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Blu Age at EclipseCon: On agile, an agile project, reverse engineering

On the eve of EclipseCon in Santa Clara, CA, which opened today, I interviewed NetFective Technology Group president Christian Champagne about agile adoption and legacy application reverse engineering, as well as a legacy app makeover that Blu Age Corp., a NetFective offshoot, helped a company do.

Today at EclipseCon, Blu Age introduced new tools — Blu Age Reverse Modeling and Blu Age Modernization –- to its product suite for reverse modeling and re-engineering legacy enterprise applications. These products complement existing modules, Blu Age Build and Deliver, and together they make up a platform for transforming existing code and data into UML 2 models independent from their original technological platform and according to the Object Management Group’s Model Driven Architecture (MDA) standards.

In our interview, Champagne said that there is about an even split between waterfall and agile model users today, but he sees more and more waterfall users evaluating agile. Just as the economic downturn spurred IT managers to use virtualization to consolidate servers, he said, development groups are turning to agile “to become far more efficient, not only for a better return, but to keep their job or survive as a company.”

Champagne sees agile’s iterative development model as the cornerstone to implementing more effective software testing and quality assurance (QA) processes. At each iteration, testing and QA ensures that expected business needs are properly covered, and the next step or iteration of development isn’t started without full acceptance of the current one.

“What is important is that users directly approved the application during the development phase and not when development is almost finished and the budget already consumed,” Champagne said.

Champagne described a recent project in which a Blu Age team helped a company move a legacy application’s existing code and data into UML 2 models. The primary project goal was modernizing the application and enabling use of the agile process for reverse modeling. The company didn’t have an out-of-box software package able to modernize the application to meet all functional and architectural requests. After evaluating several options, the company chose to do PIM extraction with Blu Age’s MDA workbench.

The project’s biggest challenge was changing the mindset of IT and business people.

IT people have to admit that techniques and standards can automate 90% of their traditional activities except the value added ones, like enterprise architecture. Business people must admit that they have to be responsible for the application they ask to be developed. Automated and instantaneous model transformations with agile put business people direct in front of their needs, and they could not anymore claim against IT for bad delivery. Both must admit that they have to work together but both must manage acceleration of application development deliveries.

Once everyone was on board, the project moved forward quickly. The result, said Champagne, is “simplified project deployment, mainly due to the fact that agile and iterative AD facilitate end-user acceptance and increase functional accuracy of business-oriented applications.” Project delivery time was cut 50%.

This project spurred the company to move from waterfall to agile development overall. “At this stage, 60% of their new devs are agile, whatever the size — 300 Man/days up to 3000 Man/days,” Champagne said.

Looking ahead at trends in development in general, Champagne foresees growing usage of powerful but simple-to-use languages like PHP5, as well as automated software packages that can handled complex business needs with SOA (service-oriented architecture), Web services or RIA (rich Internet applications). Overall, he sees developers changing their ways of working and their roles in projects as iterative development is widely adopted.

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