Application life cycle tools were an afterthought of Computer Associates’ 1999 Platinum acquisition. Ironically, thanks to its acquisitions of Platinum technologies, Sterling Software, and Nantucket (the latter, over a decade ago), CA has accumulated one of the largest application development product portfolios in the business.
Not that anybody noticed—CA included. With the sole exception of Nantucket, none of these acquisitions were driven by application development tools. Platinum was bought for its DB2 tools, while Sterling was acquired for its storage management offerings, both of which neatly complemented CA’s data center products.
This week, CA raised the profile of its application development business with the release of ERwin Modeling Suite 4.0. Don’t let the version number of the product name fool you, this is actually CA’s first attempt to bundle development tools. It’s just that ERwin and Paradigm Plus, the product families included in the suite, both happen to be on their 4.0 release cycles, according to application life cycle brand manager Gregory Clancy. The result is CA’s first serious challenge to market leader Rational.
ERwin modeling suite contains four products, headlined by the ERwin data modeler, the market leader for database designers; plus BPwin, a business process modeler; Paradigm Plus, a UML modeling tool; and the almost brand-new ERwin Examiner, a tool which checks data models for inconsistencies. The products are also sold separately.
Each of these products has significant enhancements. ERwin sports new capabilities for separating logical and physical models. The logical model organizes data into entities, such as “customer” or “product order,” while the physical model maps them into the table and column data structures of relational databases. By separating logical from physical, data models can be spun off for multiple databases, a feature that is useful if an organization has different databases (e.g., Oracle and DB2) and wants to ensure that overlapping data uses the same data structures. Additionally, ERwin has added new model viewing capabilities that provide hierarchical views of data models, a feature that makes it easier to work with larger models.
So how do these tools integrate? CA is relying on XML to provide an open interface, and for translating data models into UML models, wizards are provided. This differs from Rational’s proprietary hooks, although Rational’s integration is far more ambitious, spanning object modeling, data modeling, testing, requirements management, and configuration management. However, if CA could broaden the XML integration to other tools inherited from the Platinum stable, such as CCC Harvest, it could claim a useful competitive advantage.
ERwin Modeling Suite 4.0 is an important first step for CA to demonstrate that rumors of the attrition of its inherited tools businesses are greatly exaggerated. CA has headroom for product growth, if it follows up by extending the suite to other tools inherited from the Platinum stable, including configuration management.
Clancy conceded that, in the aftermath of the Platinum acquisition, it was often difficult to get the world’s attention on the company’s development products offerings. With the exception of ERwin, none of these products were market leaders. But Clancy adds, these products have “grown significantly” under CA’s watch, noting that channel sales for modeling tools alone grew 344% over the past 16 months (he did not have figures for sales growth via direct or telesales)..
Obviously, integrating data modeling and object/component modeling has long been a holy grail of application development—but does the idea make sense in practice? Database architects and component designers are each jealous of their domains. In most cases, the database predates the application. “Just ignore the other side, data is king,” is a common refrain, according to one industry consultant who has worked both sides of the modeling fence.
The application life cycle market remains fragmented, with market leader Rational, Compuware, Merant, and Computer Associates each offering varying arrays of development and modeling tools. No single vendor offers a complete solution, and until now, only Rational has offered out-of-the-box integration.
The significance of ERwin 4.0 is that CA is finally demonstrating that it is serious in pursuing the development tools business, and that Rational finally has some competition in the suites sector.