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Bloor Research Group

CASE Methods Based Development Tools: An Evaluation and Comparison

A CASE of Unfulfilled Promise?


CASE products have clearly failed to live up to the marketing hype that accompanied their initial launch in the 1980s. CASE is not the first software technology to have been over-marketed, and it will not be the last.

 Although it is clear that CASE technology has not lived up to its promise, it is also fairly clear that the CASE market has not collapsed. Various estimates of the size of the CASE market carried out in 1990, gave it a value of between $650 million and $800 million. The major CASE vendors have not seen rapid growth at the rate normally experienced in a successful software market, which usually equates to 30 percent and above. However few of them have stagnated and the healthier ones have grown at 10 percent or more.

 From this, we can roughly estimate that the market for CASE is about $1 billion. The actual value of a market depends on how you count it and this figure of $1 billion, undoubtedly includes a fair amount of consultancy revenue. In fact we would not be surprised if software license revenues were about the same as they were in 1990, and that consultancy revenue accounted for all of the difference.

 The point about CASE is that it is not plug and play technology. Indeed it is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Its take-up is usually slow, it requires a significant amount of training and it often necessitates the help of consultants. It is also clear that the development problems that IT sites attempt to solve by the use of CASE tools are difficult and in some instances impossible to solve by other means. In particular the problem of legacy systems is an area that has become primarily the province of CASE.

 What makes CASE technology different is that it addresses many of the fundamental problems of software construction. It deals primarily with meta-data and because of this, it is more capable of integrating together different software development tools, including the old 3GL languages that built many of the legacy systems, the 4GL and database tools that built more recent systems, and the new object oriented tools.

The Maturity of CASE

 The tarnished image of the term `CASE' has led some vendors to describe their products as development environments, or development tools, or at least to use the term `CASE' sparingly. Additionally they have strengthened their products by providing more integrated environments, and by adding further components. In particular, the improvement of code generation capability has been a major area of development. It was weaknesses in these areas that led to the failure of many CASE implementations to deliver visible productivity benefits.

 Over the past few years, there have been four major lines of development within the CASE market as follows:

 * The provision of improved repository technology
 * The move to providing rapid development capability
 * The move to portability and interoperability
 * Catering for OO based methods.

 As one might expect, no vendor has been able to pursue all lines of development with the same vigour and we still believe that the CASE market is not yet mature. CASE products still tend to be used as add-on components of the environment, rather than as the hub of the environment, and have not yet gained a significant foothold in the smaller IT sites.

 Additionally we still hear about performance problems that come as a result of inefficient code generation, and which result in the need to tailor generated source code. We believe that the logical to physical transformation of CASE designs can tolerate improvement in almost all the products we reviewed.

The Adoption of CASE Part of the problem with CASE technology is that its adoption is expensive and inevitably slow. Apart from the software license fees and the additional cost of hardware, there are significant training costs, which must be met in order to exploit the technology.

 In particular, the adoption of a method throughout an IT department is a ponderous process, often taking a number of years. It may also involve a cultural shift, particularly in the way that an IT department manages its relationship with the user community, and their participation in the system building process. Although the pay-off can be significant, much of it is still down stream, arriving several years after the take-up of the technology. This is inevitable, because the proper use of CASE technology embodies a radical shift in the process of building systems.

Future Directions

 Our analysis of CASE tools and the issues surrounding the use of CASE, paint a picture of a market in transition. Our expectation of its future direction can be summed up as follows:

 * CASE technology will start to  deliver either a fully integrated environment for systems development or a set of components that integrate seemlessly with other software development products.
 * The central position of repository technology is likely to remain under-emphasised and largely unrecognised outside those sites that are already aware of the need for it.
 * OO methods are destined to supersede existing methods, simply because they are more effective. However this will be a slow process.
 * CASE technology will ultimately supersede 4GL technology.
 * Ultimately we expect there to be a marriage between CASE tools and desktop development products such as PowerBuilder, SQLWindows, Visual Basic and others.
 * CASE technology will continue to be sold jointly with consultancy, and we expect the success of its usage to continue to depend upon adequate training and consultancy being purchased with the product.


CASE Products

 In this report we have reviewed and compared over twenty CASE products, spanning the whole market. For the purposes of comparison we divided the products between mainframe level products, mid-range products and meta CASE products, in other words, we compared them according to the markets they usually address.

 ADW (KnowledgeWare)
 Bachman (Bachman Information Systems)
 CorVision (Cortex Corporation)
 Envision (Future Tech Systems Inc.)
 Foundation (Andersen Consulting)
 HPS (Seer Technologies)
 IEF (TI Information Engineering)
 Implementor (Implementors)
 Intelligent OOA (Kennedy Carter)
 Intersolv (Intersolv)
 Maestro II (Softlab)
 Methods Factory (VSF Ltd)
 Oracle CASE (Oracle)
 Paradigm Plus (ProtoSoft Inc)
 Predict CASE (Software AG)
 Software through Pictures (Interactive Development Environments)
 System Architect (Popkin Software  Systems Inc)
 Systems Engineer (LBMS)
 Teamwork  ObjectTeam (Cadre Technologies)
 ToolBuilder (IPSYS Software)
 TopWindows / TopCASE (TopSystems International)
 Westmount I-CASE (Westmount Technology)


CASE  Methods Based Development Tools: An Evaluation and Comparison

 Authors: Carl Potter and Philip Howard
 Edited by: Tom Jowitt and Carl Potter
 Length: 488 pages
 Published by: Bloor Research Group
 ISBN: 1-874160-09-0

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