Reduce Through Reuse

Dec. 21, 2004
Companies with shrinking budgets and staffs are investing in the reuse of software programming.

Most large manufacturers would balk at the thought of hand-building every car or router that they make instead of relying on preassembled components. Why then, asks Charles Stack, do those companies or their vendors still build much of their software programming from scratch? "People don't build anything from scratch anymore except software. It's ridiculous," says Stack, CEO of Cleveland-based Flashline, which provides software reuse solutions. "What we're doing is building software based on the engineering model." Flashline and other companies that provide components and/or component-management solutions help clients build repositories of software code that IT staffers and others can reuse again and again for a variety of needs. Sometimes companies are reusing internally built code, and sometimes they purchase prefabricated code. In either case, solutions such as Flashline's Component Manager, Enterprise Edition, can help companies manage and make accessible a library of components to a group of users. The practice is not new but is becoming more widespread in part because emerging software languages such as Java are compatible with the component model, and-most recently-shrinking IT staffs and budgets have companies demanding more ROI from technology spending. Also, there is evidence that reuse is becoming a strategic issue. According to Stack, one client company has made "20% reuse" an enterprise-wide goal for 2002. And, in the last three months of 2001, four Flashline deals had been initiated by CIOs of large companies, including a Detroit-based automaker that is building a components library for use by supply-chain partners. Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., recently started to assess and organize component use in an effort to make sure the company is making the most of software reuse. "There have been pockets of reuse in the various developmental groups, but it is being done somewhat inconsistently," says Jim Cooke, senior manager of enterprise architecture. "Our strategy is, 'Let's pull those groups together and find out what is the best use, and pull in groups who are close, but not quite there yet.' "Cooke says Cisco is working on tracking ROI of reuse, but it is somewhat straightforward: If a company spends $10,000 to either build or buy a component, it saves $10,000 each time that component is reused instead of rebuilt. According to Gartner Group, an IT research firm, by 2003, 70% of new applications will be assembled using prewritten software components and application frameworks. Gartner researchers say the components industry had revenues of $500 million in 1997; $3.4 billion in 2001; and will have revenues of $8 billion by 2005. Mike Blechar, a vice president in Gartner's research services area covering e-business and technology, says the largest area of growth for components will be in the application templates area, and most mainstream businesses will encounter these via a consultant or other provider hired to solve a specific problem. These application templates might target a finance function, for instance, and will generally be "an 80% solution," Blechar says, involving some customization and perhaps outsourced maintenance but mostly built using components.

Help With Components Here are some companies that provide components or component-management solutions: IntellectMarket

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