Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) users will become the first large community of developers to experience a version of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) that has been streamlined to bring consistent application development processes to a "mass market".
Ivar Jacobson Consulting (IJC) has customized its Essential Unified Process (Essential UP) to work with the Microsoft Solutions Framework and will be integrated with VSTS. ICJ has also joined Microsoft's Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program.
IJC is home to Ivar Jacobson, co-creator of the RUP development methodology used by thousands IBM/Rational programmers - including IBM's massive Global Services operation. Jacobson, IJC founder and co-chairman, joined Rational when his start-up company Objectory was acquired by Rational Software in 1995.
RUP is an object-oriented methodology that defines stages and best practices required during the application development process, and that is delivered through things like tools and manuals.
Problem is, RUP is complicated. Jacobson estimates the RUP manual starts at around 1,500 pages, while the Essential UP guide runs to just 200. That level of complexity has drowned users with features, making it difficult to use and to modify.
Yet a process-based approach to development is vital to ensure applications are built properly and can be extended and updated on an on-going basis.
Jacobson told The Register that Essential UP provides a lightweight approach to tackle this. "We get better and better tools that support process, they support patterns of development software that result in what we call good software.
"For me, good software - apart from a low number of defects - is software that meets the businesses needs and that can change for ever. We don't want software that we have to replace every couple of years."
That sits nicely with Microsoft's own vision for VSTS and the related Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI). Microsoft wants Windows systems to be self-healing and easy to develop and mange - hence DSI. VSTS is a vital to DSI because it provides a platform of integrated tools that make it easier for developers to build and mange applications.
Microsoft believes the kinds of tools that have delivered similar ALM capabilities, such as those based on RUP from IBM/Rational, have been too complicated for the mass market of developers to really find useful or to accept.
Jacobson backs Microsoft: "I knew when we did RUP it wouldn't be able to reach more than 10 to 20 per cent of the [developer] population. We are making a fresh start... we want to make [Essential UP] super light and agile."
Essential UP uses just five of RUP's core concepts - components, models, iterative and incremental development, application architecture and use cases.
Use cases, for example, have been simplified through introduction of Aspect Oriented Programming, which allows developers to insert features into an application's framework as a module, instead of coding a single monolithic application. That speeds development and cuts down on an application's complexity.
20:80 crops up again
Architecting an application is also simplified because Essential UP uses just a subset of the Unified Modeling Language (UML), the preferred choice of IBM/Rational and other ALM providers for drawing the blueprints of applications. Jacobson believes most developers need only 20 per cent of the capabilities contained in UML, a fact that means the other 80 per cent just get in the way.
"Architecting an application in RUP is very complex. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just hard to learn. We have simplified it and made it more extensible," he said.
VSTS is Essential UP's first port of call, and Jacobson plans to make his methodology available for Java during 2006.
In the long-term, Jacobson is devising a set of intelligent agents that would do away with the need for offline documentation, and would tell programmers what steps they need to take during each step of development and when they need to take them.
Intelligent agents would also help automate an estimated 80 per cent of the repetitive tasks associated with application programming, mandated by other processes-based methodologies such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) from the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, Jacobson said.®