Collaborating for successful software development
The primary challenge for software companies is about engaging
customers in the production stage itself. CollabNet is emerging as a leading
provider of these engagement solutions to todays virtually global software
firms, enabling them to connect their multi-site development teams and their
clients. G Sankaranarayanan looks at the tools that make this possible
businesses, the killer application on the Internet is undoubtedly online collaboration.
The competitive scenario today also makes it a compelling case for organisations
to learn to produce a knowledge-intensive product like a software application
by engaging talent, whenever and wherever available. Thanks to the proliferation
of secure online collaborative tools, the monolithic production of software
(where the conception, design and development of products take place within
a single site) as a concept and practice is fast becoming a thing of the past.
There is really no alternative to collaborative software development (CSD),
which is about using collaborative tools for free-form interaction, process
collaboration or structured data exchange. The companies also find that there
are benefits in combining collaborative software development processes with
the traditional software development models.
Traditional software configuration management (SCM) tools only address the first
step in the software development chain. In the overall chain, you develop the
product, then release it for integration and eventual end-user adoption. By
the time the product of a traditional development process is used, its
often too late for effective feedback.
With CSD, stakeholders work in parallel to generate feedback while the project
is in process. This helps to reduce rework and fixes problems early. Involving
stakeholders early shortens schedules and creates a better product.
Online collaboration, in general, is slowly maturing, with the introduction
of standards in terms of security, authentication, collaborative rules of engagement,
process structure and workflow management, says Dr Gopinath Ganapathy,
president and chief executive officer, CollabNet Software, India. He adds, CSD
tools support software configuration management and issue-tracking functionality
so that the development teams can freely communicate, co-develop, share knowledge,
track issues and defects, and work with third parties.
Ever since it was founded in July 1999 in the US, CollabNet, which has recently
taken over the Chennai-based Enlite Software, has been a leading CSD company
in its own way, associating itself with the Internets famous open-source
collaborative initiatives. The chief executive officer of the company, Brian
Behlendrof, is the president of the Apache Software Foundation.
CollabNet develops a level of dynamic communication between project members
that is not possible with traditional software development tools and techniques.
The objective is to enable software teams to collaborate on development
within an enterprise, integration with business partners, and adoption by customers,
SourceCast, CollabNets online project management and collaboration product
for the software industry, is designed to enable corporations to unite geographically
decentralised teams, whether the team members are employees or development partners,
and to facilitate Web-driven interaction across all project participants.
The SourceCast environment has been deployed in a wide variety of software development
environments to address business challenges like distributed development, mergers
and acquisitions, offshore or contract development, and Web services.
Our solutions were used first for partnership development and slowly companies
started implementing the solutions for their internal project development scenarios.
HP, for instance, is using SourceCast in the development of their core projects
in the imaging and printing domains, he says.
The SourceCast environment is available as a managed service hosted by the company,
or as an application installed in a customers data centre, and has been
proven to be scalablefrom a few users to tens of thousands of users.
As a managed service, it is offered on the subscription basis, promising 99.99
percent uptime. The servers used are housed in a secure card-access cage at
industry leading co-location facilities. This infrastructure employs high-availability
network storage in a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) configuration
with tape and offsite back-ups for increased security.
With the managed service alternative, the SourceCast environment is accessed
through the Internet, via a virtual private network (VPN), or over a dedicated
line. This option eliminates the time and expense of purchasing, installing,
configuring, and managing hardware. CollabNet maintains the system, installs
the latest application enhancements, and maintains 24x7 access and support.
The system is secure and available at any time from anywhere.
SourceCast lets development teams easily and securely engage external
parties in the development process, while enabling process improvements through
toolset standardisation and improving knowledge capture and reuse, Ganapathy
says and adds, The product captures all the project activities and maps
them into a series of activities. So, irrespective of the type of project management
methodology being followed, the product can be deployed effectively.
Since SourceCast has a good track record of being a common tool for collaborative
networks like Java.net and several open-office movements, the software is used
by pro-community software
firms like Sun Microsystems and Nokia that are trying to build a developer community
based on their technology platforms. The US-based Real Networks, the popular
streaming media company, is deploying SourceCast to build a community of developers.
Motorola and Siemens are some of other companies that use SourceCast for similar
On the cost-benefit of developing versus buying a collaborative solution like
SourceCast, Ganapathy says that even taking into account just the fixed costs,
companies have to spend at least 10 times more if they want to develop the solution
in-house, instead of buying it from the market. When companies try to
build these products by themselves, they need to invest in a variety of point
tools. They need people to host and to look at system administration, etc,
Ganapathy says, and further points out factors like time-to-market, and investment
to be made to ensure data security.
The CollabNet SourceCast environment unifies the vital components needed to
address the core issues of distributed development, including applications for
software development, technical communication, knowledge management, and project
administration. The product automates development, integration, and end-user
adoption links in the software development chain and enables secure and cost-effective
development across the organisation.
CollabNet provides consulting services in the areas of collaborative development,
business alliance services, and open-source assessment. The company expects
business even from governments. There are many countries that are rich
in human capital, for whom software appears to be the only area that can bring
progress to the economy. They want to attract customers and are trying to look
at the ways and means to work together with partners spread in other regions
of the world, Ganapathy observes.
Already, a few governments figure in the customer list. The US government has
recently sponsored a programme to enable its patent offices and those of countries
like Japan and a few European nations to collaborate in order to speed up the
scrutinising and approval processes.