Openmake Leads Charge for Enterprise Build Management

Enterprise build management is an industry buzzword today, but back in 1995, when Tracy Ragan and Steve Taylor recognized the need for a commercial enterprise build management tool, no one was talking about it.

"We were under everybody's radar," says Ragan, who is the company's CEO (Taylor is the CTO). "We were just a couple of developers trying to figure out how to run a company."

That company, Catalyst Systems, is now on the leading edge of a fast-spreading trend. Matt Gabor, the company's senior developer, has called build management "the hub around which all stages of an application's lifecycle revolve."

“Next to documentation, build management is likely to be the least satisfying task a developer must address every day," says Gartner analyst Jim Duggan. "A lot of software investment ends up in the time it takes to constantly tweak the make files needed to keep a system maintainable. Developers are looking for innovative solutions that will reduce software coding by a factor of five.”

Catalyst's flagship offering, Openmake, is an automated build management tool, originally based on make, the world's oldest and best-known build tool. Created by Dr. Stuart I. Feldman in 1977 at Bell Labs, make automates the compilation of programs whose files are dependent on each other.

Catalyst's first Openmake tool generated makefiles, freeing developers from that tedious job. But it wasn't long before Catalyst's customers began asking for features the company couldn't provide with standard make, says Ragan, things like clean bill of material reports, clean incremental builds, and impact analysis.

"There are just some limitations in the way make generates dependencies that we had to kind of give up on," she says. "So we built our own engine to replace make, and now we generate what we call build control files, and we opened ourselves up to be able to build any kind of object our build control files could execute."

Catalyst recently released the 6.4 version of Openmake. Release 6.4 incorporates new features for project build activity scheduling and tracking, reporting tools for knowledge-base metrics analysis, and added support for IBM- and Eclipse-based software development and PERL environments. Openmake 6.4 is designed to support developers by managing complex build tasks from project birth to maturity, all in a production-ready environment.

New features in Openmake 6.4 include a Build and Deploy Manager, Build Activity Schedule, and enhanced Audit Reporting. The biggest of these, says Ragan, is the Build Manager, a real-time build monitor that the developer can have running and watching builds as they are occurring across the enterprise.

"We would never have thought anyone would need such a thing," Ragan says, "but a group of developers who call themselves 'agile' or 'continuous' developers needed it. They run builds all the time. When they check in a file, they kick off a build. When they make a change, they kick off a build. They are constantly doing this kind of remote building and local building, and they want to be able to monitor all of these builds running everywhere."

Openmake 6.4 replaces difficult-to-manage make and Ant/XML scripts with generated Build Control Files that follow comprehensive construction rules. This approach is particularly valuable, says Ragan, as the number and complexity of build target objects grows. Scheduled, coordinated Openmake builds systematically prepare all types of build target objects. Openmake is designed to locally and remotely build components destined for a variety of deployment platforms, including embedded devices, handhelds, workstations and servers.

One byproduct of the growing interest in enterprise build management is an expanding field of competitors. Ragan actually sounds sincere when she says that she and her colleagues at Catalyst Systems are happy about this development.

"It validates what we've been saying all along," she says.

Openmake 6.4 is available, with prices starting at $300 per developer seat. For more information, go to:

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].