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In software development, Computer Aided Software Engineering tools (CASE tools) are indispensable as they cut down the cost and time of software development while at the same time improving their efficiency and quality. They also make it easy for information to be presented in a logical manner thus making communication easy. They are often used as supports for traditional methods and object-oriented methodologies.
Many researches have focused on the use of CASE tools in the workplace. However, very few of them have compared the existing options of CASE tools. Therefore, this essay provides a comparison of two of the existing CASE tools based on parameters like repository, forward engineering features, reverse engineering features, and modelling tools. It also provides a suggestion of the better CASE tool.
For the sake of comparison of the CASE tools, two tools, visual analyst and the IBM rational software, were selected. The comparison involved focusing on the repository techniques used, the forward and reverse engineering characteristics, as well as the modelling tools used. These are looked at in details leading to an appropriate conclusion on the preferred CASE tool.
Repository is necessarily a base of reverse engineering and the standard starting point for the same. It is also the main approach and preliminary point as well as a template in the modernisation of COBOL. Developers of any application need a repository to ease their work besides cutting cost to improve efficiency during the development and upgrading of IT systems. Another key function of repository is binding of the tools used in Visible Analyst (VA).
Importation of information in the form of diagrams and objects into repository is a precursor of VA modelling tools, which store them before use. A repository therefore forms the foundation in the development of models besides acting as the obligatory initial point irrespective of the method used. The quality of a repository also has an overall effect on the success of the development.
The use of the repository is common to both the visual analyst and IBM rational software with varying differences evident on the utilization of services (Roger, 2001, p.23). The use of repository in CASE tools is noteworthy because it facilitates information storage. The efficiency of a repository system in a CASE tool determines the success of the tool and hence the popularity among clients (O’Brien, 1995, p.34).
The content of a repository includes data, process, models, and rules or constraints. The IBM rational software uses a secure repository to manage contents besides providing a centralized store of data on businesses and other related information. A viewer only gets read-only rights, as a case that contributes to the security of the system and the information stored in it.
Organizations can upload employees’ information here, convey information to the organizational members, and post changes in policy and other reports such as goals and objectives (O’Brien, 1995, p.36). An online database that requires a server is necessary for the IBM repository to be effective with the possibility of many users accessing the service. For the visual Analyst, the same technique is applied with only a difference in the databases used.
The cloud is the choice of technique used with information being stored in a centralized large server. The server is secured with passwords and other protective tools with the only available access being coded for administrators only (Roger, 2001, p.25). A series of supercomputers keep the server functioning with the date moving to-and-fro at a large speed. The visual analyst therefore provides a secure method of data storage for a cheaper cost compared to IBM rational software.
Forward Engineering features
As a definition, forward engineering is the science involved in the development of new software from the already existing ones or as a change to existing software. Forward engineering uses the existing information on repositories to develop systems with greater functionality, stability, efficiency, and according to user needs.
There are advantages to the use of forward engineering as compared to starting from the scratch, as less time is spent. Developers depend on the already proven systems. Currently, it surprises to realise that every system developer considers the use of forward engineering as an efficient method of getting around system development.
Forward engineering is also currently used to convert diagrams stored in repositories into codes to be executed in any platform as indicated by their type. Forward engineering does not use pre-existing codes in the development of new models, as it is the case with reverse engineering. It is therefore employed in the development of non-existent models.
In information technology, forward engineering involves the formulation of skeleton codes from pre-existing models. In both IBM rational software and visual analyst CASE tools, forward engineering is a common feature, as it is to most or all the other existing tools.
In IBM rational software, forward engineering consists of a systematic process. The model of the software is pertinent here. The components have to be identified first. The tasks involved are classes of software identification, checking the syntax, and class path. Code generation follows with a backup of the source suggested.
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The last step involves viewing the generated source. Visual analyst CASE tool utilizes forward engineering in a simpler way compared to IBM rational software. The complex procedure like that followed in IBM is not followed here. The process ends up being simpler and faster. However, this compromises security and efficiency in the final product with low productivity.
For small enterprises willing to use the CASE tools, visual analyst would offer a better alternative with similar objectives. In forward engineering, more codes are developed in visual analyst tools compared to IBM. The argument holds because visual analyst offers a better and more flexible environment for model manipulation. Therefore, it edges out IBM based on this consideration despite the lower performance rating.
Compared to forward engineering, reverse engineering entails the development of models from pre-existing codes (Roger, 2001, p.27). Through manipulation of existing codes, a software developer can develop new systems especially those that are currently not produced anymore to develop them.
This entails a careful study of the existing codes, their manipulation, and use to develop the new models. This step is important in the vital software tools that are hard to reproduce. Different IT companies have different thoughts on the efficiency of reverse engineering in the development of newer models with some preferring to use forward engineering at the expense of reverse engineering.
As the opposite of forward engineering, reverse engineering attempts to recreate models from codes that are pre-existing (Roger, 2001, p.27). The initial step involves meticulous scanning of the existing codes leading to the generation of new models. These are distinct from previous versions, as they carry a unique character that differentiates them from other versions.
The existing requirements dictate the type of code that is used, and the more diverse the code, the greater the flexibility of the model. Reverse engineering is critical in generating models for systems that have since run out of market, or are no longer produced since they are out-dated. It also finds the use in the analysis of existing software to establish designs and their specifications.
Reverse engineering is well utilised in both tools as required in the competitive market. In IBM reverse engineering procedure, a derby database or a DB2 oracle database is used. The process guides the user in a series of steps with each step requiring a confirmation to proceed to the next. The first step involves the creation of an empty project referred to as ‘my application’.
