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ALM vendors try to make life easier for software teams, deployments

ALM tool vendors are making progress in addressing the needs of their customers with new tools and improved features that support open source and other commercial offerings. Vendors CollabNet and Rally are in the process of answering developer requests for tooling that has built-in features catering to agile teams as well as improved testing metrics and support.

Ease of use, deeper integration and more management capabilities are common themes among the recent spate of product announcements—both open source and commercial—from application lifecycle management (ALM) and test tool vendors.

Aiming to make the installation, administration and governance of Subversion, an open source configuration management tool, easier, CollabNet recently rolled out CollabNet Subversion Edge, an open-source distribution that combines Subversion, Apache and ViewVC (a Python-based browser interface for CVS and Subversion repositories).

Victoria Griggs, senior director of product marketing at CollabNet, the creator of Subversion, said the intent of Subversion Edge was to address some user issues. "It's easy to download Subversion," she said. "Getting up and running in a Subversion environment is much different."

For example, she said, Subversion runs on Apache, so that would have to be installed. Then for secure communications the organization would set up an SSL and integrate with the corporate LDAP; then they would be configuring permissions against the Subversion repository using files in Apache. Complementary components like ViewVC might then be added, she explained. "So what started as a Subversion download, now [requires you to] gather and install pieces and make sure they work together and are maintained over time."

Subversion installation, administration, security and governance have traditionally been command-line driven, requiring advanced technical skills. CollabNet Subversion Edge provides a GUI, automated configuration and update notifications to ease deployment. "We're lowering the bar in terms of technical know-how," Griggs said. "The big advantage is time. Today, it can take up to an hour if you're savvy to get up and running, but it can take from days to weeks to get everything working together." With Subversion Edge, "you can now be installed and running in minutes."

By offering Subversion Edge, which is intended for a single server, Griggs said the hope is to shorten the gap for getting companies closer to enterprise-style management of their Subversion environment as they grow, and stepping up to CollabNet's broader ALM commercial platform, TeamForge. "If and when people upgrade, we've also made it easy to do so from Subversion Edge," she said.

Subversion Edge is available through an open source license. Users can download the beta now, with general availability expected later this summer.

A close competitor to CollabNet in the agile ALM and project management area is Rally Software, which earlier this month announced Rally Unlimited Edition, a platform that provides real-time status, progress and quality of a company's product portfolio. The ALM platform rolls up the work of distributed teams into program views.

According to Jeff Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research, in the ALM realm a key question now is, "how to manage across teams and get data that lets us know if a team is good or bad, better or worse, and what is the impact of a moving person from one team to another. That's what organizations scaling agile would like to have."

He said the agile community added a good thread to the ALM conversation—"it's not just about tools and processes, but also efficiency, results and people in the process."

Rally Unlimited Edition builds on Rally Enterprise Edition to connect cross-functional delivery teams with test and deployment (through Rally Quality Manager), finance (through Rally Time Tracker), and product management (through Rally Idea Manager and Rally Product Manager), including fully supported integrations with enterprise-class engineering (through Rally Integration Hub) and customer relationship management systems (through Rally Product Manager and Rally Support Manager). Plus, new administration features simplify management of users and projects when working with large Rally deployments.

A new product, Rally Idea Manager is a feedback Web site, powered by on-demand innovation management vendor Brightidea, that lets teams solicit customer feature requests, discuss and rank them, and migrate them into Rally as user stories. Price for Rally Unlimited Edition is $49/user/month delivered as SaaS or on-premise. Rally Idea Manager is also available stand-alone.

Targeting task management in the ALM space is Tasktop Technologies, creator of Eclipse Mylyn, which announced Tasktop Pro 1.7. Tasktop Pro 1.7 builds on the Mylyn 3.4 integration suite for the Eclipse IDE. New and updated integrations include the Tasktop connectors for IBM Rational Team Concert and ClearQuest, ScrumWorks Pro and Bugzilla, and updated connectors are now available for Rally and JIRA. Tasktop also now provides easy installation of the recently released connector for Perforce. The version includes enhancements for Windows 7 and integrations with Twitter. For improved installation, all Tasktop certified connectors can now be installed from the centralized dashboard. Finally, the task list upgrade provides enhanced team awareness and communication when working with large task lists.

Pricing for Tasktop Pro is $99 per user and includes commercial ALM integrations and advanced productivity features. It is available as either an Eclipse IDE plugin or a standalone application. The Tasktop Enterprise edition costs $199 per user and includes enhanced support and additional integration for IBM Rational ClearQuest, ClearCase and Team Concert.

The test front
On the test tools front, Tel Aviv-based Typemock launched a new version of its automated unit testing tool for Microsoft environments, Isolator 2010. The tool, which integrates into Visual Studio and TFS, supports Visual Studio 2010, .NET 4.0 and SharePoint 2010, and maintains support for earlier versions of .NET and Visual Studio. Isolator 2010 provides a unit testing framework and, according to the company, can replicate the behavior of all Microsoft products, including SharePoint, BizTalk, Web services, and ASP.Net, enabling developers to unit test without changing code.

And for its part, Germany-based Gurock Software released TestRail 1.3, a new version of its Web-based test management software. TestRail 1.3 introduces support for custom fields, and comes with an alternative way to enter and manage test case steps. Gurock was founded in 2004, and also offer SmartInspect, a logging tool for debugging and monitoring .NET, Java and Delphi applications.

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