Analysts have expressed concern that future releases of Platinum Technologies? version of the Microsoft repository may not be upwardly compatible beyond release 2.0.
Repositories are perceived as important as the world moves to object-based development because programmers need to be able to keep track of and manage the metadata of their components in a centralised store. This enables them to maintain the integrity of their components and reuse them.
But, the problem here centres around the fact that, even though Platinum is replacing its own repository engine with Microsoft?s next year, the deal between the two companies does not currently extend beyond version 2.0 of the product, although it has not yet been decided exactly what the release will include.
Earlier this year, Microsoft paid Platinum to help it further develop the repository (see Newswire 21 July, 1997) that it originally designed with Texas Instruments Software (TIS).
Version 1.0 of the offering is currently available as the back end to Microsoft?s Visual Studio development tools, but has been criticised for not providing basic capabilities such as version control and model management.
However, under the known terms of the deal at the time, Platinum agreed to co-market and codevelop the product and to port it to IBM?s MVS mainframe operating system, AS/400 and all major flavours of Unix.
But, it has now emerged that Platinum has taken the agreement one step further and has contraversially decided to switch out the engine of its own established standalone Platinum Repository/Open Enterprise Edition (PR/OEE) and replace it with the immature Microsoft repository engine by the middle of next year.
The product will be available under HP/UX, Sun?s Solaris, IBM?s AIX and Windows NT, but not under the AS/400 platform, the plans for which have been put on hold indefinitely due to lack of customer demand.
However, in an attempt to make the new implementation as fully functional as PR/OEE, Platinum will wrap the Microsoft engine with its own services, utilities, parsers and bridges. It has also promised to make utilities available to facilitate the move, which it claims will be relatively straightforward.
An MVS version of the Microsoft repository will also follow by the end of the year, although Platinum has promised to support customers for at least 24 months after the product?s introduction because the move will be more tricky than for midrange users.
This means that by 1999, the Microsoft offering will be the only underlying engine sold by Platinum.
But, analysts have warned there will a negative question mark over the future of Platinum?s implementation until it has extended the deal beyond version 2.0 of the repository.
Mike Blecher, vice president of Gartner?s application development unit, said: ?If Microsoft continues to extend the engine to areas where Platinum has extensions, what will it mean? If Microsoft develops its own technology for version 3.0, Platinum would not be required to use Microsoft?s work on any of the other platforms it?s supporting. It probably would, but it?s not required to, which means there are no guaranteed compatible upgrades after version 2.0 and Microsoft could potentially become a Platinum competitor.?
It is believed the two suppliers have so far failed to reach agreement on terms because Platinum wants the software giant to pay for it to port the extensions to the other platforms, but the software giant is not keen.
But Teresa O?Neill, Platinum?s vice president of data warehousing, retorted: ?If the relationship works well, we?ll continue with the deal, but I can?t see why we wouldn?t continue with version 3.0. Microsoft is not developing technology for a standalone repository, only as an object store for its own development tools. It would have to start from scratch to do that and it hasn?t got a strong knowledge of this market.?
She continued: ?No-one wants to wake up and have Microsoft at their back door, but this is not a shrinkwrapped market and Microsoft won?t be getting into the standalone market in the short term anyway.?
She added that, in the past, repository vendors had laboured under the miscomprehension that users would see the value of an enterprise repository from the start, but in fact, they only saw the benefits of it after using it on a smaller scale such as application development.
As a result, Platinum hoped that, while the Microsoft repository would initially seed the market, if customers wanted to introduce an enterprise version that supported heterogeneous platforms and databases, they would automatically come to Platinum because the two products were the same. This also makes it easier to swap metadata between the two offerings.
However, she claimed, the scope of the repository is also being broadened to deal with metadata from data warehouses, enabling users to look after metadata residing anywhere in the enterprise.
Because the product understands workflow, users can define and manage the workflow processes of their data warehouse. This means they can schedule when repository or data warehouse scans should occur to ensure their metadata is always current.
Next year, users will be able to offload scanning to other servers running 'children' repositories, so the processing can be done elsewhere at a pre-scheduled time.
Platinum also plans to introduce a partners' programme in February to encourage third party tools developers to support its product and will integrate its own Paradigm object modelling tool more closely with it next year.
Microsoft refused to comment.
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