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SCM uplifted: Q&A with David Martin of MKS

Software configuration management (SCM) is about to emerge from the shadows cast by supercool, hyperbole-laden IDEs. At Gartner's AD Summit, ADT's Jack Vaughan asked MKS' David Martin, VP of product management, what to expect as SCM goes mainstream.

Q: SCM as a point tool is not as interesting as SCM as part of a process. Rational is a company that had some tools and talked a lot about processes. How do other vendors approach the development world with that as a background?

I think there's an important distinction that we need to make in all of this. There are companies that preach that SCM is a process backed by a bunch of tools - which at the end of the day is what it's all about - but the real question is "How do organizations go about the process of making changes in their software applications?" Rational has always gone out to the market with the Rational Unified Process, which is a pretty good process for managing software development initiatives.

When you look at a large customer, they have thousands of developers with various processes across their entire enterprise. They don't necessarily want to standardize on one process and implement an SCM discipline underneath that because that's just not practical in such a large enterprise. Our customers have told us that they love the idea of process-independence. Where MKS differentiates itself is that we don't come in and preach a process dogma. We provide the tool infrastructure and enable customers to adopt their processes and implement them directly within the MKS solution.

Q: What are some of the big changes you've seen in the last few years?

A: Customers are moving to consolidate their SCM infrastructure. First of all, [they are] reducing administrative and overhead training costs. An even more important reason is in the area of code reusability. You hear people talk about Services-Oriented Architecture, component-based development and sharing those assets throughout the IT organization. You can't do that when you have six or seven different SCM repositories. You can develop all the plug-ins and wrappers and data interchange points between all those things, but [it's] just a much higher cost to be able to realize that objective.

Q: What do you see people doing with legacy systems?

A: When we look at our AS/400 or iSeries customers, they want to write a lot of wrapper code around what they've already built. We're seeing them build a lot of Java interoperability and wanting to manage the entire infrastructure under our MKS solution. You always get people who rewrite, but the real large-scale legacy applications, people aren't throwing them away.

Q: What progress has been made in SCM as an industry?

A: With Sarbanes-Oxley and some of these other pieces of legislation coming in, there's just a much greater need for audit and compliance within the organization. SCM just fits into that like a glove because it records who's doing what, when, for what reason and was this work authorized. And that's the beauty of what we're seeing in SCM being uplifted, that it's getting visibility at the higher executive domain in the organization.

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