Innovate2011 – Fytte the 3rd, Keeping legacy going

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Content Copyright © 2011 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

Well, I’m back in the UK now and as I said in my last Fytte I was impressed by OSLC and IBM’s Jazz platform and its power as an open basis for collaboration between tools, not necessarily all from IBM. I hope it begins to extend outside the IBM Ecosystem (it could be fully open and not controlled by IBM yet only taken up by the community of IBM customers) but that’s something for the future. If it remains within the IBM Ecosytem, it’ll still be useful, of course, but perhaps not as exciting as it could be when we move into a services-oriented world, where the business just cares about buying SLAs and about its relationships with service providers; rather than about who makes the technology underneath

Nevertheless, I’m also aware of another issue which will affect large companies. In my experience, most large companies are acutely aware that they currently serve their customers adequately and any sort of change introduces a risk that service levels will decline for a while as “the changes bed in” (an IT euphemism for “as we fix the things we overlooked or got wrong”), and this has a “reputation risk” impact on top of any short term revenue and cost impact.

So, if a large company is currently working with IBM’s “legacy” tools such as ClearCase and ClearQuest, it really isn’t going to want to rush into adopting the new Jazz tools even if, as Tamir Gefen, CEO of GoMidjets confirms, IBM’s new generation of development tools – RTC and Jazz platform-offers significant advantages over ClearCase and ClearQuest in support for agile development, better collaboration, and more visibility and control of R&D information”.

ClearQuest and ClearCase are mature tools, suitable for “heavy lifting” in large organisations and even if the new tools can cope with the scale and complexities the older tools are proven to cope with (which is moot, as yet), replacing the old environment with a new one will incur migration costs. These may stop you achieving a real ROI from your new tools in a sensible time-frame even if they are cheaper to run and more agile in absolute terms. Migration will require a strong business case, not just a technology one, probably on the back of business innovation in areas such as self-service cloud computing

If, as Gefen says, “many organizations are reluctant to migrate at the moment for varying reasons, such as the cost of migration and the lack of trained personnel, while many are simply wary of committing to new systems and technology”, then we need to keep the old tried-and-tested tools going for a but longer. As Gefen points out, “one approach to an interim solution is to add capabilities to ClearCase through add-on solutions provided by IBM partners. For example, organizations can enjoy a better support for Agile methodology on their existing ClearCase platform without a complete overhaul of their IT resources using GoMidjets products such as ClearEnv for central management of different end-user ClearCase environments and CompBL (probably soon to be renamed “R&D Reporter”) for the provision of visibility into the status of Unified Change Management projects. Looking forward, we believe that organizations will eventually adopt IBM’s new products, but from what we see in the market, they prefer to choose a convenient time rather than be rushed into such major changes.”

I think that last point is key-even people large organisations are not as resistant to change as is sometimes thought (although they are usually acutely aware of the overheads and risks of the change process) but, like all of us, they hate being changed. In other words, they want to change at their convenience, not their vendors’ convenience. And, in a large organisation, they have the power (sometimes) to resist their vendor (something that people in SMEs signing up with a large vendor’s technology vision might want to think about).

What the GoMidjet add-ons actually provide are the sort of stakeholder views, health checks and continuity capabilities that you really need if your production systems are dependent on a repository spanning test, maintenance and production environment. ClearCheck, for example provides a healthcheck for a ClearCase infrastructure; if you lose ClearCase and ClearQuest (which are, in essentials, just specialised DBMSs), then you may lose the ability to respond to a business or regulatory change in a timely way-or the ability to address production issues. So, I hope that IBM is analysing the functionality of the GoMidjets add-ons and perhaps commissioning equivalent utilities for its Jazz tools-to be built in from the get-go. In a real sense, your development and testing environment is also (linked by Build) a production environment, so it needs real assurance of resilience and integrity…