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Helping business tool up for software engineering


An innovative set of tools that enable the use of component-based software engineering (CBSE) in the full lifecycle of applications will soon be at the disposal of small and big business.

Completed in October 2003, the ’software toolbox’ that resulted from the IST project, ECO-ADM, is now in its ’pre-commercial phase’ with the finished product expected to go on sale before the end of this year, according to project coordinator Joan Canal at Centro de Calculo de Sabadell (CCS) in Spain. "ECO-ADM resulted in a set of tools that will allow companies to adopt CBSE more easily, quickly and cost-effectively, combined with a methodology to assist in that adoption and tutorials to create an understanding of how ECO-ADM and CBSE works," he says.

Software design evolves through CBSE

CBSE represents an evolution in software design, allowing the use and re-use of generic components to carry out basic tasks and functions, and thereby avoiding the need for designers to build programs from scratch. These components can be ’ plugged in’ to larger software architectures, creating new programs faster and at lower cost than developing every part of a system anew.

Nonetheless, CBSE, like other software development methods, remains a complex discipline, requiring expert programmers to design, compose, implement and maintain systems. With ECO-ADM, however, all of these processes are simplified, combined into a toolbox that makes maintenance by programmers other than the original designer considerably easier.

"ECO-ADM covers the whole lifecycle of a system from conception to post-implementation maintenance," Canal notes. "Obviously CBSE systems can be designed without ECO-ADM but with the tools it is much easier, cheaper and faster. In addition, with CBSE systems designed from the expertise of a software designer only they hold the knowledge, making maintenance difficult if the designer is external or goes elsewhere."

The ECO-ADM tools provide a methodology for designers to follow when creating a new program, one that can be followed by other programmers charged with maintaining or updating the system. The tools also facilitate the integration of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, permitting software to be kept up to date at minimal cost. And ECO-ADM also overcomes legacy problems by allowing the retention of parts of old systems within the framework of an updated architecture.

Trials highlight the benefits

Three case studies carried out by trial end-users of the ECO-ADM tools prove the enormous benefits of this approach to CBSE.

With transport group DHL the tools were used in the development of a TrackerSystem to trace cargo shipments. Compared to traditional development processes, ECO-ADM showed an 800 per cent reduction in the time used to produce the system from four days to half a day. Similarly, at systems integrator Eidos, it took 25 per cent less time to develop a components-based software program with the tools, and also resulted in a 30 per cent cost reduction while slashing the number of errors, or bugs, in half. And at Engineering-Ingegneria Informatica financial savings for the development of each component were estimated at 1,500 euros.

"DHL used ECO-ADM to assist in the migration of older software to new systems... EIDOS was interested in having a toolbox that they could use to facilitate the design of CBSE software systems and in doing so increase productivity and reduce costs... and Engineering used the tools to advance their software solutions," Canal notes. "The case studies show why ECO-ADM is such an important development for companies seeking to upgrade their systems, implement new software and maintain it in working order."

Especially beneficial to SMEs

Perhaps more than for any other sector, these benefits are especially important for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which to remain competitive need to keep their software systems up-to-date but often cannot afford the financial costs or time involved in developing new programs to meet their frequently changing needs.

"ECO-ADM is a very important development for SMEs who, unlike large companies, do not normally have the resources to create new specific software or have it created for them," Canal explains. "With ECO-ADM it is easy for companies to integrate internal as well as external components, and for these to be maintained or upgraded in the future."

At present CCS and some of the other project partners are using ECO-ADM internally and with some clients, prior to launching the system commercially later this year. Canal indicates that there has already been a great deal of interest in the tools from outside the consortium, something that bodes particularly well for the future.

"We are intending to focus the commercialisation initially at systems integrators looking to have a toolbox from where they can build software," Canal says. "I think ECO-ADM will continue to evolve after commercialisation, as we plan to continue to update it to meet clients’ needs."

Joan Canal
Centro de Calculo de Sabadell Sa
Direccion Tecnica
Avenida Castell de Barbera 22-24
E-08210 Barbera del Valles
Tel: +34-93-7489600
Fax: +34-93-7489600
Source: Based on information from ECO-ADM

Tara Morris | IST Results
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