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November 10, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

One of the oft-made claims for object-oriented programming is that it makes it easier to re-use software, a goal that has thus far eluded traditional programming to a large extent. This is despite the best efforts of suppliers and organisations such as Durham’s Centre for Software Maintenance, which has been preaching the word about the benefits of re-using software for many years. The industry still awaits higher productivity and lower development costs, but this has not deterred vendors from touting their wares as fitting the bill. CenterLine Software Inc has unveiled ResourceCenter as the latest tool to support re-use in a meaningful way. It is not the first object-oriented package with this aim; Hitachi Ltd already offers an Object Re-use Library, however, CenterLine’s chief technical officer Dave Reed is relaxed about not being first off the blocks with this type of product. He says it gives other companies some of the work to do in educating users. That work is still going on; CenterLine’s own market research suggests that the drive towards better re-use of software is still not being backed often enough by senior managers, despite the fact that the ability to re-use software is one of the main reasons given by companies for moving into object-oriented programming. Many companies have seen the goal of re-use receding further into the distance as they first grapple with getting their programmers trained in object techniques and building up object class libraries. Domain specific class library myth However, the notion that companies have to build up their own domain-specific class libraries before thinking about re-use is one of the myths Reed and CenterLine want to dispel. He says companies can re-use software at a lower level than this and all that has been stopping them has been the lack of practical tools. Enter ResourceCenter, which ships at the end of November and runs initially on Sparc workstations under Solaris 2.3 and SunOS and Hewlett-Packard Co workstations, with an AIX version due in the first quarter of 1995 and a Windows conversion planned for sometime next year. ResourceCenter costs $25,000 for a server licence and five client licences, which works out to about $1,500 per user for a medium-sized organisation, according to CenterLine. The software is basically a location and retrieval tool, to enable users to find and pull out software assets such as source and object code and analysis and design documents. According to Reed, ResourceCenter has deliberately been designed as a graphical tool that is very easy to set up. Despite these inducements, there is no particular sign that the market will show any greater enthusiasm for ResourceCenter than it has already for software re-use, but CenterLine, best known for its ObjectCenter and CodeCenter Unix programming environments, remains convinced that putting out tools such as this will eventually goad an unwilling public into doing what’s good for them. Reed acknowledges that it is easier to sell the idea of ResourceCenter to larger organisations, where there is a grasp already of the problems that can arise in trying to keep track of software assets as the asset base grows and object-based development increases. But it does not look as if CenterLine will be betting its entire future on tools like ResourceCenter just yet: Reed says the software falls into the category of new tools the company, and its customers, are still figuring how to use.

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