A Recap of the Last Decade of Configuration Management


In his CM: the Next Generation series, Joe Farah gives us a glimpse into the trends that CM experts will need to tackle and master based upon industry trends and future technology challenges.

Joe Farah looks back at the last ten years to see where CM and ALM has come from and then forward another ten to see where it's going. In some ways, a lot has happened in the past decade, but in other ways, the progress has been painfully slow.

As we begin 2010, we're not just starting a new year, but a whole new decade.  I thought it might be worthwhile, then, to look back at the last ten years to see where CM and ALM has come from and then forward another ten to see where it's going.  In some ways, a lot has happened in the past decade, but in other ways, the progress has been painfully slow.  I would certainly have expected more consolidation of standards and easier to customize tools.  Still, there's a lot that has happened so let's start there.

Key Events of the Decade
A number of events, or non-events, have helped SCM to leave it's mark on the first decade of the millennium.  I suggest a few of them here, and give some insight on each of them.  If you think of some I've missed, let's hear from you:

1. Acquisitions and New Players
2. ALM
3. Seamless Integration
4. Usability
5. Dashboards
6. Process Flow
7. Integrated Repository
8. Little CM Advance

1. Acquisitions and New Players
A significant event of the decade has been acquisitions.  Most notable are the acquisition of both Rational and Telelogic by IBM.  This one has had lots of time to settle in, especially on the Rational side, but it's still not clear what the ultimate SCM/ALM goal is for IBM.  Both acquisitions involved more than just SCM, but how do you consolidate ClearCase and Synergy?  And what of the other acquisitions? Serena acquired Merant, and Micro Focus acquired Borland.

One of the new players, AccuRev, has grabbed a number of converts.  At the same time SubVersion has captured significant Open Source interest.

2. ALM
The continuing expansion of CM scope gave way to recognition of the ALM acronym (Application Lifecycle Management).  One key question is whether or not any of the players can survive without offering full ALM solutions.  ALM is meant to embrace the entire life cycle.  But put a CM tool together with Requirements Management, Test Case Management and Problem Tracking, and you've got the bare minimum to qualify for the ALM acronym.  Some vendors will include Document Management, Project Management, Build and Release Management, Test Result tracking and Deployment functions in their ALM offerings.  Then there's Process/Work Flow management and Change Management. 

There is no real definition of ALM.  In fact, the definition needs to be somewhat application dependent.  Web applications have different life cycle needs than cell phone apps, which are very different from apps for power plants.

But the idea that CM is more than just CM exploded into the 20th century.  The transition is more than functional.  ALM is a backbone business technology, whereas the old CM was a design team aid.  The industry has transitioned.  The technology is still catching up to the transition.

3. Seamless Integration
As ALM catches on, there has been a realization that ALM is not just a merging of a bunch of tools into a suite.  The key is to get the payback of an integrated solution.  Similar administration across all management functions, common process/work flow engines, common repositories and unified user interfaces.  The payback has begun to build.  This is especially obvious in tools such as CM+ and MKS.

The concept of seamless integration goes even one step further.  Not only are the functions together, sharing data, etc., but with seamless integration, you don't even need to know what


About the author

Joe Farah's picture Joe Farah

Joe Farah is the President and CEO of Neuma Technology and is a regular contributor to the CM Journal. Prior to co-founding Neuma in 1990 and directing the development of CM+, Joe was Director of Software Architecture and Technology at Mitel, and in the 1970s a Development Manager at Nortel (Bell-Northern Research) where he developed the Program Library System (PLS) still heavily in use by Nortel's largest projects. A software developer since the late 1960s, Joe holds a B.A.Sc. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. You can contact Joe at farah@neuma.com

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