Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:39

Goanna ready for Visual Studio 2010 code checking


An Australian developed code analysis tool will ship alongside Microsoft's Visual Studio 2010.

Around half of the time taken to develop software is spent on testing and debugging, Ralf Huuck, technical lead at Red Lizard Software, told iTWire. One way that can be reduced is by using tools that apply static analysis to the source code in order to identify problems such as memory leaks without having to run the software.

There is a $150 million market for such products, and that is expected to rise to $500 million in a few years, he said. But most products are aimed primarily at Fortune 500 businesses and are hard to integrate with other tools, he said.

In contrast, Red Lizard's Goanna (which analyses C and C++ code) is sold via the web, is priced from $US750 per seat, and integrates with popular integrated development environments. It can reduce development and testing costs by around 20%, claimed Huuck.

Red Lizard's approach was to adapt the model checking technology used by all the major semiconductor vendors to verify chip designs before manufacture.

This approach has proved successful as it makes it easy to add more checks, and it scales well as the number of checks increases. Importantly, it allows static analysis to be performed on the desktop or notebook computer used by the developer rather than requiring a server or other dedicated hardware.

Page 2 has more on Goanna.

The original work was done at NICTA, and Red Lizard was spun out and began to turn the results into a product - Goanna - in mid 2009.

Goanna was originally developed for Linux and Eclipse, and then for Microsoft's Visual Studio. It integrates with the IDE, so all the developer needs to do is click a button to start the analysis.

The result is a list of issues that are found, and double-clicking an entry takes the developer straight to the corresponding line of code. An abstract trace, which shows why the analysis is indicating an error, can also be generated.

"At no time do you have to leave your development environment," said Huuck.

Most of the company's development efforts in the last several months have gone into a version of Goanna for Visual Studio 2010, which will ship simultaneously with the new version of Microsoft's developer tools.

There is also a new command line version of Goanna for Linux, which is intended for developers that don't use IDEs, or for integration with automatic build systems.

What's ahead for Goanna and Red Lizard? Please read on.

Future developments are likely to include the ability to understand the relationships between components of a larger project; reporting metrics (ie, to provide team managers with a view of the project); and a doubling or tripling of the types of error that can be detected.

Goanna users include embedded systems developers (faults found after a product goes into production can be very expensive to rectify) and game studios (the typical Xbox game costs as much to make as a movie, Huuck observed). Even very small independent developers have purchased the product.

The company's customers are mainly in the US, Europe, Japan and Korea.

Red Lizard is still in the incubation phase, and while Huuck expects Red Lizard's R&D will remain in Australia, there is a possibility that foreign investment could lead to the company's headquarters moving overseas. In any case, one or more offshore sales offices are likely.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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