Play It Again

Reusing software code isn't new, but asset-management tools can help companies respond more quickly to opportunities
One of the selling points of Web services is application integration, not only within companies but externally with customers, business partners, and suppliers. Tools that catalog software assets and map them to appropriate business functions could be critical to that effort. That's why LogicLibrary CEO Greg Coticchia promotes his tool as an enabler of Web services. If companies don't have a business understanding of their software components, he says, "it could be hit or miss to try to Web-service-enable them."

There's industry momentum for a standard way to describe reusable software. Rational, which makes the Unified Modeling Language tools and source code vaults that LogicLibrary and Flashline depend on, expects to submit its Reusable Asset Specification to the Object Management Group industry-standards body next spring, with support from IBM and Microsoft.

LogicLibrary says it's close to signing agreements with Microsoft to improve integration between its Logidex software-asset management tool and Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net development tools suite. Flashline says it's working on a deal with Microsoft to let users launch its Component Manager Enterprise Edition tool from within Visual Studio .Net and last month signed with IBM to let Component Manager Enterprise Edition run within IBM's WebSphere Studio tools suite (Logidex already does both). Microsoft declined to comment on either deal. Flashline raised an additional $5 million in venture capital last month from Adams Capital Management Inc.

Because they map software components to business processes, these tools promise to let business managers and IT staff collaborate more closely on new applications. But that's a ways off, concedes Flashline CEO Charles Stack. In the meantime, the lack of wiggle room in IT budgets for unproven technology, combined with technical complexity of the products and their relatively high price tags-more than $100,000 for just a few dozen users-means most companies are loath to experiment. Wider adoption will happen only if companies can use the tools to respond to market opportunities, not just to shave time off development projects. "It's a tough economy, and this stuff is discretionary in many cases," says Liz Barnett, a Giga Information Group analyst.

Research shows a software asset pays for itself the third time it's reused, Diebold's King says, and he's hoping for fivefold decreases in some development time. But it's unclear how fast Flashline, which King says had a nearly $100,000 price tag, will pay off. "I haven't done my own ROI study," he says.

But the technology may be ahead of its time. Duncan Dwelle, chief technology officer at Accuchex Corp., a LogicLibrary customer that processes payroll data for companies, says few of his customers are wired for Web services. "We still have third parties ask us for mainframe tapes," he says. "We're fighting the fact that very few of our clients understand this."

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing