CATEGORY: Analytic Applications

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.

PLATFORM: We run Sybase PowerDesigner 9.0 on Windows.

PROBLEM SOLVED: PowerDesigner 9.0 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.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Already well-known for its data modeling capabilities, PowerDesigner now features more comprehensive object modeling capabilities and a new model for business process modeling. I have been using modeling tools for the past eight 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. Although there are many tools on the market today that provide some data modeling functionality (including data warehouse modeling), object modeling or business process modeling, only PowerDesigner accomplishes all of these.

STRENGTHS: PowerDesigner allows us to use the PowerDesigner Repository, a multi-model database repository for all supported models. Multi-model management, including the synchronization of objects, models and databases are enhanced in Version 9. The repository provides versioning capabilities plus a central storage repository, making management of all models much easier than in previous versions. Support for Enterprise JavaBeans (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 BizTalk, VB.NET, C# and WDSL. 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 us exactly what is needed.

WEAKNESSES: Diagramming objects within PowerDesigner is not 100 percent precise; automatic line routing will sometimes give the impression of being off-center. While not critical to the actual function of developing a model, if you're a consultant presenting to a high-profile client, you need the diagrams to look perfect. Business process modeling has been added, but it is considered relatively light. Object modeling supports the major UML diagrams, but does not support all of them to the fullest extent defined by the UML specification.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed tools to complement the requirements of one of our clients. The client was already using PowerDesigner for their data modeling. We needed tools for business process modeling and object modeling which would work together so that the data model and the object model would complement each other.

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 pass on to their customers documentation 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.

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, and are complemented by a solid technical support staff.

DOCUMENTATION: The printed documentation included is minimal, but more is available separately. Electronic versions of all manuals are included in the product as well as a relatively complete set of online help files. Electronic documentation is also available online from the Sybase Web site. Overall, I find the documentation more than adequate, but it lacks references to known modeling paradigms such as the Rational Unified Process and Design Patterns.

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