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Serena promises dev teams shorter hours

Office managers gone wild

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Those awfully nice folks at Serena Software have promised to cut your workload with tools that'll let non-IT staff take care of tedious, line-of-business Office applications.

The application lifecycle management (ALM) specialist has launched its Mashup Composer and Mashup Server for the visual development and connection of workflows and interfaces.

In two weeks' time, Serena also plans to launch 13 free, pre-packaged workflows spanning sales and customer management processes in Salesforce.com, and that also tip into application development with request-to-test management using Hewlett-Packard's Mercury's Quality Center software, and Agile's SCRUM. More packages are due next year for portfolio and issue management.

Sporting an Office 2007 interface, Mashup Composer plays to users running Microsoft Office building with macros and Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Serena's goal, though, is to go further, and have more Office users build applications to offload these requests from overworked developers.

"Many of the requirements are relatively simple - ways of extending functionality or automating common business process. They are ripe for tackling with business mashups," senior director of product marketing Nathan Rawlins said.

Suit clog

While this might sound like Heaven, do you really want business types cobbling together their own stuff and clogging up your IT infrastructure and risking security? According to Serena, the system draws on the company's experience in change management and governance so applications go through peer review and versioning procedures.

The bad news, though, is you - programming and project experts - won't get oversight, as there's no integration with Serena's bread-and-butter ALM tools.

If there's something that might dampen the business users' enthusiasm, it might be price. Mashup Composer is free, but the price of running mashups starts at around $10,000 for an unlimited number of mashups, and between 10 and 15 users on a perpetual license. That could be difficult to justify when you've already got Office and VBA tools.

Serena plans a software-as-a-service (SaaS) version next year, although pricing is not set.

So, how does Mashup Composer and Server work? Using Mashup composer, users will be able to model workflows and map inputs and outputs that are published to the mashup server. The Server renders the user interface, and orchestrates the workflow processes, such as the 13 due next month. The server ingests the WSDL to make connections and uses a URL to map the two connection points. According to Serena, the composer is capable of designing database connections to tables and fields and uses interfaces such as JDBC to connect to connect to the database.

Mashup Composer and Server will only be as good as the ecosystem of partners building pre-packaged workflows that enable integration and orchestration with really big software like Oracle or SAP: currently Serena claims 40 partners, and neither Oracle or SAP are among them.®

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