Key Absentees From Eclipse ALF

The open source Eclipse-based Application Lifecycle Framework (ALF) project, which seeks to create a standard way for heterogeneous application development tools to interoperate, will deliver its first version at the end of the year despite several major names being noticeably absent from the list of those committed to support.

But official ALF evangelist and Serena Software VP of market development, Kevin Parker, told me yesterday that the project still has the necessary momentum to become a de facto standard for tools interoperability. That remains to be seen.

While the project was submitted to Eclipse by IT change governance player Serena, the company is keen to stress that although it started it, it is open to all vendors with tools in the application lifecycle management (ALM) space and there are controls in place so that it cannot be derailed by a particular vendor’s interests.

“ALF is Serena led but not Serena dominated,” said Parker. “Eclipse is community led and that is the spirit of ALF. It is an open framework for [tools] interoperability.”

Started last April, there are currently 16 companies committed to ALF-enabling their software 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.

Notable absentees from that list with products in the ALM space include IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, BEA, Mercury Interactive, Borland, MKS and more.

Not all of those returned request for comment in the short time available before we went to press. BEA’s Bill Roth, vice president of the Workshop business unit, commented: “The fact of the matter is that we have neither chosen nor not chosen to join the ALF project.”

To be clear, BEA is not among the vendors that have committed to supporting ALF. However Roth added: “The ALF project’s goals are laudable, and attack an important need for developing in-the-large. We’re pleased to see this effort moving forward and look for its further progress. We will continue to monitor this project and its activities.”

Strangely Mercury Interactive got back to me to say they have “definitely joined”, though Parker had told me they hadn’t. I’ve gone back to them both to work out where the misunderstanding has crept in.

[Update November 10: A Mercury spokesperson got back to me to clarify that they are not currently signed up to ALF. “We are members of Eclipse and are currently reviewing the ALF part to see how it fits into our overall strategy,” said the spokesperson.]

“Lots of vendors would like to participate but are taking a wait-and-see approach,” said Parker yesterday. “Some are waiting until it is completed [around the end of the year] before they adopt it. Some have stated that quite clearly.”

Serena’s VP of worldwide marketing, Matt DiMaria, added that the ALF project is designed to offer interoperability between various ALM tools, but does not dictate the inner workings of each tool. “So there is still tremendous opportunity for innovation for each tool,” DiMaria said, “which is why we have been so surprised that some vendors either misunderstand the intention of ALF or try to ‘de-position’ it.”

Serena noted that other vendors have overcome fierce rivalry to work together on the ALF project, for example Serena’s software configuration management rival AccuRev is a supporter, and likely to be among the first to be ready with ALF support when version 1.0 of the framework is released around the end of the year.

Parker said that although some ALM tools already have integrations with one another, these are “point to point” and so can be brittle. These integrations can also get out of step with the launch of new versions of individual tools, potentially leaving a customer stranded on older versions because an integration that it has come to rely on is not available for the latest version.

ALF seeks to overcome that limitation by handling the exchange of information from one tool to another, by both adhering to a common vocabulary for the definition of events, objects and attributes. ALF will also handle the interoperability of the business logic governing the sequencing of tools in support of the application lifecycle process, and the routing of significant events as tools interact.

Customers should then have the confidence that two or more tools that support ALF will have a good level of interoperability now and in the future.

This will be made possible thanks to SOAP web services, a BPEL orchestration engine and an ALF Event Manager. Essentially each tool vendor will “wrapper” their APIs with web services that are able to communicate with one another thanks to that common vocabulary. Interested parties can find out more at www.eclipse.org/alf. Kevin Parker has an ALF blog here.

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