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SaaS offering provides detailed analysis of your software portfolio

Are you faced with the need to do a software portfolio analysis but find the prospect daunting given the scattered nature of your operation? A new SaaS-based offering from Cast might fit the bill.

Cast, which specializes in software analysis and measurement, today announced Rapid Portfolio Analysis, a cloud-based tool that complements the company's Application Intelligence Platform (AIP), which is an enterprise software analysis measurement tool.

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"RPA is a cloud-based offering designed to do the same kind of things that AIP does, but instead of looking at one application in great detail and monitoring that detail over time, it looks across many apps in a portfolio and provides a high-level assessment of where the risks exist," says Cast Managing Director of Portfolio Analysis Solutions Peter Pizzutillo.

Like AIP, the SaaS offering is powered by a rules engine that assesses the state of your programs by taking into account software complexity and industry best practices, but it uses a smaller subset of those rules, Pizzutillo says, 14 versus 28.

Even though these tools almost always pay dividends, traditionally companies have been "more willing to pay someone to sit in the corner and flip through printouts than they have been to buy tools for this type of analysis," says Jim Duggan, VP of research in Gartner's Application Strategy & Governance group. "It's one of those paradoxes.

"This new cloud offering gives people a way to get started without having to make a big capital investment. It puts a wading pool in place so people can get started without being heavily committed."

Pizzutillo admits as much. "RPA will make it easier for us to get started with customers," he says. "They have a notional, subjective belief in where their risks lie or where the bad apples may be, so we're able to, in a week's time, evaluate all their systems and build a smart, risks-based approach to how to apply software analysis and measurement to the handful of apps that are driving the risk, driving the maintenance costs in their organization."

In use, Cast's code analyzers -- which have business rules built in -- are sent to crawl through the customer's source code counting violations against the rule set, looking for things that should be happening that aren't and vice versa. The results are sent back to the cloud where they are aggregated into different dimensions. The client's code never leaves their facilities.

Because it is cloud-based, the tool makes it easier to analyze programs that are either scattered across locations or even hosted by third parties.

When do companies typically realize it is time for code analysis? Pizzutillo says there are a handful of common scenarios, one being mergers and acquisitions that result in a mishmash of IT systems, some of them redundant, that introduce new risks that are hard to ascertain.

When it comes time to rationalize that portfolio, you want objective analysis about which programs are more complex, which ones are harder to maintain, which applications are easier to enhance, he says. RPA makes it easy to get going.

Another typical usage is in the planning and budgeting process. Companies that are looking to get a better view of their maintenance costs, for example, can use the analysis to gauge the maintainability of these systems.

The beauty of RPA versus other tools or consulting services is speed and price. "We're doing 100 apps in a week, where it would take months" with other methods, Pizzutillo says. "We're reducing the time to value to get analysis done quicker, we're adding an objective, automated process to assess the technical risk, and at a lower price point."

A one-time assessment using RPA costs $1,000 per application. "We just did 3 million lines of code for a client and charged $1,000 for that analysis," Pizzutillo says.

Gartner's Duggan says that "once you know you need to do a migration or a consolidation, or need to improve the quality of a piece of code, this kind of offering yields some pretty strong positives. I don't know of anyone that has gotten into these tools and didn't get value out of it."

Although Gartner doesn't do a Magic Quadrant for this market, Duggan says Cast is a "very consistent provider, with very sound technology that has been thoroughly vetted. They deliver what they say they're going to deliver and are realistic about what they say they are going to do."

RPA has been in beta since the end of last year, was soft-launched in Europe and enters GA this month. Pizzutillo says the company has a dozen clients using it and many more in the proof-of-concept phase.


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