The whole process of reverse engineering in IBM rational software involves about seventeen processes that are comprehensive and easy to follow. However, these require expertise and patience as they involve close follow-up. Visual Analyst CASE tool on the other hand “builds and reverses the engineer database schemas for Oracle and SQL” (O’Brien, 1995, p.39). The code is automatically generated with fewer steps involved. This means that it is less involving besides its delivery of greater results compared to IBM.
Reverse engineering, as it happens with visual analyst, involves a somewhat similar process to that of the IBM CASE tool with only few differences. Pre-existing codes are used to generate newer models with the initial step of scanning being similar both processes. The creation of newer models to replace old and out-dated models is more successful when using the visual analysis CASE tool compared to the IBM rational software.
Modelling tools are very important in the development of CASE tools. They are used in the development of newer software after an appropriate method is decided on. A good example is the UML (Unified Modelling Language) modelling tools, which are favoured by the IBM.
Once a developer settles on the appropriate method of software engineering and development, he/she needs an appropriate tool to use. The tool used is referred as a modelling tool. There are different tools that can be employed in the development of models. However, this depends on the convenience of the developer and the software involved.
Modelling tools are vital components of CASE tools. IBM rational software and visual analyst are no exceptions. In IBM rational software, modelling tools are valuable in information storage as they enable the writing of information on the repository. The tools used include the rational software modeller, rational software architect, and rational systems developer (Roger, 2001, p.28). Both CASE tools support the Unified Model Language (UML), which is the most current (Roger, 2001, p.28).
Therefore, this means that, in comparing the modelling tools used by both CASE tools, one will see the little significant difference that exists between them. This similarity excludes the use of modelling tools used by the two to differentiate between them. However, the number of tools varies with the visual analyst using a greater number of tools and improving on diversity and flexibility (O’Brien, 1995, p.39). This stands out as an added advantage over the IBM rational software.
|Repository||Single type of repository is used|| |
|Forward Engineering|| || |
|Modeling Tools|| || |
|Construction Tools|| || |
Preferred method for a company
From the above discussion, there are evident differences between the IBM rational software and the visual analyst CASE tools. These exist in the repository techniques used, the available forward and reverse engineering features of the tools, and the modelling tools.
Given the choice of both tools for an organization or a company, visual analyst would emerge as a preferred personal choice for Tawazun Training Company, which was established in 2009. It needed to enhance its information system. The reasons behind the preference include the differences above, as well as the additional reasons stated below.
Of the two tools, visible analyst is known to support both structures and other different types of designs. As O’Brien (1995, p.40), confirms, “Visible analyst also supports UML or object-oriented design”. This means that it is more accommodating to many designs. Despite having poor java integration, it is useful in “reverse engineering databases for Oracle and SQL” (O’Brien, 1995, p.39), as pointed earlier on.
Another advantage is that it recognizes most design diagrams besides having the capacity to export and print them, as opposed to the others. When it comes to the flexibility of the tool, it is more flexible and consistent compared to the IBM tool even though this is user-prompted. Since there is a tutorial on the use of visible analyst program, it is easy for armatures and first time users to learn how to use it. This eliminates the challenge of training users.
At the same time, it simplifies the program for the general population in addition to cutting down costs and time spent or wasted in informing the users about it. These are some of the considerations in setting up a CASE tool for a company. As such, the visual analyst satisfies most, if not all of them. The features in the visual analyst are similar to those in IBMs CASE tool with both having the same capability and near performance.
The common features include the CASE repository in which data on businesses and clients is stored for reference. This is linked to the workstation, which in turn consists of a planning toolset, an analysis toolset, and a design toolset. Other key components include the automatic code generator, the report generator, user interface generator, and the toolset used for automatic code generation.
These are important in the development of the software involved. The pricing of the two software tools varies based on their use, the type of the software, and their functionality. With all these factors constant, the visual analyst CASE tool is cheaper in installation, purchasing, and maintenance compared to IBM rational software.
Therefore, this makes it a preferred choice in my choice of organization since it would cut on operational costs. However, with the increased number of software changes that are necessary, as well as the constant reviews needed, the visual analyst would also end up increasing the cost of organization’s running. However, this drawback is countered by the fact that there is an increased functionality with each software change leading to a more efficient working environment.
In the overall look and feel of the CASE tools, other tools have about the same value with the only difference being the physical appearance and the general look (Roger, 2001, p.29). Both tools also have similar outlooks. This is confusing to most beginners of information technology. These similar looks and feels are of little significance in the making of a choice between the two.
The claim holds because the selection of a tool is not guided by the look and feel but rather by the performance index attributed to it. Based on these criteria, visual analysis CASE tool would emerge as the most preferred by people who need to improve the information systems of their organizations. Another determining factor would be the ease of access and usage.
Visual analysis is easier to operate, understand, and maintain for a medium sized company where importance is given to the operating cost rather than investment in CASE tools. This principle has led to the tool being popular among small businesses and companies. As a result, it continues to be seen throughout different parts of the world. With the above considerations, I would find visual analysis a preference for the organization.
In conclusion, there are various sites and companies offering CASE tools, which include visual analyst, IBM rational software, oracle designer, and visual-paradigm. Of the above methods, each has its own strengths and weaknesses over the other. A comparison between IBM Rational Software and Visible Analyst reveals this, as done in the paper.
The substantial differences exist in the uses of repository, forward and reverse engineering features available, and the modelling tools among others. The visual analyst tool emerges stronger compared to IBMs tool, as discussed as a personal preference in the paper. The differences in functionality, ease of use, and look and feel characteristics lead to the conclusion that visual analyst is better that IBM rational software.
O’Brien A. (1995).Introduction to Information Systems, An End user/Enterprise Perspective. London: McGraw Hill Edition.
Roger, S. (2001). Software Engineering – A Practitioner’s Approach. London: McGraw-Hill International Edition