Change, always change

At their heart, SCM tools provide versioning management and revision control. Distributed team development support is now a primary area of SCM interest. But there are worlds closely bordering the software configuration management world -- and they may collide at any time.

As they become intrinsic to software development within the enterprise, software configuration management tools meet new capabilities. The category plays out a theme often heard in software, in which established vendors add premium capabilities, while newer vendors tend to come to market at lower price points, sometimes with enhanced versions of open-source offerings.

Several SCM tools have achieved near-standard status, and the group sometimes has the look of a breakout category. Better configuration management was one of the driving issues behind such 2002 blockbuster moves as IBM purchasing Rational and Borland purchasing Starbase.

Also in 2003, Mercury bought asset and process management suite maker Kintana. Kintana represents a step up to a high-level form of change management, modeled after supply-chain management software. Kintana’s idea of change management is not oriented toward the development process, but at operations. As always, the growing Mercury’s moves are closely watched.

“Kintana’s strength has been process automation,” opined competitor Greg Clancy, business manager, marketing at Computer Associates (CA). “The difference is that we deliver process automation across platforms, but also version management, build management, release management and deployment management -- all the aspects of that continuous [application] life cycle.” CA made new moves last month to bring its diverse change and configuration management offerings into greater harmony, as it unveiled an Enterprise Workbench product that integrates AllFusion Endevor Change Manager and AllFusion Harvest Change Manager. “Enterprise workbench is an umbrella, a single point of control for all platforms,” explained Clancy.

So, while distributed collaboration in SCM gains attention, the single point of control is also showing interest. Seconding that notion is SCM software house Cybermation. “We provide a single point of control, a single meta database,” said Bob Kennedy, product manager at Cybermation, which comes to this arena from original roots in the mainframe space.

For those befuddled by the varieties of change management, configuration management and whatnot, Kennedy offers some comfort. What change management is, he declared, depends on your definition.

“Change management is the one category that causes the most confusion among people,” he said. Where are his products to be categorized, according to Kennedy? “I call my products software change management or software configuration management,” he said. That is largely because the changes with which his software is concerned are in the software realm.

Some viewers suggest that moves like IBM’s and Borland’s betoken the day when SCM -- or a good 80% of what passes for SCM -- would be included in big IDEs. But developer resistance to too much “version control” may auger against this. In the meantime, makers of change management software and SCM software may pair up. Take as a guide enterprise software maker Serena Software’s purchase of TeamTrack, a firm that rose up from defect-tracking solutions to a broader collaborative offering.

The near worlds of project management, change management, requirements management, request management, automated software testing, issue management, defect tracking and help/service desk management may continue to bump into the world of “software configuration management.” Where software approaches begin to center as much on the idea of an application life cycle as on the idea of application development, the lines will blur between these various “schools of management.” Lines will blur further if enterprise automation proceeds to the extent that software assets, hardware assets, widgets and projects are all handled as part of the once-overarching corporate control system.

Please see the following related stories:

SCM: Through the maze” by Peter Bochner

Oil and water” by Peter Bochner

Briefing Book: SCM

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.


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