Serena Software is a software change and configuration management vendor, right? It has recently released its Dimensions CM 14 product, with additional functionality driving Serena more into the DevOps space, as well as making life easier for distributed development groups to be able to work collaboratively through synchronised libraries with peer review capabilities.
Various other improvements, such as change and branch visualisation and the use of health indicators to show how 'clean' code is and where any change is in a development/operations process, as well as integrations into the likes of Git and Subversion means that Dimensions CM 14 should help many a development team as it moves from an old-style separate development, test and operations system to a more agile, process driven, automated DevOps environment.
However, it seems to me that Serena is actually sitting on something far more important. Cloud computing is an increasing component of many an organisation's IT platform, and there will be a move away from the monolithic application towards a more composite one. By this, I mean that, depending on the business' needs, an application will be built up from a set of functions on the fly to facilitate that process. Through this means, an organisation can be far more flexible and can ensure that it adapts rapidly to changing market needs.
The concept of the composite application does bring in several issues, however. Auditing what functions were used when is one of them. Identifying the right functions to be used in the application is another. Monitoring the health and performance of the overall process is another.
So, let's have a look at why Serena could be the one to offer this.
- A composite application is made up from a set of discrete functions. Each of these can be looked at as being an object requiring indexing and having a set of associated metadata. Serena Dimensions CM is an object-oriented system that can build up metadata around objects in an intelligent manner.
- Functions that are available to be used as part of a composite application need to be available from a library. Dimensions is a library-based system.
- Functions need to be pulled together in an intelligent manner, and instantiated as the composite application. This is so close to a DevOps requirement that Dimensions should shine in its capabilities to carry out such a task.
- Any composite application must be fully audited so that what was done at any one time can be demonstrated at a later date. Dimensions has strong and complex versioning and audit capabilities, which would allow any previous state to be rebuilt and demonstrated as required at a later date.
- Everything must be secure. Dimensions has rigorous user credentials management—access to everything can be defined by user name, role or function. Therefore, the way that a composite application operates can be defined by the credentials of the individual user.
- The 'glue' between functions across different clouds needs to be put in place. Unless cloud standards are improved drastically, getting different functions to work seamlessly together will remain difficult. Some code will be required to ensure that Function A and Function B do work well together to facilitate Process C. Dimensions is capable of being the centre for this code to be developed and used—and also as a library for the code to be stored and reused, ensuring that the minimum amount of time is lost in putting together a composite application as required.
Obviously, it would not be all plain sailing for Serena to enter such a market. Its brand equity currently lies within the development market. Serena would find itself in competition with the incumbent systems management vendors such as IBM and CA. However, these vendors are still struggling to come to terms with what the composite application means to them—it could well be that Serena could layer Dimensions on top of existing systems to offer the missing functionality.
Dimensions would need to be enhanced to provide functions such as the capability to discover and classify available functions across hybrid cloud environments. A capacity to monitor and measure application performance would be a critical need—which could be created through partnerships with other vendors.
Overall, Dimensions CM 14 is a good step forward in providing additional functionality to those in the DevOps space. However, it has so much promise, I would like to see Serena take the plunge and see if it could move it through into a more business-focused capability.