Borland claims agnosticism in tool wars

Agnosticism is sometimes regarded as a lack of nerve in committing to one set of beliefs, but Borland believes it’s a strength when it comes to marketing development tools.

With its expanded range of application development software under its belt from recent acquisitions like TogetherSoft and Starbase, Borland is attempting to persuade CIOs and senior developers that it has a uniquely integrated and agnostic view of the entire process from requirements definition to implementation. One selling point is its potential as a bridge between the two “religious sects” of .Net and J2EE, by being able to talk to both development environments.

IBM and Microsoft can bridge, says Asia-Pacific business development manager Nick Jackson, “but with the best will in the world each has an agenda”. Borland finds itself competing with the likes of these two software giants, and in the implementation space, BEA. The acquisition of Rational by IBM “disenfranchised” it from the .Net camp and from any perception as a neutral force, Jackson suggests, weakening a significant rival of Borland in the eyes of those developers who want to choose the best of both environments.

Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the catch-phrase for Borland’s new integrated development approach, and despite the long-standing use of similar phrases Borland has something different, says Singapore-based Jackson, in the country this month for a series of developer seminars.

ALM follows the traditional “waterfall” stages development method, says Jackson, in which the output of each stage becomes the input for the next, but the stages are integrated with one another and testing is performed in the course of development.

Modelling nominally precedes coding, but “live source” is maintained so changes to the code will have a retroactive effect on the model. The strict waterfall method has lost favour in the past decade because it may not cater for complex “knowledge worker” systems, and assumes that the only role for users is in specifying requirements and that all requirements can be specified in advance.

ALM can even accommodate agile and extreme programming, Jackson claims. Many development shops are scared by the “anarchic” appearance of these fast-cycling techniques, but a relatively rigid change-management process, Star Team, a legacy of Starbase, gives some comfort that such development can be kept under control.

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