REVIEWER: Bill Green, vice president of Power3.
BACKGROUND: Power3 is based in Media, Pennsylvania, and specializes in custom software development and emerging technology training. The principals of the company are recognized leaders in the specialized field of client/server and middleware development and have authored several books on the various technologies.
PLATFORMS: Sybase PowerDesigner 9.5 runs on Windows.
PROBLEM SOLVED: PowerDesigner 9.5 solves the issue of requiring multiple tools to perform modeling functions necessary for systems development. Instead of having separate and often very different tools, you have one tool with one standard interface to perform business process modeling, object modeling and data modeling, with a database repository capable of storing all of the models with cross-model referencing capabilities.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Already well known for its data modeling capabilities, PowerDesigner now features more comprehensive object modeling capabilities and an improved model for business process modeling. I have been using modeling tools for the past nine years and have watched the progression of the tools. Where the focus was once almost exclusively data modeling, object modeling has become the hot topic in the software development industry. While there are many tools in the market today that provide some semblance of data modeling (including data warehouse modeling), object modeling or business process modeling, only PowerDesigner accomplishes all of these.
STRENGTHS: PowerDesigner allows you to use the PowerDesigner Repository, a multi-model database repository for all supported models. Enhanced in V9.5 is multi-model management, including the synchronization of objects, models and databases. The repository provides versioning capabilities, plus a central storage repository making management of all models much easier than in previous versions. Support for Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) 2.0, XML and Web services moves PowerDesigner to the forefront of a very elite group of modeling tools, providing one integrated development environment (IDE) across all models. PowerDesigner provides support for ebXML, an emerging standard for XML messaging. In addition, it supports several emerging technologies such as Biz-Talk, VB.NET, C# and WSDL. Reporting capabilities are excellent not only are multi-model reports supported, but the reporting is performed in a very modularized way so a report can be customized to give you exactly what you need. PowerDesigner also supports round- trip engineering of databases/data models and source-code/object models. V9.5 also added a Free Model that allows the designer to create diagrams not typically associated with data or object modeling; therefore, network models, data-flow diagrams and structured flowcharts are not only possible, but easily accomplished.
WEAKNESSES: Object modeling supports the major UML diagrams, but does not support all of them to the fullest extent defined by the UML Specification. While this may not be considered a major weakness, it becomes more apparent when migrating a model from other products such as Rational Rose, where some constructs that are not supported result in gaps in the migrated model.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed tools to complement what our client needed to accomplish. The client was familiar with data modeling and was already using PowerDesigner for this purpose. We needed complementary tools for Business process modeling and object modeling. The tools needed to work together so that the data model and the object model would complement each other. We also needed a tool that could reverse-engineer PowerBuilder code effectively, and PowerDesigner is the only tool in its class that performs this function at a high level of integration.
DELIVERABLES: The client system being developed was partially an internal system and partially a commercial OEM software delivery. There was a strong need for solid documentation of the system, both to ratify the system architecture developed and to be able to pass documentation to customers to explain how their piece of the system integrated with the remainder of the product. It was key to be able to deliver a business process model that provided a high level of understanding of the overall functionality, as well as a more detailed object model to explain the integration philosophies that were taken.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Sybase is well known for a strong support system, including award-winning online technical support. The Sybase newsgroups provide an excellent forum for user discussion and quick technical support.
DOCUMENTATION: The printed documentation included is minimal, but more is available separately. Electronic versions of all manuals are included with the product as are a relatively complete set of online help files. Electronic documentation is also available online from the Sybase Web site.
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