In between the martinis and the golf at the Sybase Classic we attended recently, we were also reintroduced to Sybase's PowerDesigner, which we've rather overlooked before. This is probably because we get distracted by PowerBuilder, which is a worthy enough 4GL kind of thing, with a loyal but fairly static user base. Sybase continues to support PowerBuilder but it probably isn't attracting many new customers.
PowerDesigner is different and does attract new players. As you might expect, it is strong in the data analysis and database definition area (although by no means limited to Sybase databases - it supports a rich metadata set for conceptual and logical modelling, which is, of course, database independent. What we hadn't realised was its strength in the business modelling and systems architecture arena and coming support (in the next release) for architecture frameworks such as Zachman and TOGAF.
This is an exciting development as IDEs (integrated development environments) and coding are pretty much covered with Eclipse and all the rest, according to Dimitri Gilles Volkmann, Director, Tools Product Management at Sybase Worldwide Marketing; but architectural modelling, and the alignment of automation with business need, is increasing in importance. In other words, despite accusations of late, over-budget and wrong", programmers mostly do a good job of writing code to solve a problem; the issue is, that the problem it solves often isn't exactly the problem the business has...
Now that productive IDEs make writing code pretty efficient, attention is turning towards making sure it's the right code that gets written so efficiently - and business and architectural modelling can help, as long as it is integrated with the rest of the development environment. There isn't a huge choice of architectural modelling tools around - System Architect from Telelogic/IBM comes to mind - and we've seen some of what's coming on the PowerDesigner roadmap (an API into the metadata repository for one thing) and think that the next PowerDesigner should be a strong player, probably competing with new Jazz-based tools from IBM that we haven't seen yet (and which won't achieve the "provenance" of PowerDesigner for some time).