ARCAD Looks to Aid Application Modernization Projects with Updated Software
Published: April 15, 2008
by Dan Burger
ARCAD Software's president and CEO Philippe Magne points to two critical factors that modernization projects need to address. The first is control over the knowledge of existing applications. The second is control over the change process. Certainly not all modernization processes require code changes, but in those instances old code may be a burden on development even after modernization. In Magne's view, modernization entails moving to a modern environment. It involves modern languages and modern architectures. Anything short of that is a Band-Aid approach.
The flip side is that application modernization that involves modern languages (yes, the current version of RPG is a modern language) and modern architectures is as scary as brain surgery. At least to some people it is. System stability is one reason. Maintaining productivity during the process is another.
ARCAD is a software company that specializes in managing change. It's not too surprising that Magne is a proponent of change. His strategy for how best to deal with change--from the application development standpoint--is to be very much in control of the change process. Application development without controls is like herding cats. There are too many things going in too many directions to be able to keep track of it all. Productivity slides and application integrity suffers.
To provide controls, ARCAD has developed an integrated Application Lifecycle Management suite that includes an open repository, a change management aspect, an application analysis tool, test automation capabilities, and a help desk. All solutions are based on the company's open repository.
For companies doing application development that spans more than one platform or programming language, ARCAD's ALM products support multiple development environments--Windows, Linux, and Unix, in addition to i5/OS (which has recently been renamed i). That suite has just been updated to version 8.07.
"In 8.07, we placed particular emphasis on the ARCAD-Qualifier test automation suite," Magne says. "This suite has functional and technical enrichment that attests to our expertise in this increasingly important area."
The product enhancements Magne identifies as most important are the non-regression testing solution called ARCAD-Verifier and the data model analysis engine called ARCAD-Extract.
Verifier is now available as an Eclipse plug-in, bringing easy integration with IBM’s WDSc and Rational products. This is good news for any System i shop that develops with these tools, as it will allow for improved management of application test campaigns and provide more options for the management of test environments. Other benefits, Magne says, come from providing comprehensive execution reports (including a new report that shows results from comparing spool files), and a new, more flexible emulator.
Extract gets its name because it was designed to extract data sets. With its recent overhaul, the data model analysis engine--an engine shared with ARCAD-Open Repository and ARCAD-Observer--it gains more version-integrity analysis functionality based on data types, naming rules, and reference files.
This solution is also available as an Eclipse plug-in, or as an independent client. A graphical interface has greatly improved this tool's ease of use.
The ARCAD change management tool, which goes by the name Skipper, also climbed higher on the functionality ladder by improving its integration with two well-known and often-used third-party products. For users of JD Edwards ERP software (brought to you by our good friends at Oracle), there is now integrated change management components that include standard objects (*PGM, *FILE) and related parameters (such as Dream Writers). The new release of Skipper also brings support for the CA 2E development environment (which ARCAD still calls Synon).
"With this level of interface, ARCAD confirms its openness toward other products on the market to meet the needs of businesses who are updating their information systems," Magne says.
Skipper also has improvements on the database side. An enhancement called WAP (While Active Promoter) reduces downtime associated with data file updates for business applications that run 24/7. It works in conjunction with the change management software so users can simultaneously promote related non-data objects along with data files during installation.
Magne said this feature is important because many information systems must be available around the clock to meet business requirements and support Web-based applications and global networks. It's a challenge for companies to find time to make data file changes because it is time-consuming work, he noted.
ARCAD-Skipper WAP "substantially reduces business application downtime associated with large data file updates," the company says. In some cases, rebuilding databases can take hours, but ARCAD claims that unproductive time can be reduced to minutes using its product, even in instances that involve multi-billion-record files that have an extensive amount of update activity associated with them. Throughout the process, users have normal read/write authorities and continue to work normally.
Users will find that Skipper WAP allows them to structure the new file's members and its related logical files exactly as they are structured in production, so the conversion proceeds smoothly. Because it is not mandatory to create a journal on the target server, this tool can be used with applications that cannot be journaled. In those circumstances where there is no journal, Magne explained that the synchronization tool will restore the source during the return to the production system. This, he claimed, spares system resources, and conversion happens behind the scenes while work continues.
"It has the capability to convert several files concurrently," Magne says. "Regardless of whether a business is converting one or many files, it takes only minutes of downtime to change all of them." He also added that if there was any kind of interruption (such as a hardware problem, power outage, subsystem termination, or the like), during the record processing phase, all data remains intact.
This new ARCAD version coincides with the release of version 6.1 of the IBM i operating system. ARCAD tested version 6.1 when it was still in beta, Magne says, and its products are fully compatible.
Pricing for ARCAD's Application Lifecycle Management suite is based on a combination of fixed prices for core products and seat prices. The entire Qualifier suite as a stand-alone solution can be purchased for less than $50,000. ARCAD-Skipper WAP is priced according to processor group, beginning with the P05 at $6,900.
ARCAD-Skipper change management and ARCAD-Observer, the impact analysis/retro-documentation tool, are priced as seats for the repository. Extract for building test databases, which is part of the Qualifier testing suite, is flat priced, with an additional runtime module for multiple systems. Verifier for non regression testing (also part of the Qualifier testing suite) has a core product price and a seat price.
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