Chief among the plug-in purveyors are the iSeries’ three change-management vendors: Aldon, MKS, and SoftLanding Systems, all of which have announced plug-ins to WDSc 5.0. The trio were heavily courted by the resident tools master at the IBM Toronto lab, Dave Slater, who saw a great big gaping hole in the iSeries tools strategy that used to be occupied by IBM’s Application Development Manager (ADM) library control system.
With all the iSeries tools moving to the new Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE), Toronto decided ADM was too outdated to bother with, especially when the iSeries partners already provided much richer change-management function.
Plugging in to the WDSc IDE makes things easier on both vendors and developers, Slater says. The Eclipse 2.0 framework provides a relatively simple way for the change-management vendors to bring their products' capabilities to WDSc "without reinventing the wheel," as Slater puts it. MKS, for example, originally developed a plug-in to its Source Integrity Enterprise for version 4.0 of WDSc, which supported an earlier version of Eclipse that had a more limited integration, says Marty Acks, MKS's iSeries product manager. The company was able to deliver a much deeper integration with WDSc 5.0 due to the availability of a robust team API that was redesigned for Eclipse 2.0, he says.
The Eclipse 2.0 base better supports a process-automation model, which is key to change management, says Dan Magid, Aldon president and CEO. “Eclipse 1 was really built around the CVS model of change control, and that is a single-level repository where you just check things out and check them in ... without this whole idea that there’s a process behind it,” Magid says. “Eclipse 2 did a much better job of supporting this whole idea of having a process model, which is much closer to what we do.”
Developers see real benefits because any of the WDSc tools — and any other tools that plug-in to the IDE — will be able to access the vendors’ change-management functions without leaving the IDE.
The goal, Magid says, is to make things as intuitive and as easy as possible for the developers, who’re focused on building applications and not on tracking what objects they use.
“What we’re really trying to do is support this idea that you want to impact the developers as little as possible,” Magid says. “You want to have change control and all the benefits of that, but want to do it in a way that allows the developers to continue working. Customers really want a tool that does not have a big impact on their developers and does not require the developers to go off and do a lot of things that they’re not used to doing.”
In addition to going after the change-management vendors, Slater also asked iSeries impact-analysis vendor ASC to plug in to WDSc 5.0. “When you WebFace an application such as an ERP application, you typically have 4-5 million lines of code and thousands of screens,” Slater says. “To generate the GUI interface, you generate tens of thousands of JavaBeans and Java Server Pages (JSPs), and changes to one can affect the [whole application]. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an impact-analysis tool when you’re dealing with all these components you never coded?”
Although Eclipse is still new, developers are already beginning to hop on board, and the vendors predict it won’t be long before developers come to count on and expect the tight integration enabled by plug-ins.
“We do believe that WDSc is the future for iSeries development,” says SoftLanding spokeswoman Amy Lantz. “From what we’re hearing from people already using it, it’s a great development environment and much more efficient than green-screen and PDM.”
SoftLanding, whose TurnOver plug-in for WDSc was just certified by IBM as “Ready for WebSphere Studio,” plans to evaluate all of its tools and plug in all of those that might be useful to developers using the IDE. The company has already released a free spool-file plug-in, available on the SoftLanding Web site, that enables developers to access spool file output (such as compile listings and job logs) from WDSc's Remote Systems Explorer.
MKS, which is a member of the Eclipse board of stewards, and Aldon also plan to support the open-source IDE with all of their tools that fit into iSeries development. MKS’s Source Integrity Enterprise and Implementer and Aldon’s ACMS and Affinity Workbench already plug into the Eclipse environment.