Relief for Third-Party Software Upgrade Paralysis
April 15, 2015 Dan Burger
In-house software development isn’t nearly as prevalent as it once was. The cost to produce and maintain code, together with the do-more-with-less-staffing rule in many organizations, has de-emphasized home-grown software. Commercial software from the IBM ISV community, as a result, is gaining ground. That doesn’t mean, however, that commercial software isn’t customized–sometimes highly customized. And when upgrading a customized software package becomes difficult, companies sometimes put upgrades on hold–sometimes for a long time.
That’s where change management software comes into play. Without it, new development and upgrades can easily become chaotic, which means it will also become expensive. All it takes to create some real chaos is having in-house changes get out of sync with software vendor upgrades. What should be automatic becomes a manual process that feels like a bull fight in a broom closet. If something like that is going to happen, it would be nice to prepare for it beforehand and, even better, avoid it.
For those who use change management software, the concept of compare and merge is your early warning system when things are about to go bad. Remains Software has had compare and merge functionality since its TD/OMS change management product was introduced years ago. What Remain has just added to TD/OMS is an emphasis on managing third-party software, specifically software that has been customized.
Remain calls its newly added functionality Fusion Pro. It allows the comparison of complete libraries of sources and prevents the chaos that can bring software upgrades to a grinding halt. No upgrades, means no access to new functionalities, features, and benefits that increase efficiency.
The library comparison process is a two-step operation using TD/OMS.
The first step is to upgrade the installation of a third-party software application in a test environment. This upgrade can be done using the third party upgrade utility or with the TD/OMS upgrade installer.
The second step determines new, changed, and phased out components and provides an overview of all impacted components within the third-party application. This identifies which custom components are impacted by the update and allows the merge to take place.
The first version becomes a source, which can be compiled; it includes all the details of the merge so developers can see exactly what happened. If it becomes necessary to revert or replace older lines, there’s a roadmap. The source is annotated, so if a problem in test or production is found (more likely to be when instead of if), the annotation(s) will help developers find the cause of the error. Later a command is run to clean the annotations, leaving the user with the final source. After the merge, users can test its correctness by compiling the sources, which will confirm if the merge was a technical success and if the application runs correctly.
If the modified application–including retrofitted changes–runs in the bigger environment, TD/OMS includes a graphical impact analysis module that displays the interaction of components such as specific files that are read by specific programs and when “foreign” logicals are created over the third-party vendor’s physical files. This would be beneficial when multiple developers work on different versions that are based on the same ancestor, but it is also handy for the automatic retrofitting of vendor changes.
Fusion Pro can be used as a standalone source compare and merge product or as a part of TD/OMS.
Remain Software also markets a product known as TD/OMS Compact, which adds reliability and productivity to the application development process at small shops where change management software may not exist. The company promotes the product as offering small shops software change management tools that can be implemented within a couple of days at a very reasonable price.
Remain Software is distributed in the North American market by Solutions First, a Southern California-based company specializing in IBM i change management deployments.