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Fast-moving development: ARAD tools can cut costs

The architected rapid application development tools also boost productivity

By Heather Havenstein
January 10, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - New tools for boosting developer productivity are gaining popularity with companies seeking to streamline increasingly complex projects by homing in on business requirements rather than technical specifications.

Architected rapid application development (ARAD) software uses patterns that can serve as building blocks to generate common parts of an application—a user interface or a set of business rules, for example. Architects and senior designers can build their own templates, which can then be reused by programmers to automatically generate large chunks of code.

Because the tools often generate as much as 80% of native code, developers can add business logic and complete applications faster than they can with traditional development methods, according to industry analysts and users. Compuware Corp., IBM and Computer Associates International Inc. are among a growing number of vendors creating and improving ARAD tools.

Locus Systems Inc., a Markham, Ontario-based application developer and systems integrator, started using Compuware's OptimalJ ARAD tool to keep its operations competitive when faced with outsourcing pressures, says Richard Blais, Locus general manager.

"This ... is like outsourcing internally," Blais says. "It's like having Bangalore in a box—it gives us that much of a competitive advantage."

So far, Locus has used OptimalJ to generate 65% to 70% of the code for three applications, saving developers several hours of work and substantially reducing the number of bugs found in first-iteration testing, Blais adds.

The Advanced Development Center of Austin has used CA's AllFusion Plex to help it streamline application development and maintenance for its clients, says Bryan Schwiening, the center's general manager of services and sales.

"All of the minor details of the program are generated," he says. "You find yourself architecting and designing and doing less programming."

In addition, the tool has eased the process of changing applications, allowing users to exploit existing IT investments, Schwiening says. "If they decide they want to Web-enable part of an application, I can generate part of this application or all of it to run in a Web server environment," he says. "The next time I regenerate business logic, I don't lose that HTML look and feel that I have built."

According to a recent Gartner Inc. study, ARAD tools will be mandatory for mainstream companies moving to build service-oriented applications. The study noted that ARAD tools improved return on investment to as much as 15 times what it had been when traditional development approaches were used.

"It's generating the portion of the code that the programmer doesn't have expertise in—code that the middleware or technical architect knows," says Michael Blechar, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the report. "Reliability and quality of the code is much, much higher than [it is with] hand-coding."

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