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Survey Shows Developers Lean Toward Lighter SCM Tools Over ALM

Software developers still use software configuration management (SCM) more than fully featured suites, according to a report published late last week.

The report, published by Forrester Research, suggests that while organizations are looking to adopt full featured application lifecycle management (ALM), many developers still require and use point SCM tools.

"Many of them are perfectly okay with lighter weight tools or leaner tools," said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond, who pointed out the survey is focused on tool usage, not revenues. Developers are also more likely to use multiple SCM tools, on average in the Americas, developers use 1.8 SCM tools in the Americas, the report noted.

"Even though organizations like the idea of a single SCM tool, the realities in terms of developer choices and different types of projects make it difficult to accomplish that," Hammond said.

While there is a large swath of SCM tools developers may rely on, the most widely used are from IBM and Microsoft. In the Americas, where Forrester surveyed 472 developers, 39 percent said they use Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe and 28 percent use IBM’s Rational ClearCase.

But while IBM and Microsoft’s SCM tools are widely used, and even more so when they have multiple tools, their respective ALM suites – Microsoft Team Foundation Server and IBM Rational Team Concert -- diverge. Only 4 percent said they use IBM’s Rational Team Concert while 22 percent use TFS.

In single tool environments, only 1 percent use Team Concert when it is the only tool and seven percent use it in multi-tool environments, while 38 percent use Microsoft’s TFS in multi-tool shops and 7 percent when it is the only one, according to the study.

But Hammond, who attended the Rational Developers Conference in Orlando earlier this month (as reported here), observed that many customers are balking at the Team Concert for a number of reasons. One is price, which can cost thousands of dollars more per developer more for ClearCase developers. But besides price, many customers appear to be questioning how it will fit in, Hammond said.

"IBM has a very broad and encompassing vision for what Jazz [the umbrella platform for which Team Concert is a key component] is going to be," Hammond said. "If they can successfully communicate that to their customers, they can defend the price point but that’s still a challenge. A lot of companies are happy with leaner lighter weight SCM solutions that don’t necessarily need to be part of end to end ALM solutions." IBM said it wasn’t immediately available to comment at press time.

TFS has the advantage in that it has been around much longer than Team Concert. The latter has only been out since last year. As a result, Microsoft has had much more success in convincing its developers to use TFS, Hammond added. "TFS growth has been very rapid and Microsoft has been doing very well converting over their .NET community." With TFS 2010 in beta (as reported here) and set for release next year, Hammond expects that trend to continue.

"There’s a lot of new features they are putting in that are going to make it more attractive for shops that are concerned about scalability today even though I don’t see that as a justified concern," he said. "Some of the replication capabilities and eventing and rule changes they are making to push that to the server base side will be very attractive to some of the organizations that I’ve talked to that have already done some adoption of TFS but  haven’t necessarily gone the whole way and made it the standard across their organization."

After Microsoft and IBM’s SCM tools, Subversion, the open source version control platform, is the next alternative preferred by developers, the study found. In the Americas 22 percent use Subversion, while usage in Europe 40 percent, Hammond said. "In Europe we are seeing more open source usage across the board," he said.

Among other widely used tools are Serna PVCS, CA Harvest Change Manager, Borland StarTeam, Serena Dimensions, MKS Integrity Suite, IBM Rational Team Concert, IBM Rational Telelogic Synergy, and tools from Perforce and Accrurev, according to the report.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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