Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SCM Best of breed for embedded software development?

The "Forrester Wave(tm): Process-Centric Software Configuration Management, Q4 2005" [PDF] reports in its overall conclusion:

IBM Rational ClearCase is both the strongest overall solution as well as the most widely used.
Although this may be true for corporate IT shops, I doubt that it is true for shops developing products with embedded software. The reports states about Telelogic's Synergy that it
has always been strongest among telecommunications, automotive, and aerospace and definese companies building products with embedded software.
Although it does not say that IBM does not focus on this area, it is my experience in the field and in communication with people of IBM that they don't.

In the technology markets - which include product development with embedded software and component development for multiple disciplinaries (software, hardware, mechanical, electrical, (nano)optical, etc.) - projects have some specific challenges that are quite different from the corporate IT projects, such as:
  • Exponential growth of consumer products and professional products with embedded software
  • Exponential growth of volume and complexity of embedded software
  • Excessive pressure on costs (price), quality (safety, health and security), and the time-to-market
  • Extreme competitiveness on new products and new features
  • Increasing demands for integration and connectivity between heterogenous products
This brings on increased demands for the configuration management solution, for example:
  • Transparant integration of within product lines and across product lines for different application domains (e.g. medical equipment and telecommunication), with different and evolving architectures, different CM policies/strategies and different product lifecycles
  • Integration, collaboration and seamless bilateral exchange of data and assets across different organizations crossing company borders, not only as sub-contractor but also as partnerships, with appropriate protection of IP (Intellectual Property) and proprietary information and assets.
  • Sharing through open-source and inner-source (i.e. open-source approach within an intranet) of components with appropriate CM control.
  • Integration or interconnection for CM solutions of multiple vendors
In my experience, there are no tool vendors that seriously dive into these issues, not from a methodological angle nor from a technological perspective. These are challenges that are less likely to emerge for corporate IT solution than for product development. The Forrester report shows that IBM has the highest scores on R&D (5.00) and Product strategy (3.68), but the report does not take any of the above considerations into account for the evaluation.

Nevertheless, these are the challenges that product development companies will have to face somewhere in the future to survive the competition (or to collaborate with the competition and partners). It will require overcoming methodological (process definition) and technological (tool implementation) barriers. And since it involve collaboration with other parties across the boundaries of corporate responsibilities and authority, I seriously doubt those companies will succeed on their own.
But if they must, I think they will use a low-cost, possibly open-source CM solution (e.g. Subversion) as platform to jump off, unless a commercial CM tool offers the methodological and technological CM solution out-of-the-box.

IBM has the best cards on R&D and Product Strategy, but has no focus on this issue. Telelogic has the best focus, but doesn't do much on R&D. The Open-Source community (e.g. Subversion) has the best availability, price and simplicity, but lacks the necessary product characteristics (e.g. process support).
Which way it will go, I don't know. But my expectation is that the growth on product development will exceed that of corporate IT solutions, e-marketing and webdevelopment, and that IBM will lose the battle of "best of breed" with ClearCase if they don't jump in.

See also the discussion Will IBM Replace ClearCase with a New Product on CmCrossroads.

Update 14/4/2007:
Added labels.


Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

A CC consultant I know shot me this YouTube video today and I just had to share with someone who knows Clearcase. It's a hoot, and the third I've seen to date. Enjoy.



Embedded Software Engineer said...

Ah… that’s an amusing article.