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Serena plans Agile marketplace breakout

Old dog, new trick

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Serena Software is reaching outside its enterprise IT base with new Agile tooling and betting on a online market to challenge Borland Software and IBM.

Serena is re-writing its TeamTrack software configuration management (SCM) tool for non-technical, line-of-business managers to inject more planning and greater refinement into mashups and composite applications built using Agile.

Codenamed Vail, and expected in September, Serena's suite will use the Eclipse Foundation's open source Application Lifecycle Framework (ALF) and rely on scripting and composition of applications. Vail follows IBM's Jazz, also based on ALF.

Vail will be free, with Serena instead charging users to subscribe to their applications from a planned marketplace - due by the end of this year.

Details about the marketplace - like pricing and enticements for partners - are vague, but it will be driven by senior president of worldwide marketing, partner programs and online services René Bonvanie. If that name sounds familiar, it should: Bonvanie joined Serena last month, barely four months after joining Salesforce.com to build its online market as senior vice president and general manager for AppExchange and developer marketing.

Serena chief executive Jeremy Burton, who took over from interim CEO Michael Capellas in February, told The Register the goal is to carve out a solid number-two tools position behind IBM and ahead of Borland - wrapped up in a corporate relocation out of Silicon Valley to some prime, low-cost, real-estate in Texas.

Burton believes Vail will help Serena grow by targeting the Facebook and YouTube generation that's coming into the workplace and who Burton is convinced won't sit around waiting for IT to build business applications like discount approval - a generation Burton called "a breakthrough opportunity."

"The majority of applications will be built outside IT during the next 10 years," Burton forecast. "We have a simple tool that will be targeted at business developers."

According to Burton, Vail will be able to hook in process flows from third parties - including IBM's Rational - while also providing the foundation for Serena's other project and portfolio management tools. Veil will introduce process flows into construction of mashups and ALM staples such as requirements management and defect tracking.

"You will build in Vail, mashup Salesforce.com then push the information down to SAP," Burton said.

Serena operates in an increasingly crowded, consolidating, and price sensitive market so some form of repositioning was likely needed. Competitors currently include Borland, IBM, and Microsoft, with one-time rivals Telelogic and Mercury Interactive having yielded to IBM and Hewlett Packard respectively.

Of these, Telelogic recently articulated a similar strategy of bringing ALM to the masses, by launching a version of DOORS Fastack bringing simplified requirements definition and management to RAD programmers.

Vail clearly fits a corporate refit designed to re-focus the 27-year-old company on a growth wave that the company's owner - Silver Lake Partners - believe to be hot. Purchased by Silver Lake in November 2005 for $1.2bn, the then-CEO Mark Woodward resigned a year later in December 2006. A month later, former IBM and Reuters exec Michael Steinharter was drafted in to cover sales, services, and customer support and Scrum co-author John Scumniotales was appointed vice president of product management.

Agile and RAD have been hot before, in the early 1990s, and it's uncertain how big of a window exists on the current mashup fad. Also, Serena risks becoming an also ran in a market where application and platform providers are trying to tempt developers - both technical and line-of-business - to their communities and marketplaces.

Burton - who founded Oracle's Technology Network and attracted two million subscribers by the time he left for Veritas in 2002 - expects up to 70 offerings similar to what Serena has proposed. Serena will differentiate itself as "the first enterprise mashup tool targeted at business developers", Burton said. ®

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