Closing the collaboration gap
SourceForge Enterprise Fusion and Merant Professional bring distributed development teams together
However, time-based reports, such as a list of hot issues from the last ten days, required that I manually update date ranges each week before I generated the report. This is where Merant kicks reporting up to the next level by offering a wider variety of options including including relational time-based reports and charts. Merant also includes a good selection of predefined queries that can be used to model trend data, build distribution reports, and reflect interdependencies among software modules and issues.
And using the included Merant Metrics application, I could automatically generate reports at regular intervals, posting them to an Intranet where project and business managers could monitor status and view performance metrics.
Room for Growth
Whereas Merant Professional proved to be a smoothly integrated and polished solution, my experience with SourceForge was hampered by minor inconsistencies in the interface and limited fail-safes and alerts. For example, exiting a page before saving my work sometimes elicited an alert and sometimes produced no warning, forcing me to re-enter all of my data.
VA Software should also pay more attention to improving usability and reducing latency in SourceForge. Although some pages made good use of DHTML and scripting, other pages required multiple round trips to the server to accomplish a task that could have been performed in a single pass. I also encountered a number of buggy and missing pages, an incomplete online help facility, and an e-mail notification system that failed to send alerts. To its credit, SourceForge resolved the e-mail issue as we went to press.
Interestingly, a number of SourceForge’s shortcomings — the inability to create and save project templates, absence of mailing lists, limited permissions control, lack of support for gated project communities, and the absence of project timelines — are features found in previous versions of SourceForge Enterprise. VA Software indicated that future releases of Enterprise Fusion would fill in these gaps and offer a clearer migration path for existing Enterprise Edition customers.
Nevertheless, SourceForge Enterprise Fusion is an effective means for smaller IT organizations to manage distributed development projects. Merant Professional, with its more extensive feature set, more granular controls, and, surprisingly, lower price, seems the clear choice for large deployments. In the end, the tool you choose to unify development in a distributed setting must be evaluated against your current processes, and both of these solutions are worth considering.