CollabNet Rolls Out Improved ALM Solution

CollabNet has released the latest version of its open source application lifecycle management (ALM) solution, which features improvements in collaboration, tools integration and reporting capabilities. The company's CollabNet Enterprise Edition (CEE) 5.0 ALM product facilitates the software development process, especially for teams not located in the same space.

A key improvement in CEE 5.0 is its ALM templates. Organizations can customize the templates to fit their development process, making it easier for teams to move them into a project and start working. In addition, the release features increased software configuration management (SCM) reporting through Subversion, as well as enhanced collaboration and communication capabilities through the use of wikis, e-mail, mailing lists and discussion forums.

CollabNet also improved CEE 5.0 by adding application programming interfaces and connectors to various tools, with particular attention to the open source Eclipse development environment.

"We have a complete Eclipse profile that allows users to natively track issues, collaborate with e-mail, collaborate with code, using our engine that brings and presents this information to the Eclipse user in their environment," explained Bill Portelli, CollabNet's CEO.

Moreover, CollabNet has done the same thing with other vendors' IDEs and tools, such as Sun's NetBeans, Oracle's JDeveloper and the Apple Mac Development Toolkit.

"We have agreements with all of these firms that we are the Subversion support arm for those organizations," Portelli said.

CollabNet, in fact, is the principal sponsor of Subversion -- an open source, Web-based SCM tool. That project was initially architected and designed as an open source solution by CollabNet about seven years ago.

"We were believers in open development and we open sourced the project," Portelli explained. "Today, there are more than two million users using Subversion and it's doubling every four to six months. It's become the standard for software configuration management. About four months ago, Forrester [Research] wrote a report that said that Subversion is the No. 1 SCM on the market."

Using an SCM, software developers can work on a common piece of code and keep track of the branches they are making off the main trunk. Subversion is unique because it's a Web-based SCM tool, facilitating collaboration among spread out teams.

About one of every five developers uses Subversion, according to Portelli.

"There's about 10 million software developers in the world, and there's two million using Subversion today," he said.

CollabNet sells support and training around Subversion, but, as its principal sponsor, the company does a whole lot more.

"We host the community development, we're the primary sponsor, we run the community site, we provide the legal assistance, we provide all of the infrastructure, we have the highest number of paid developers," Portelli said. "We contribute all of that code back to the community. We do all of the enterprise testing -- all of the performance, scalability and reliability [testing]. And we drive the roadmap for the open source community on behalf of enterprise clients."

CollabNet's roots come from its founders' open source development efforts that were dependent on collaboration. For instance, CollabNet's cofounder with Portelli was Brian Behlendorf, who was president of the Apache Software Foundation. Behlendorf put together the infrastructure and the processes that made Apache happen, Portelli said. He made distributed developers come together to develop the open source server OS. That got Portelli thinking about the processes that could pull together distributed developers and teams on the Internet, facilitating rapid application development for the enterprise.

Enabling collaboration among teams of spread out developers is a key differentiator of CollabNet's solution.

"What separates us from the IBM Rational, Microsoft, Borland or Serena -- they've all built software tools or application lifecycle tools that would assume that you were going to have your engineers colocated into a single place," Portelli said. "So they've built desktop tools that will work very well behind your firewall and they work very well for teams that are in the same building. But the minute you go distributed, those teams break down. And what you need for that is a set integrated tools that are Web based that require only a thin browser to connect to. These other legacy tools don't scale very well."

CollabNet started out as on-demand provider of its ALM solution, and a hosted solution is its primary product. The company also sells its solution installed behind the firewall because there are some clients that want it that way.

Outsourcing and open source are back, according to Portelli. And that accounts for some of the success that CollabNet has been seeing, with a growth rate of about 40 percent per year.

"In our second [fiscal] quarter ending in June, we closed more new clients than we did all of last year -- and last year was a record year," Portelli said. "So how do you reflect that for a seven-year company? A lot of it is that the market is hitting it big time for distributed development. And secondly, we've made it easier for clients to get started with our technology."

With enterprise open source business models, even though the code is accessible, companies typically hold back something unique to them that they can sell. It can be support, training, higher level end functionality or a combination of those three things, Portelli said.

In terms of effective marketing, the open source approach works.

"There is no doubt in my mind, after being in the enterprise tools business for 25 years, that the fastest way to get to market is to open source something and then build a community around it," Portelli said. "At CollabNet, we sell to the enterprise, but we also sell to a lot of companies that use our platform to create open source communities around them."

Examples include Sun's portal and the community, which are run using CollabNet. BEA's dev-to-dev community is run on CollabNet, as well as the partner communities for eBay and VMware.

"The core of CollabNet is open process and open technology and open tools," Portelli said. "We don't care if it's .NET, C#, Java or WebSphere. In this world, it's heterogeneous, so you've got to be able to collaborate with all of that."

Developers can preview CEE 5.0 at the CollabNet user community page here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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