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Embarcadero All-access: a better way to deploy developer tools?

I have a call lined up with Embarcadero today, and wanted to catch up with their latest tools. It reminded me of something I’d intended to post about for some time, the Embarcadero All-Access system which allows no-touch install of many of its tools. Here is how it works. First, you run the All-Access client:

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I’m not showing all the available tools here: I count 17 currently. You’ll notice many of them are marked InstantOn. Let’s say I want to take a look at DBArtisan. I click the link and get a dialog:

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This invites me to start a download. Click Yes and I get a download thermometer:

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Once downloaded, I have to pass a license screen and enter a serial number. Presuming you have a current subscription, you can get a serial number by logging on to you Embarcadero account and requesting it there, where it is supplied instantly. This part of the process is similar to that used by Microsoft for MSDN subscriptions. It is a shame it is not built into the All Access desktop client, but a minor inconvenience.

Then the application runs.

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No further setup, no install options, or any of the other complications that often accompany installing developer tools.

To be fair, I can think of other development tools that are pretty much download and run. Eclipse is usually good in this respect, at least until you try to get updates. Further, even with All Access there can be additional steps. Instant-on 3rd Rail, for example, does not install a Ruby runtime, so it is not really click and run: the Eclipse-based IDE runs, but you cannot start a project without getting a Ruby interpreter from somewhere.

Nevertheless, this is the closest I’ve seen to on-demand developer tools, short of the interesting browser-hosted tools that are emerging. Embarcadero now also calls it the ToolCloud. It is not just an easy install; this is application virtualisation:

Aimed at simplifying deployment, enabling side-by-side versioning of products, and breaking down the barriers to use, InstantOn is also great in locked-down desktop environments, since the product does not affect any system files or system registry settings.

says the faq.

Alongside the technical aspects, All-Access simplifies license management for a development team. You can install the server piece on your own network for full control.

This comes at a price of course. There are four subscription levels, from Bronze to Platinum, though even the Bronze gives you use of a wide range of tools including Delphi, C++ Builder, JBuilder, Rapid SQL, some parts of ER/Studio, 3rdRail and Delphi for PHP. Example price from Grey Matter in the UK starts at £3188.57 for a 1-year Bronze concurrent license.

The interesting question: when can this be made into a generic tool that developers can use for deploying their own applications?

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