Developer banks on rapid apps

A recent Gartner Inc. report suggests that the ROI case for architected rapid ap- plication development (ARAD) or model-driven pattern-based (MDPB) development methods and tools is a solid one.

According to the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, ARAD can potentially yield an ROI of up to 1,500 per cent and noted that organizations should look at adopting a service-oriented approach to software deployment using ARAD methods and tools, “rather than ‘traditional, customized development processes and technologies.”

Analyst and report author Michael Blechar noted that the tools are just starting be widely recognized by mainstream J2EE and .NET developers. ARAD tools come with customizable pre-built .Net and J2EE frameworks, technical components and architectural and design patterns used to generate between 60 percent and 85 per cent of the code of most applications prior to a professional programmer adding business logic.

ARAD applications reduce the complexities inherent within J2EE, and speeds up project completion times to create a consistent architecture across teams of developers and multiple projects. Gartner projected that enterprises using ARAD tools and methodologies can expect to reduce overall development expenses by between four and 20 per cent over a five-year period.

Markham, Ont.-based software developer Locus Software Inc. is currently completing its third project using an ARAD tool – OptimalJ — from Detroit-based vendor Compuware Corp. and reported a ROI of 650 per cent. According to general manager Richard Blais, Locus Software is using OptimalJ to generate about 65 per cent of code right now. “What’s most important to me is the adoption rate of my developers and my architects,” Blais said, adding the ROI numbers are significant enough to continue to invest in the technology right now.

The study essentially connects the productivity gains from ARAD to real hard dollars. Mike Burba, product manager for Compuware, said the implication is that more mainstream organizations are now going to have to develop applications this way. The tricky part with ROI as that you don’t necessarily see and look at it with the overall application development budget in perspective. These transformation patterns take that model and map it to whatever the target platform is going to be, Burba said, adding the approach has developers using models allowing them to define the business in that high level model.

“That brings an interesting dynamic to the market which as that mainstream organizations don’t necessarily have the same type of developers that early adopter organizations have,” Burba said, adding that the challenge is to upgrade those skills into this type of development. While early adopters tend to have developers that are more savvy, mainstream organizations tend to have a different skill set.

Most of these tools, Blechar said, come with optional bridges to business process modeling (BPM) and object-oriented analysis and design (OOA&D)/Unified Modeling Language (UML) modeling tools and can automate some of the rules about classes and use cases as part of the code generation. Because ARAD tools create most of the code related to the technical architecture and ensure compliancy to the predefined frameworks and patterns, applications are likely to be deployed more quickly and of higher quality than hand-coded applications, Blechar said.

As the firm is constantly seeking to reuse components thus the ARAD approach is a natural fit, Blais said. The OptimalJ tool automatically enforces standards through model-driven code generation; Blais said the application will serve to reduce the cost of future projects. “When you create something that is repeatable, the total cost of delivery goes down. Not only from an intellectual standpoint but also from a body count standpoint,” Blais said, adding that the firm plans to extend the 65 per cent build out rate into the 75 to 85 per cent range.

The challenge in the Canadian marketplace is that Java developers have become more of a commodity, Blais said. “A lot of organizations were moving to fixed bid pricing when it comes down to doing projects. We really needed to stay ahead of the pack.” ARAD improves the bottom line in that it not only boosts the Java developer’s productivity and creativity, it also improves the ability to problem solve as developers are able to reuse the components in which they’ve built, Blais said.

“When we go to push our code through the QA process and the number of bugs coming back is a quarter of what it was on a typical build. The current development cycle is being reduced dramatically,” Blais said.

IBM Corp. and Borland Software Corp. are two vendors offering ARAD tools. It is an emerging market that can yield positive results, the report concluded.

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