Thu, Jun
3 New Articles

Source Code Management on iSeries: Surprisingly Fluid

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Despite some perceptions, System i is a viable development platform for many enterprises. Supporting that development are several feasible source code management (SCM) solutions. Also, for those in mixed development environments, some of the most popular solutions that do not run on System i have integration capabilities with the platform.

Many enterprises need their SCM tools to run on or interface to the System i. While some providers of SCM for other platforms also run on or integrate with the System i, several particularly specialize on System i. In addition, it is worth exploring several recent announcements by vendors of these solutions, which include not only product improvements but also an acquisition. Also important is to assess considerations and selection criteria of these alternatives.

There are several components of a selection process. IT should develop its list of requirements before looking at solutions. Requirements should include fit with the current enterprise vendors (with master software contracts); requirement to run on System i or not; total System i product-line support; vendor financial stability; and support for prior-generation COBOL code, data description specifications (DDS), or RPG code.

Let's start with IBM. IBM Rational has the ClearCase solution for source code change management, and a System i developer can use it for SCM for System i objects stored in the Integrated File System (IFS); for example, Java objects. However, ClearCase does not support the native COBOL, DDS, or RPG. However, according to IBM, it is possible—using a combination of ClearCase and IBM WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSC) for iSeries—to move source between the ClearCase repository and System i to execute remote builds.

In addition, ClearCase does have extensible facilities that one can use for registering custom trigger programs, for example. From those, with a fair amount of effort, System i customers can have (again, according to IBM) designed facilities for connecting to the iSeries. The ClearCase repository (or server) does not run natively on System i, but it does run on System i Linux and AIX partitions. Because of the issues of native support, most IBM customers look to the tools partners for solutions that will support both their native and their Java development on the System i.

Regarding SCM on System i, the three big players are MKS Inc., Aldon Computer Group, and SoftLanding Systems Inc. (now part of UNICOM). These vendors are the heavy hitters in shops that are more homogeneous System i.

IBM partners with the three big ISVs mentioned above as well as other vendors with such products, including these:

  • Aldon Lifecycle Manager
  • ARCAD Software ARCAD-Skipper
  • MKS Software Inc. Implementer (purchased change management from Silvon Software, Inc.)
  • UNICOM Systems/SoftLanding Systems TurnOver Change Management System
  • Software Management, Inc. SMI SuperVisor

(Editor's note: For a more complete listing of change management/SCM vendors, see the MC Showcase Buyer's Guide.)

On the news front, there are several important recent announcements from the group of vendors.

Aldon recently announced the latest version of its incident-tracking and requirements-management solution, Aldon Community Manager 7.5. The product provides project management templates as well service-level agreement (SLA) reports. These new capabilities help organizations developing code to meet their contractual obligations by tracking the projects and their details down to the code. In addition to complying with SLAs, Community Manager provides compliance templates for HIPAA and SOX, for which organizations need to track and document changes. The company also announced an optional add-on interface for Personal Information Management Systems (PIMS), commonly used in enterprises.

MKS continues to enhance Implementer, with more than 250 changes made in the Implementer 2006 release announced this summer. Improvements include integration with other MKS tools and third-party solutions (CA AllFusion 2E, LANSA, and Oracle PeopleSoft/JDE World), impact analysis, repository loading, auditing, and archiving. Also, MKS is faring fairly well financially, recently announcing preliminary results for the second quarter of fiscal 2007. The numbers appear mixed, with lower-than-expected revenue but expected maintenance and service revenue. Company representatives said the broader offering targets a broader base, thereby lengthening sales cycles.

Meanwhile, UNICOM Systems, Inc. (a CICS automation tools vendor) announced at the end of October that it acquired SoftLanding Systems for an undisclosed amount. The two privately held firms will continue operations in their current locations, now addressing both the mainframe and midrange markets. The synergies are somewhat unclear technologically. It appears UNICOM will provide financial and administrative management over SoftLanding.

The major vendors of SCM tools on other (non-System i) platforms provide mixed support for or integration with the iSeries environment. For example, Serena Software Inc., provider of ChangeMan, Dimensions, and PVCS, has no native iSeries SCM but partners with SoftLanding Systems. Interfaces include TurnOver/Dimensions and TurnOver/Version Manager, which provide bidirectional updates between the systems.

CA (formerly Computer Associates International, Inc.) has several options for using its Harvest SCM solutions with System i. CA Harvest does not run on System i but can store/version any System i objects that can be transferred to a platform Harvest supports. Therefore, it can indirectly version COBOL or RPG source code. However, Harvest does not support System i native objects (e.g., libraries, physical file members, and program objects). There is also a downloadable field-developed utility available on CA's Support Connect Web site for existing users. In addition, a partner Harvest–System i interface can include services to help customers. Finally, as mentioned above, MKS just added integration to CA AllFusion 2E.

All of the SCM vendors for System i mentioned here have Eclipse user-interface plug-ins for their solutions, which can integrate with IBM's WDSC.

Regarding SCM tool total cost of ownership (TCO), there are many variables to consider. Variations between tools are difficult to project as they reflect process fit, user experiences, and other such factors. However, industry experience shows that using code control is significantly more cost-effective than not using it, by orders of magnitude. Therefore, using any of these solutions makes good sense.

Those using an SCM solution off the System i and needing System i should ask for product integration specifications for connectivity to System i. Those seeking System i development tools for SCM should investigate the vendors that provide direct support for the platform, with the usual requests for information (RFIs), demonstrations, and requests for proposals (RFPs). Many of the providers are small; therefore, one can expect the normal advantages and disadvantages that go with such relationships. Those who need System i support for SCM should investigate the IBM partners and work with one of them to implement needed integrations and processes for System i development.

Ron Exler is Vice President and Research Fellow at Robert Frances Group, an advisory firm that serves executives making decisions at the confluence of business and technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ron Exler

Ron Exler is a senior product manager at Arbitron, the media ratings company. Previously, he was an independent analyst and consultant. He was formerly Vice President and Research Fellow for Robert Frances Group (RFG), a provider of advisory services for information technology (IT) executives and vendors. Mr. Exler has worked with executives from some of the world's largest enterprises, so he understands how business executives make decisions. He also writes a blog (http://www.thegeofactor.com/) and was named one of the top English-language analyst bloggers by Technobabble 2.0. Mr. Exler has had more than 125 articles and technical papers published.


Prior to RFG, Mr. Exler worked for several enterprise software companies, including Landmark Systems (now ASG) and Intersolv (now Serena Software). He held positions in marketing, product management, research, sales support, software development, and training. He has an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and also earned a B.S. from Oregon State University.



Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: