ALM Game Heats Up

Some vendors herald a best-of-breed approach to ALM tooling, while others are beginning to offer integrated toolsets.

The application lifecycle management (ALM) market is a hotbed of activity, as companies offer varied approaches to process management and code management, sometimes in the same tools. Some vendors herald a best-of-breed approach to ALM tooling, while others are beginning to offer integrated toolsets.

Lafayette, Calif.-based TechExcel Inc., a company that focuses on process management for distributed development teams ranging from small shops to global environments of 1,000 or more users, is hoping to hit the suite spot. In November, the company launched DevSuite, an integrated toolset comprised of existing apps DevTrack, a workflow and defect-tracking tool; DevTest, a QA test management tool; and DevPlan, a project planning tool released in October.

The suite is designed to support a "knowledge-centric" ALM approach, by collecting all the development lifecycle information in a centralized database (Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle 9i) and file repository system (KnowledgeWise) that can provide visibility to team members in different locales via Windows native clients or Web UIs.

"The only bottleneck in terms of scalability is normally the size of your database server, and if it's a large Web deployment, you may occasionally want to have multiple Web servers," says Jason Hammon, senior product manager. The installation and configuration of the suite does not typically require outside consulting or customization, although consulting is available if needed.

In February, TechExcel plans to upgrade the KnowledgeWise centralized repository and introduce a requirements-management tool called DevSpec. The upgraded repository will feature a knowledge view that will offer a number of enhancements over the existing version, asserts Hammon, including support for offline knowledge management, workflow and events for knowledge items.

DevSpec will allow teams to define requirements for software or other projects and then link that information to the actual work items in DevTrack and DevTest. "It will give you the ability to validate that those requirements have been implemented and tested all from one tool," explains Hammon.

The idea behind an integrated knowledge-based tool suite is to help development teams adopt a more strategic approach to software development, says Tieren Zhou, CEO and chief software architect for TechExcel. DevTrack and DevTest are popular tools among game developers, according to Zhou. The company cites Activision, Electronic Arts and Sony Online Entertainment as customers, among others.

IBM Corp. acquired BuildForge in May, an ALM company that also has several gaming customers that rely on its build-and-release management tools, notes Melinda-Carol Ballou, program director for Application Life-Cycle Management at IDC. "If TechExcel is targeting the overall application lifecycle for gaming and entertainment," she says, "it's also extremely important to offer strong build-management in addition to the defect tracking, test-coverage management and planning that they appear to be targeting.

DevPlan, DevTrack and DevTest are available now in Standard or Integrated Editions, and licensed per user. In 2007, TechExcel plans to offer a hosted model for DevSuite, says Hammon.

From an enterprise perspective, some users are going to be more wary of a hosted model, however. "They want to have control and sole access to the source code, so it's really going to depend on the business model for the organization," she says. "It's a great idea, though, because it does let companies adopt lifecycle management tools more quickly and lowers the barriers to entry."

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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