Aldon Goes Cross-Platform with Affiniti

Aldon Computer Group (Oakland, Calif.) has released a beta version of Aldon Affiniti, a new module for the Aldon/CMS change management system. Affiniti, which will be generally available next month, extends the application development automation and management concepts of Aldon/CMS to client/server, Java and Web-based development.

“It’s an extension to Aldon/CMS that adds the ability to support development on the AS/400 as well as Windows 95, 98 and NT client and server applications,” says Matt Scholl, marketing manager at Aldon. “While Aldon/CMS tracks the movement of AS/400 objects and maintains a repository of data on the AS/400, Affiniti gives us the ability to attach files that reside on PC servers or clients and set up development and QA environments that reside on the PCs or PC servers.”

The new Aldon/CMS module is a process management oriented system designed to move code and any other files through the appropriate development and testing processes before they reach production, so that the files reaching production are reliable and of high quality.

Developers use Affiniti when they wish to update PC files or AS/400 objects, then promote them back to production. Affiniti automates and tracks all of the movement operations across locations and platforms. The files are stored in the AS/400’s Integrated File System (IFS) until needed for modification or testing. When a developer wants to work on a particular application, Affiniti populates the appropriate machine or machines with the necessary files.

Dan Magid, president of Aldon, points out that Affiniti manages files in both the flat file structure used by the AS/400 and the hierarchical file system used by Windows applications.

“Nobody else is doing this in a mixed environment with AS/400s,” he says. “AS/400 tools tend to be very process management oriented. They manage the process through development and testing and into production. The PC world is very inventory management oriented. They keep track of pieces of code. We’re trying to bring the concept of AS/400 [process] management to the PC world. It’s a concept that’s well known in the midrange and mainframe world, but not so well known there.

“As the AS/400 moves into the role of server rather than just host machine hooked up to dumb terminals, applications written for it are going to be client/server applications.” Magid also notes that Aldon is targeting both ISVs and enterprise shops with this release.

Scholl says Affiniti is designed for customers doing Web-based development or working with Java or client/server applications. He says most of those developers are using a product like Microsoft Visual SourceSafe for change management for their PC-based applications. When they’re developing applications that access both AS/400 and PC databases, using separate change management tools, difficulties inevitably ensue.

“Our clients have been coming to us, insisting that we build this, especially the larger shops,” Scholl says. “AS/400 programmers who start developing for Windows are usually in severe shock for the lack of [code] control in that environment. The AS/400 has a lot of built-in controls that they’re used to.”

“AS/400 developers may be experts in the AS/400, but they’re not in that world when they’re developing for PCs,” says Magid. “They haven’t had to deal with the complexities involved with PCs before. With Affiniti, we’re insulating AS/400 developers from that complexity. We’re handling it under the covers.”

Randy Lamberson, corporate information systems director at Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based biotechnology company Amgen Inc., says his company’s programming needs have changed since they first started using Aldon change management products five years ago and they plan to try the Affiniti beta.

“As our needs have changed, we’re doing object distribution to other types of machines and it’s becoming more complicated. Affiniti looks like it would serve our needs well,” Lamberson says.

Since Affiniti supports the Microsoft Software Change Control Interface (SCCI), it provides access to change management functions through various PC IDEs, such as VisualAge for Java, VisualAge C++, Visual Basic, Codewright, Aldon Flex/Edit and Code/400.