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Borland Makes Strong Push for .NET, Java

Borland took its quest for application lifecycle management (ALM) to another level with the introduction of the latest version of its Delphi development environment that the company claims is tightly wound with Microsoft's .NET platform.

The Scotts Valley, Calif. company made the announcements Monday at BorCon, its 14th annual users conference, where it also unveiled a new technology to facilitate model-driven application creation through .NET, as well as the most integrated version of its enterprise programming environment for Java.

Promising more than just a buzz-phrase, Borland is banking on delivering developers a complete ALM method to create software applications for their preferred .NET and Java platforms at a time when tools development is at a fever pitch. Akin to how information lifecycle management (ILM) guides data from cradle to grave, ALM provides a method to manage application development through visualization, modeling, designing, coding development, testing and maintenance.

Borland has one major competitor in the independent tools space -- Rational, which operates as a division of its acquirer IBM. Both Borland and Rational are intent on staking new ground in the ALM space.

According to Simon Thornhill, vice president and general manager of .NET solutions at Borland, Delphi 8 is the answer to developers' requests to migrate from Windows 32-bit platform development to .NET. It features an extensible component library to grant programmers the ability to create applications and ferry them along to third-part component builders and helps organizations describe applications in terms of business models.

Noting that analysts have been saying there will be a major transition to the .NET platform in 2004, Thornhill told internetnews.com the Delphi 8 compiler can generate the Microsoft Common Intermediate Language to make applications components 100 percent .NET. Because so many developers are already fluent in the Delphi language, they can create Web applications using ASP.NET, Web forms and Web services.

And because 80 percent of the applications for .NET are created for the database, Borland bundles its Borland Data Provider for fast data access with Delphi 8. "Delphi 8 allows those interested in moving to .NET to do so and feel immediately comfortable. It's a seamless transition from Win32."

Thornhill said Delphi 8's promise is made possible by a new technology the company calls Enterprise Core Object, or ECO, which is used to generate application development automatically and describes an applications' business functions.

Meta Group analyst Thomas Murphy said Borland's work in applications development is solid, but cautioned that the company has to take care how its spreads its ALM message. This is crucial because it is affecting sales, he said.

"Delphi users will be up for Delphi but I think the key issue is going to be the messaging around ALM," Murphy told intenretnews.com. "They really have to nail what this means, show it in demos and illustrate how this will bring strong productivity to developers. I think they have made great strides on product integrations with the common platform and plugging in their various assets to the IDE. This is the common thread to ECO, Delphi, etc. I feel however that they are still challenged in articulating what all this stuff means."

Not be outdone, executives in Borland's Java tools development group will also announce some product advancement.

George Paolini, vice president and general manager of Java solutions, said Enterprise Studio Java 7 features an "unprecedented level of integration with the Java" language. What started out as an environment for text editing debugging, compiling has evolved over the years to a full ALM process with visualization, modeling, designing, coding development, testing and maintenance, Paolini said.

One of the vital features about ALM, Paolini told internetnews.com is that Borland's development environments require far less hand coding than they ever did because application creation is automated. This concept paves the way for Web services applications that may be piped automatically to users.

Why ALM? Paolini said ALM has become essential to the products Borland provides to the developer community because of the wholesale cost-cutting companies have been taking up. Nary a company dares whisper the "rip-and-replace" mantra because it is costly, instead opting to rework code and build it out to scale for necessary IT projects.

Over the last two to three years, many companies really tightened the reigns on infrastructure spending," Paolini said. "They look for ways to cut costs. IT organizations don't have the control they had in the boom days. Everyone has really reached a much higher level of scrutiny and as a result they are looking much more holistically at application development and the costs associated with it. It's no longer as simple as building it and putting it on the intranet. They need to articulate the need for applications and follow a clear sets of requirements. It's a painful iterative process."

Still, Murphy, said, Borland needs to sharpen its ALM focus.

"They have the big picture ALM but they don't always have clear examples and verbs around each piece," he said. "This is a big part of why they are having troubles executing on sales right now. I don't think it is just the individuals in sales not "knowing how to sell systems/enterprise". I bet a lot of them could sell it if it was packaged and marketed well. Thus, I look at the fundamental issue being a product management issue. Coming into the conference I am not sure that they have solved this but it will take time and there are some positive signs. So, technically they are getting things together, building cool new features and functions and their core developer audience will like that. From an investment perspective most people will be skeptical."

As for the small segment of true competition, Borland believes it has the upper hand in its fight for Rational, Thornhill and Paolini said, because the company sees IBM shying away from .NET to focus more on spreading the gospel of Java, which their software is written in.