Pundits rate Ajax, evaluate ALM incumbents

Works in progress

Over to Fisher: "AJAX without great developer support tools is [at its] best and worst. Best, because you can all of a sudden do all these amazingly cool things in browsers. Worst, because without tools to help you, you're stuck in Venkman trying to work out what the hell just happened to your page."

De-facto standardization is starting, around the cooler and more interesting frameworks like Prototype and script.aculo.us, but with more than 160 frameworks to chose from and those numbers increasing, there's a long way go before we hit real consolidation. And with so many frameworks, the question for platforms like Eclipse and for vendors such as IBM/Rational and Microsoft with Visual Studio becomes: do you support all frameworks, and risk creating a confused IDE, or just a select the most popular frameworks and risk excluding large sections of the developer community.

There's another challenge for incumbents like IBM/Rational, Microsoft and even diddy CodeGear - Borland Software's subsidiary. Not only must they keep up with trends - Microsoft scored highly for its work in putting Ruby on .NET and for hiring leading developers such as RubyCLR bridge creator John Lam - but they must also update their approach on ALM to account for more fluid processes.

IBM/Rational and Borland have spend at least five years building ALM suites architected around processes and lengthy project times. Microsoft was a latecomer, jumping in with Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) in November 2005. The hallmarks of AJAX and Web 2.0 development, though, are agility - some might even say RADishness. That means shorter project time spans, more hacking of code, and shorter process cycles. "For Web 2.0 and SOA developers that means changing process and collaboration techniques to make larger teams move like a symphony of small teams," Martens said.

According to Martens, today's ALM providers have "major investments" in "version 1.0 team tools" that need to change. He defined "1.0" tools as bug trackers, requirements management, and workflow tools that solidified a process. "Walls between roles and teams that created lots of work in process inventory to manage," Martens said.

At the end of the day, though, it seems flexible processes will be useful for web-based applications while our panel expressed a belief in the continued need for heavy-weight process for mission-critical work. "I'd prefer they [guys developing missiles]... have some heavy process behind them," Rush concluded.®

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