Discover helps users get a grip on code

According to software vendor Software Emancipation Technology Inc., the latest version of its Discover suite can help beleaguered software development teams improve their code quality and productivity.

Bruce Boes, vice-president of marketing with Burlington, Mass.-based SET, said Discover 7.0 addresses some of the common problems associated with code development, including long release cycles, less-than-desirable code quality, poor development processes, the constant need for product re-engineering, and other project-specific issues, including the year 2000 problem.

“The bulk of the resources [organizations] are investing aren’t going into creating something new that’s really going to impact the bottom line – it’s going into keeping the stuff they’ve got current,” he said.

Boes said Discover 7.0 solves these problems. Acting as a complete information system, akin to an ERP package in a manufacturing environment, Discover can help streamline the entire coding and code management process.

Discover helps users create a central, scalable database, called the Information Model, which stores all of an organization’s code, including related documentation and test data, and helps users get a better view of the relationships between all of the code. Displaying code through graphical elements, like charts and tree structures, also helps new developers get started faster, Boes added.

Other applications let project leaders maintain an accurate record of software development, helping them make changes where needed, and giving management an accurate snapshot of a project’s status.

As well, Discover scans code for bugs or other errors, stores code information — reducing the risks inherent when development team members leave an organization — and even analyses code changes for any unintended effects.

“Just by virtue of the fact that you’re getting all of the source code, all of the tests, all of the documentation, everything associated with your software in one place at one time and then keeping control of that, is a tremendous benefit,” Boes said.

Discover also comes in a variety of “solution centers” – which combines selected Discover modules with professional training and consulting best suited for a particular client’s needs, whether that be year 2000 fixing, code quality improvement, architecture reengineering or code comprehension.

Typical Discover customers work with at least 500,000 lines of code, and usually have 50 or more developers on staff. “It’s not a dropping off tool for someone to play with and start to work with it,” Boes said.

One Discover user said the first phase of the roll-out wasn’t difficult, but to take advantage of some of the more advanced features users have to be prepared to invest a lot of resources.

“The initial support is expensive both in cost and time. There’s a lot to understand. It’s a very powerful package, and it’s not something I would recommend to a company as a quick fix,” said William Lingley, program architect with ISG Technologies in Mississauga, Ont.

ISG became interested in Discover after the company realized it had to train new developers faster, and reduce the time it took to do peer reviews and fix code. Lingley said Discover has been a success.

“Using the code compliant features, we can…catch typical errors that engineers tend to make, and reduce the formal code review time and the amount of labour that goes into that by automating some of the checks we do manually.”

Andy Diamondstein, associate analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Discover is currently the only development information system on the market, although a variety of tools are available that perform some of Discover’s functions.

He said Discover can provide a good foundation on which organizations can improve their software development process, something companies have historically not performed well and which is key to improving quality and productivity.

“By using Discover you’re…making it possible to improve code quality and improve productivity by reusing some of your code that you have now in inventory. By doing those things, you can reduce your maintenance costs.”

Discover 7.0 is now available, and service packages start from US$3,000 per seat. Discover supports C and C++ source code, Oracle embedded SQL and PL/SQL and Java. It runs on SunOS, Solaris, HP-UX, SGI IRIX and Windows NT.

Software Emancipation Technology ( in Burlington, Mass., is at (781) 359-3300.