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Distant Early Warning

What have the Canadian rock band Rush, Soviet Cold War bombers and open Application Lifecycle Management got in common? Answer: Distant Early Warning Systems.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

What have the Canadian rock band Rush, Soviet Cold War bombers and open Application Lifecycle Management got in common? Answer: Distant Early Warning Systems.

Rush’s Distant Early Warning was part of the soundtrack to my youth. Soviet Cold War bombers were tracked along a line from Alaska to Greenland known as the Distant Early Warning Line… and ALM vendors are using the concept of a distant early warning system as the latest ‘fix-it’ tool to keep software development projects in check.

Given the granularity at which the application cycle can now be monitored and measured, along with the abundance of vendors selling toolkits and management ‘solutions’ – a new strain of developer warning systems was perhaps inevitable. Whether they are any different from any other tool focused on iterative version control or project assessment is, perhaps, the big question.

But I fear that if I mention Telelogic (or straight IBM if you prefer), Micro Focus, Borland, Serena or any other vendor’s strategy in this zone it’s going to just be a case of the old… “matching real business goals to IT project management” story again.

Borland and IBM, for their part, have been visibly aligning even closer to Agile development methodologies and this they say allows them to distill more ‘real world’ input into the products they punt out. ALM that addresses ‘real’ (there’s that word again) key code metrics and/or checks for standards compliance must I suppose be essentially more ‘empirical’ in nature – so perhaps better suited to providing a warning alert that development managers might actually take heed of.

After all, we all tend to ignore fire alarms don’t we?

Distant early warning ALM systems then need to be credible if they are to be taken seriously. This is palpably clear. I wanted to find an analyst’s observation on this subject. But most comment seems, like mine, to be similarly stuck in the ‘stating the blindingly obvious’ category i.e. “release readiness strategies to remove software development defects is important” – and the like.

Due deference then to Borland whose TeamInspector product got me going on this topic in the first place. The company says that its next release is shipping with automated inspectors that gather and aggregate key readiness metrics from an array of developer test utilities, static code analysis and build tools as part of the continuous build and integration process. Today, TeamInspector includes inspectors for Ant, NAnt, Checkstyle, Emma, JUnit and NUnit.

So where horn rim bespectacled engineers used to track Soviet Cold War bombers on green screen displays in starched white shirts with biros in their top pockets … ALM project managers can be sat in jeans and T-shirts using an actionable dashboard that displays real time and trend information across the whole development shop.

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