a wider audience.
Microsoft’s Rick LaPlante, VSTS general manager, said last week Microsoft expects to create a mass market for ALM during the next 20 years.
Sun, though, is rejecting mass market for selective market. Dan Roberts, Sun senior product manager for development tools and platforms, told ComputerWire ALM is unlikely to own the enterprise, because organizations already have pre-defined development systems and methodologies in place.
Mr Roberts, who called today’s application of ALM niche, added developers would be unlikely to accept having complete systems forced on them, owing to the fact developers already use a variety of preferred tools. This will be a slow evolution, because [ALM is] a cultural change, Mr Roberts said. I don’t see [enterprise developers] adopting it en masse…. I do see it as being a part of many development sites.
Plug-ins and partnering
Sun is combining partnering plug-ins with partnering. UML, testing, performance management and some collaborative features will be provided by Sun, while the company is also looking to Java blueprints and iForce centers to assist customers’ development shops. Sun is also using open source Software Configuration Management (SCM) and requirements gathering, although Mr Roberts noted there is the possibility of some potential acquisition in requirements gathering.
Mr Roberts said Sun’s strategy is also to provide tools that provide crossover between skills levels, enabling developers to move between Java Studio Creator and Java Studio Enterprise.
One feature inside Bow that Sun is especially proud of is collaboration. Developers will be capable of basic online chat, sharing and editing code, sharing desktops, taking over make edits and other developers’ source code, and debugging inside the same environment.
Bow, though, like all Sun’s developer tools, faces an uphill battle against well-established ALM rivals. Today’s market is dominated by Borland and IBM Rational, it is peppered by legions of specialist ISVs providing specific functionality serving stages in the ALM chain, and – next year – it is likely to undergo a seismic shift when Microsoft finally launches VSTS.
Closing the gap
Sun’s tools, like its Java middleware, must attempt to close a wide gap in both market share and mindshare. Sun bought NetBeans, the IDE that underpins its Java tools, and developer community in 1999 – a move that, if executed correctly, could have entrenched the company among developers and also established buy-in from an army of vendors, building to Eclipse on a large scale.
Until very recently, though, NetBeans seemed a low priority at Sun. By contrast, the relatively newer Eclipse framework and community from IBM, which started in 2001, has developed a large following, comprised of ISVs of all sizes and hardware companies.
Sun now, it seems, must rely on a somewhat softer sell to win over developers, by providing an array of tools. The realities of Sun’s market position, along with its cultural preference for institutions like iForce, mean the company’s ability to deliver a fully integrated, platform approach, such as VSTS, seem somewhat unrealistic.