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Model-driven development tool facilitates software development

Skyway Visual Workspace 5.0, a new graphical system for creating SOA-based applications and Web services, uses an automated, model-driven development (MDD) process to speed up and improve software development.

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is encumbered with time, budget and communication restrictions. Aiming to loosen these restrictions is application development vendor Skyway Software. This week, Skyway released Skyway Visual Workspace 5.0, an upgraded graphical system for creating SOA-based applications and Web services.

At its core, Visual Workspace obviates the need to write code. A user creates a model and the code is automatically generated by the tool in real time. This unique automated approach to model-driven development (MDD) and deployment is referred to as "M3D" by Skyway.

The meat of Skyway Visual Workspace, is how do I build complex business logic without writing any code?
Jared Rodriguez
CTO and founderSkyway Software, Inc.

"The meat of Skyway Visual Workspace is, how do I build complex business logic without writing any code?" said Jared Rodriguez, CTO and founder of Skyway. "Of our existing customers, very few are hard-core Java engineers."

Rodriguez recalled a set of customers who had a limited coding background in Domino but were able to write Java applications using the Skyway platform. "In a week, people with no experience but Domino were writing Java-rich Web applications," he said.

Now that the newest version of Visual Workspace supports Ajax, customers can "give models rich client activity without having to write script in XML," Rodriguez said.

Speeding up the SDLC
Improving the SDLC for businesses is the goal of Skyway's product. Visual Workspace aims to slash development time and costs and allow distributed teams to communicate easily with each other.

"We have pretty strong beliefs about the software development life cycle," said Skyway president and CEO Sean Walsh. Visual Workspace, he said, is designed to deliver a business solution accurately and rapidly.

As is stands now, the typical SDLC is "highly dysfunctional," continued Walsh. "How many IT projects fail? How many go over budget or don't achieve the functionality they want?"

There are no throwaway prototypes with Visual Workspace because the models generate real code. "More than half of the construction is already done by the end of prototyping," he added.

The development process is generally two or three times faster when a customer first uses Visual Workspace, according to Rodriguez. He has, however, seen clients accelerate to 10 times their normal production time.

Communication among development team and customers
Rodriguez and Walsh praise their product for fostering communication among development team members and clients. Those on the development team can use the system as a common workspace, no matter their location. And because the platform creates models so quickly, interactive prototyping with clients and developers is greatly improved.

Development methods like the waterfall model and the Rational Unified Process (RUP) "build up huge requirements documents and try to answer all the questions yet never even come close," Walsh said.

One of the biggest problems in software development today is the customer's lack of involvement in shaping the product, he added. "You want to spend as much time in the analysis and design phase to make sure that what you build is what is wanted," Walsh said. Interactive prototyping with customers could lead to better requirements and a shorter, more productive requirements gathering phase.

Using Visual Workspace, developers can show customers a demonstration of a functioning application. "I can very quickly make changes as a business user is sitting next to me," Rodriguez said.

An obvious concern with Visual Workspace is security. Few companies are fully committed to integrating security into the SDLC as it is. In a rapid, automated environment such as this, a finished product could come out more secure or -- considerably less so.

However, security measures have been built into the product, including write-protection, which was added in this latest version, Rodriguez said. Users have to be authorized before running a model. Security also can be broke down layer by layer, and users can impose security checks. The WS-Security standard is supported by the product.

In addition, a validator and a debugger work to eliminate errors in the business logic.

Still, both Rodriguez and Walsh said the same security issues found in software development apply when using Visual Workspace. Companies must still consider security in all phases of development, including requirements, design and testing.

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