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Architected RAD gets an A in Gartner study

Architected Rapid Application Development (ARAD) is a new category of tools with a proven ROI edge, according to a recently completed user survey by Gartner, Inc.

ARAD tools represent a middle way between the simplified RAD tools and the complexity of the Architected Model Driven (AMD)approach, says Mike Burba, a program manager for Compuware, one of the vendors whose customers Gartner studied. "It’s kind of a pragmatic middle of the road approach," he says of ARAD.

The Gartner survey of development teams, completed in the past month, found the ARAD approach reduces training time and increases productivity of coders regardless of the vendor tool used.

"We have gotten consistently positive feedback from users of Computer Associates' Advantage:Plex, Compuware's OptimalJ and IBM's Rational Rapid Developer offerings," writes Michael Blechar, one of the Gartner analysts who worked on the survey.

ARAD falls under the larger definition of Service-Oriented Development of Applications (SODA), which Gartner predicts will become the best practice for Web development by 2009.

"The purpose of SODA is to be able to take artifacts (such as programs, frameworks and design patterns) created in one project and reuse them in subsequent projects," Blechar writes.

The report on the Gartner survey, "ARAD Methods and Tools Improve Productivity and ROI," looks at projects using four approaches, RAD, ARAD, AMD and a combination of the three. The report concludes that development teams using one or more of these SODA styles "can expect to reduce its overall expenses by between 4 percent and 20 percent during a five-year period."

Of the newest tool technology, the Gartner report says: ARAD methods and tools are just beginning to achieve recognition by mainstream Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and .NET developers. The tools provide development teams with pre-built J2EE and .NET frameworks as well as pre-built technical components, which Gartner says can be customized by technical architects and used to generate 60 to 85 percent of the code. Then the programmers on the development team can add the business logic specific to the application.

As Compuware’s Burba sees it, the ARAD approach makes the best use of the talent most development managers have in-house. The few "A level" programmers who know Java or .NET technology backwards and forwards can do the architectural heavy lifting. Then the coders who understand the business processes can go in and write custom code and edit the generated code to tailor it to specific business needs.

This fits well into the team approach being pushed most notably by IBM Rational in the J2EE space and Microsoft for its .NET platform.

In terms of ROI, ARAD scored in one area that none of the other approaches could match, development teams using it hit the break even point after one year. Burba says that news might gladden the hearts of development managers who fear being fired from a project after a year of negative ROI results, only to watch their successors reap the credit for ROI coming two to five years later.

The primary ROI gains, according to Gartner, came from two factors: first, both the tools and training costs were "lower-than-expected," second, productivity, once the team was trained and using the tools, was "higher-than-expected." Gartner doesn’t endorse any vendor’s tool and says the productivity was directly attributable to ARAD’s reusable frameworks and other components such as EJBs in J2EE projects.

The study concludes: "Based on study feedback and other empirical data, the productivity numbers reported in the study appear to be relatively consistent across ARAD tools. In other words, successful reuse is more important to maximizing ROI than the technology selected."

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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