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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
I’ve covered Uniface a fair bit recently, but I do like high productivity development tools in general and I’ve just spent a couple of days going through the new Uniface with its technical people in Amsterdam and I need to get my thoughts straight. I hate wasting effort, so I may as well blog my thoughts on the new road map as I go.
Now that Uniface is owned by Marlin Equity Partners, it has money to invest—and needs to invest wisely, in order to deliver the growth its new owners expect. According to Aad van Schetsen (President & General Manager) and Adrian Gosbell (Vice President Product Management & Marketing), these new funds can be best used to enable further product/company acquisition, as that is where healthy growth will come from.
The strategy is multi-pronged:
- Bring the Mobile Application capabilities intended for Uniface 10 forwards—there are plenty of potential customers who need to provide mobile capabilities but who’d welcome the idea of concentrating on the business outcome instead of building new technology from scratch (Uniface can capture the basic business model it needs from existing database applications);
- Modernise Uniface so its IDE experience is generally much like that provided by Visual Studio and Eclipse etc.—except where Uniface can provide something demonstrably more advanced;
- Build a stronger partner organisation with global and local partner organisations that want new customers themselves—and which have local knowledge and networks in places like Asia and South America.
That doesn’t mean that Uniface isn’t looking after its existing customers—with user and support groups (and Aad is particularly enthusiastic about building the Uniface University experience, to help address any Uniface skill issues). Nevertheless, although Uniface is acutely aware that many of its customers are running business-critical applications and are sometimes tied into old hardware and corresponding versions of Uniface (Adrian tells war stories about how Uniface can help such customers), I got a strong impression that Uniface is taking the opportunity to review the deployment technologies it supports and really wants to move customers onto supported versions of Uniface. This is partly in order to make innovation easier and partly to get everyone onto consistent and more manageable licensing models. Uniface has always had a very generous approach to supporting older versions being used by existing customers—and this will continue—but, on the other hand, customers shouldn’t just take Uniface for granted.
So, to pick some highlights from the roadmap I saw, internally Uniface is concentrating on quality and simplicity (the two go together). It is turning up the heat on quality and reviewing and tuning its structured approach to development and maintenance of the Uniface product within the Uniface development lab—expect to see a focus on automated testing and continuous delivery (its next-generation automated testing tooling will come from Ranorex). There is a particular interest now in the user experience and the GUI; the next generation versions I saw still had a maturing UI on top of a fully modernised framework, but we had lots of discussions about UI style and features. The Uniface IDE has a strong separation between presentation and business logic and thus has the luxury of being able (and expecting) to refine its UI based on user group feedback from working versions.
Something I don’t have space to comment on is Knowledge Transfer in the Uniface environment. I think this is very important, however; not only so that technical expertise is transferred to new technicians, but also so that business knowledge embodied in the business models for business-critical applications isn’t lost. Models embody HOW rather than just WHAT (code mainly documents just what the system does)—but WHY usually involves some human insight too.
I am also interested to see that Uniface is working on Security Certification, with Veracode application security testing—this is static analysis (dynamic security comes with design, although I think that that needs verifying too). Business-critical systems need a secure computing platform.
Uniface 9.6 was released in December 2012 and this protects existing customers’ investment in ‘classic’ Uniface—it will be maintained until 2018, with currency (i.e., with updates to accommodate new hardware and OS platforms) until 2017 and feature enhancements until 2015.
Uniface 9.7 is an additional release, enabled with Marlin Equity’s funds. It will include new mobile development features and some Web enhancements and additional pieces of functionality, including some brought forward from Uniface 10. Uniface now has a dedicated mobile development team, with new developers (guided by a Uniface “old hand”). Uniface’s “unique selling points” for mobile development are the easy reuse of existing business logic and application data, coupled with Uniface’s well-tested high productivity approach.
Despite the addition of Uniface 9.7 to the roadmap, nothing in the promised v9.6 roadmap has or will change—although there will be some re-branding as a result of Uniface’s business changes. There is still a migration path from Uniface 9.6 to Uniface 10.02 (the first step release of Uniface 10).
Then we have Uniface 10—a new Uniface development experience targeted at new users to start with (to reiterate, the migration path from Uniface 9.6/7 is to the first point release). This has a new IDE, and is itself a showcase, ultra-modern, New Uniface application, developed with Uniface 10. The themes for Uniface 10 are an advanced development environment, agile development, mobile deployment and, later on, cloud deployment. All of which are possible in Uniface 9.6 but not absolutely core to the experience. Uniface 10 is currently being shared with User Groups and Partners; and I’ll no doubt write more about it later.
So, there it is. At Bloor, we are expecting the new Uniface company to make a bit of a noise.