Spectrum Manages ‘E-Assets’ with SCM Tool
November 4, 2008 Alex Woodie
System i shops looking to upgrade their development processes with better accountability and more automation may want to take a look at Spectrum Software, a Georgia developer of source code management tools. The company’s flagship product, called SpectrumSCM, is a process-centric SCM tool based in Java that’s designed to help teams of people from all walks of life manage the lifecycle of various types of “e-assets” from the comfort of a Web browser.
Such e-assets managed by SpectrumSCM could refer to the source code for a custom-built Java CRM system, the working blueprints for a new factory, or a 1,000-page legal contract undergoing revisions. As such, Spectrum casts a wide net for customers ranging from the traditional consumers of SCM–software companies, in-house programming teams, and help desk operators–to non-traditional SCM customers, such as architects, lawyers, accountants, and even desktop publishers.
From an IT perspective, SpectrumSCM helps augment the application development and code maintenance process with a series of integrated capabilities, including issue and bug tracking, version control, code branching, and release management. And since it’s based in Java, the product is platform independent and has no dependency on the underlying operating system, the company says.
Everything in SpectrumSCM starts with the change request. Whereas other SCM products tackle problems from the perspective of a version control system, SpectrumSCM takes the opposite approach and views everything through the lens of issue tracking.
The integrated, task-based approach of SpectrumSCM lends itself well to managing the lifecycles of business objects, and makes complying with regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley easier than other non-integrated SCM suites, says Sarathi “Srini” Srinivasan, president and CEO of Spectrum Software.
“Nothing gets changed or edited unless a problem statement is associated with it, ensuring traceability,” Srinivasan says. “You will never able to deploy a release unless all the tasks associated with the project are completed.”
As a change request works its way through the various stages of the development lifecycle, the product keeps track of everything, and sends e-mail notifications to appropriate users to notify them of the progress. As change requests gain approval from project managers and developers move on to fix other problems or develop new features, SpectrumSCM’s release management module prepares them for final distribution while simultaneously keeping track of the inter-dependencies of multiple change requests. In other words, it keeps track of the juggling balls in the air, so the developers don’t have to.
SpectrumSCM is based on ObjectStore, an object-oriented database from Progress Software that’s designed to provide very fast performance for Java and C++ applications that demand reliable, transactional object persistence. Each new project in SpectrumSCM gains its own database, while groups of projects are linked through database federation.
Groups of programmers can work on the same project through SpectrumSCM’s support for parallel development and branch management capabilities. Users can use the tool’s unique project-level branching features. These features are based on the concept of a “generic,” which refers to a piece of code that shares all of its files with the generic that it was derived from. The generic concept is one of the product’s strengths, according to Spectrum, and gives customers more control over an application’s lineage. Alternatively, customers can use SpectrumSCM’s classic file-based branching and source merging techniques using its color-coded diff-merge tool.
Two Web-based interfaces are available. The full client is written using a combination of pure Java and Java applet technologies, and provides fast performance against the SpectrumSCM server, even over relatively slow WAN or Web communication lines, the company claims. There is also an HTML-based interfaced used for submitting change requests and viewing reports. Users can also access SpectrumSCM’s capabilities through Eclipse-based IDEs, such as IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer, and Microsoft Visual Studio.
SpectrumSCM was launched about six years ago, and today has about 150 customers, Srinivasan says. One customer, NASA, consolidated four separate change management products onto SpectrumSCM, which manages development across Unix, Windows, and VMS environments.
Several System i shops are currently evaluating SpectrumSCM, according to Srinivasan, who notes that the tool can manage RPG and COBOL as well as it can manage other source code. “We’ve been getting many inquires in AS/400. Now that they recognize it offers more than green screen, it gets their attention,” he says.
The System i shops are looking at version 3.0, which shipped in June. Version 3.0 added a new dashboard that displays enterprise-wide metrics, such as process trends and quality efficiencies.
Spectrum positions its SCM product as a low-cost alternative to proprietary, feature-rich SCM products and as a more feature-rich and customizable product than the popular open source SCM products on the market, such as CVS.
SpectrumSCM 3.0 is available now. Single-seat software licenses start at $800 per client. Implementations involving more than one client require purchase of the SpectrumSCM server, which costs $1,500. For more information visit www.spectrumscm.com.