CA ERwin – Getting reacquainted with an old friend

Back in the deep dark past, when I designed and optimised relational databases for a living, I pretty much used every data modelling tool on the planet – at least that’s the way it seemed. They all varied in terms of strengths and weaknesses, but one that I developed a lot of affection for was ERwin, which back then was provided by a company called Logic Works.

As the Wikipedia entry kindly reminded me:

“In 1998, Logic Works was acquired by Platinum Technology for $174.8 million in stock, which was in turn acquired by Computer Associates the next year.”

By then, I had moved on into the world of ERP, but a few days ago, a group of us from Freeform Dynamics had the pleasure of speaking with the guys at CA Technologies now responsible for the latest incarnation of ERwin – now known as CA ERwin.

Apart from nostalgia, I did have a good reason for wanting to catch up with my old friend, and that’s because of the recent announcement of CA ERwin support for SQL Azure, Microsoft’s cloud based RDBMS.

We hear so much about rapid development in the cloud, but all too often the implication is that it’s legitimate for traditional rigour to be sacrificed on the altar of time to deployment. Indeed, some cloud environments, and those that advocate them, almost encourage a quick and dirty approach to development, with minimal analysis and design. The truth is that this will always come back to bite for any significant system, whether in the form of poor performance, lack of flexibility, or high operational overheads.

Returning to CA ERwin, one of the traditional strengths of the tool throughout its evolution has been the ability to define a logical data model then map it onto multiple physical models. This is not a unique capability, but the ERwin line has always provided functionality that is both comprehensive and easy to use – ideal for professional analysts and designers who want to do things properly, but still want to move quickly in an unencumbered manner. It’s a philosophy that would seem to be particularly relevant to those wishing to take advantage of rapid cloud development and deployment, but without sacrificing structure and discipline.

To existing CA ERwin users, SQL Azure becomes just another supported database environment, but an Azure specific version has been announced by CA Technologies for those wishing to adopt a more structured approach to data modelling in a pure cloud environment. In related announcements, CA Technologies has also highlighted a portal facility to allow models to be presented and visualised by different types of user, and increased collaboration capability to encourage more reuse and sharing of models and components. Going hand in hand with the latter is a new concurrent licensing model

Standing back from these announcements, however, my overriding view is that anything encouraging and/or facilitating developers to apply structure and discipline to cloud based projects is to be welcomed. Adoption of cloud should not be an excuse for throwing analysis and design principles out of the window.


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