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Embarcadero XE7 data models adapt to Agile methods

Embarcadero’s XE7 ER/Studio tool suite intends to make data models a more intrinsic part of Agile development projects.

The XE7 version of Embarcadero Technologies Inc.'s ER/Studio modeling suite has added capabilities intended to make data models a more intrinsic part of Agile development efforts. Additions to the suite may also give better views into the data life cycle.

XE7 adds change management software that tracks model changes, identifies data sources, recognizes the effect such changes can have on systems and automatically applies naming standards.

The change management enhancements join earlier updates that saw ER/Studio add reverse-engineering support for NoSQL, Hadoop Hive and MongoDB data platforms.

At the same time, glossary enhancements in the new product closely link ER/Studio XE7 views with the ER/Studio Data Architect data dictionary so modelers can readily see glossary terms and definitions along with detailed audit trails.

Data models move to the front lines

San Francisco-based Embarcadero's and others' efforts to place Agile programming methods and NoSQL support under the tent of data modeling could bring such tools closer to the front lines of big data activity. To date, much of Hadoop and NoSQL has been outside the realm of data modeling.

More people have been working in an Agile fashion. Developers caught on to this quickly.
Ron Huizengaproduct manager, Embarcadero

By many estimates, developers armed with new data architectures are moving more quickly than data architects.

"More people have been working in an Agile fashion. Developers caught on to this quickly," said Ron Huizenga, who is product manager for Embarcadero's ER/Studio line. He said that the Agile methods focus on user stories, fast iterations and "just-enough/just-in-time" structure. But many data modelers did not immediately come along for that ride.

Data modelers often take a design-up-front mentality, admits Huizenga. In particular, modeling advocates can be slow to adapt to the rapid speed of release iterations that Agile techniques brought on.

"Sometimes it seemed like nothing was coming out because people spent too much time in the design stage," he said. "Meanwhile, developers went out and did their own thing. They created databases."

Looking at the business of data models

With XE7, Embarcadero looks to improve data modeling results by bringing Agile-style project techniques to bear. Because the new software can closely track tasks associated with data model changes, said Huizenga, data models keep in sync with the database and application changes that are more frequent in Agile.

He said the software allows the data team to identify not only the changes made but also the reasons behind the changes. Teams can tie Agile user stories directly to data model updates.

In reviewing these Embarcadero updates, data modeler Stacey Haurin counts both Agile support and business hooks as pluses. Haurin is a data architect working on software development at Reed Technology and Information Services Inc., a company based in Horsham, Pa., that produces data products for patent, life science and other research uses.

Haurin, whose group still works with version 6 of the Embarcadero suite, classifies her operation as an Agile shop. In doing her research on the software, she concluded that version 7 aligned well with Agile methodology. She especially favored the new software's "connection between the business glossary and data dictionary." She said that syncs with her overall objective, which is "to pursue a business point of view together with a modeling perspective."

This ER/Studio release is the first since Embarcadero terminated a plan last November to acquire CA's ERwin data modeling suite. That acquisition would have placed two of the most prominent data modeling tools under the same franchise. The end of those plans followed concerns voiced by the U.S. Department of Justice over the sale's potential effects on competitiveness in data modeling products.

For its part, CA updated its ERwin Data Modeler in March, enhancing the software's reporting, metadata capabilities and user interface.

Like competitors, it is working to improve data modeling support for the quickly growing NoSQL database types, and to support greater collaboration between business users and data modelers.


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