Looking to a Fuller future

Dale Fuller, president and chief executive of Borland Software, has been with the company since 1999.

Dale Fuller, president and chief executive of Borland Software, has been with the company since 1999.

Borland's recent application lifecycle management (ALM) product has reflected its attempts to provide a strategy for a unified, manufacturing-like structure for software development projects. Fuller spoke to Paul Krill at the BorCon conference last week.

Borland is in both the Java and .net markets. Who do you see winning that battle?

Java, or the n-tier architecture, has been leading the charge in conversion of the enterprise-level software and taking that into the next level. .net is clearly going to lead in the world of the desktops. The desktop is owned by Microsoft, in the real world.

We know that NT servers are one of the largest server bases in the marketplace too, so you're seeing the mid-tier in a lot of departmental servers and those are running NT, which is going to be running .net in the very near future. What that really means in the enterprise world is that there's a ton of both [Java and .net], and then there's the third angle, which is the legacy [systems]. 

So really you have three environments that we have to really [work at]. And to say that one's leading the other depends on your perspective.

It's like the blind men around the elephant describing it: one's holding the tail, one's holding the trunk, one's holding the leg, and they describe it all differently, but it's the same elephant.

Do you have more JBuilder users or Delphi users? 

Delphi goes back seven, eight years, so today we still have more Delphi users than JBuilder users. It's probably closing in on 50-50. If you add the C++ users in there, then the [number of] C++ and Delphi users [is] much bigger than the JBuilder users.

We have well over 1.5 million JBuilder users in the marketplace today. But again, JBuilder's been around for four years - Delphi's been around [longer]. 

Asked whether the multiplicity of standards was making web services too complex, Fuller replied that web services introduce a new set of problems for IT managers, and it had become confusing for users.

How much interest have your customers shown in web services? 

Everyone likes to talk about it but I don't think anyone can really define web services. It's so big. It's not clear what it means. What it means to Bank of America is totally different than what it means to Porsche or to Boeing.  

Are you hearing a lot from your customers about how different divisions of the company don't have their goals lined up? 

More than 50% of all IT budget [spending] over the past 20 years has been counterproductive. Because projects have not been completed or projects [were] not completed according to what the business value is. There has never been an interconnect between the business value except at the very beginning,

This is the research that has been done by Gartner and other people. From an industry perspective or from a skill set, we have not implemented any of the processes and controls that have been implemented in every other sector in the marketplace. 

There has been a lot of talk about outsourcing and the impact on the economy. Do you think the volume of outsourcing to India and China has been overstated? 

In business, costs will always go to wherever the lowest cost is. If it was on the moon, on Mars, we're always going to find the lowest cost avenue to deliver something.

We saw it with automobiles, we saw it with steel, we saw it with lumber. Computers and software are going to follow suit. And [there are] a lot of skill sets in other parts of the world that people are going to [use to win business]. 

It makes good business sense. But as we found out 20 years ago when we started outsourcing manufacturing to Japan and Taiwan, it created more problems. The communication, the collaboration, what's being built, when's it coming, inventory controls, the management, the quality, all these things started becoming a big issue.

So we created these new types of processes, [such as] manufacturer resource planning and that evolved into ERP systems that allowed me to manage the business all the way to the manufacturing floor. That evolved into design-to-build, so you knew exactly what you were designing for and how to build it on the other end. So you had a full cycle, basically product lifecycle management.

We are calling it ALM because that same principle and discipline needs to be assigned and applied to the way we build software. For us to think that we don't need that is pretty ridiculous. It has been proven that we waste a lot of money. 

Quite a lot is known about the Themis package, but not really much on Hyperion and Prometheus. What kind of products are going to be in there? 

What we're trying to do with Themis is really a role-based look from a business perspective at what's going on in IT: how do I see things? How do I make decisions based on what's happening within this whole group of different projects? What's the right thing? What's the most profitable thing? 

Prometheus is all about predictability and management of what I'm doing; how do I manage all these things together? What's flagging me? What's the dashboard to tell me the health and well-being of my IT assets? 

Hyperion is portfolio management of the overall architecture. Not just the architecture, but my whole organisation. How do I know of all my assets - what's working, what's not working, what's making me money, what's not making my money? And then what do I do about it? If a new opportunity exists, do I pull people off a project that's not making money and I apply them to a project that will? 

At the same time, as we're building these technologies out, we're going to continue to build out our ALM technologies. So we're already seeing all the integration.

We can cut off two-thirds of the development cycle and produce products a lot faster, a lot more seamlessly, and that's really what the whole ALM strategy is about.

Paul Krill writes for Infoworld

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