Mylyn-Based Tasktop Sync Aims To Bring Together Agile ALM

Most enterprise software developers working in organizations that have adopted Agile today are dealing with heterogeneous ALM environments that mix and match solutions from different vendors and open source projects. That's a real problem for companies with more than a few developers, says Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies, because this increasingly commonplace mix of tools creates a disconnect between development, QA and management.

"Often when we walk into large organizations and ask them what their ALM stack is like, they say, it's like a bottle of Heinz 57; it's got everything in it," Kersten said. "Heterogeneous ALM stacks are now the norm, and the result is problems with communication and a critical lack of traceability across the software lifecycle... And it just drives developers crazy."

Kersten's company released a new product this week designed to eliminate that disconnect by allowing IT organizations to synchronize existing ALM servers from multiple vendors and open source projects. The new Tasktop Sync builds on the company's Eclipse Mylyn-based technology to provide, as the company puts it, "real-time ALM server synchronization to unify and connect heterogeneous technologies with development and IT operations teams that are scaling Agile methods in the enterprise."

Essentially, it's a server-based system for federating tasks. The result is that each stakeholder has access to the data they need within their tool of choice, even if that data resides somewhere between requirements management, Agile development and traditional quality management systems. Featured highlighted in the company release include real-time synchronization (parallel execution and under one second time in queue per sync item with standard server specs; automated and configurable conflict resolution; visual administrator tools for synchronization mapping design and performance monitoring; and support for all artifact types, including tasks, work items, defects, requirements and tests.

Tasktop is launched Tasktop Sync at the Agile 2011 Conference, under way this week in Salt Lake City. The new offering provides real-time synchronization, automatic and configuration-conflict resolution, Kersten told attendees, and support for the tracking and reporting facilities in more than two dozen ALM tools.

"Especially in large organizations, there are these enormous black holes between the different tools," Kersten told in a pre-conference interview. "The Agile development tool can't see into the defect management tool, or the requirements management tool or project and portfolio management tools. It's totally different if you're doing Scrum around the way it was originally architected around small, self-organized teams of testers and so on. But it totally breaks down at scale, when you have a thousand testers and two thousand developers, and their tools do not talk to each other."

Kersten has been trying to bridge those black holes with Mylyn in one way and another since he developed the Java-based, task-focused interface during his graduate studies at the University of British Columbia in 2004. He contributed Mylyn to the Eclipse community, and it has become the de facto ALM interoperability framework.

"We've really made our mark by focusing on bringing this heterogeneous ALM stack onto the developers' desktops so they can be productive, no matter what weird collection of tools they're using," Kersten said. "We've focused on giving them some semblance of sanity when working with those stacks."

Tasktop's products provide developers with "an integrated ALM experience" within the IDE, the company says. Its product line is currently integrated with more than 60 ALM tools. Tasktop Sync adds the server-side piece to complement a suite of desktop tools and integrations that the company now calls Tasktop Dev. The latest release of that suite builds on the Eclipse Indigo release of Mylyn 3.6.

Tasktop Sync is available now.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].