TurnOver 5.1 Reaches Out to AS/400 IFS

With the latest release of its TurnOver change management solution, SoftLanding Systems (Peterborough, N.H.) enables programmers to manage change to any object stored on the AS/400's Integrated File System (IFS). TurnOver Release 5.1 also includes an interface to Code/400, IBM's code editing utility.

"The IFS is essentially the underlying file system on the AS/400, into which you can put anything that you could put on a PC or a PC server," explains Paul Schlieben, president of SoftLanding Systems. "You can put any objects into the IFS, and if that AS/400 is on a network, users on the network can use the IFS as a repository for files and even applications."

Many end users are developing client/server applications, which have both PC or workstation components as well as AS/400-based components, according to Schlieben. "Due to the integration of these features, you have to promote changes in a concurrent way," he says. "With TurnOver, as each promotion runs, it's promoting not only the changes on the AS/400 side, but the PC objects along with it."

Schlieben provides a practical example of the IFS's use by point out that Lotus Notes and Domino run and operate on the IFS level. Notes, for example, uses IFS space for its deployment. To provide perspective, Schlieben points out that OS/400 -- essentially the "organizing methodology" for the AS/400 -- runs atop the system's IFS.

"The AS/400 databases are all within IFS and are all defined as OS/400 objects," Schlieben says. "ODBC drivers come into the equation when you want [Windows] NT to access the AS/400 to find files and database objects from within a [Windows] NT or client/server application, for example."

For AS/400 shops that are growing and looking to make use of newer development tools like Java, "the IFS is an ideal repository for all of their activities," according to Schlieben. "Whether they're developing native Java that's going to run on the AS/400 in native mode, or they're running a client/server application that uses the AS/400 database, that's all manageable within the AS/400. The AS/400 has broadened and grown tremendously. Together, IFS and the AS/400 make an ideal solution."

The IFS represents a challenge to a change management solutions developer like SoftLanding. TurnOver is an AS/400-centric product, and SoftLanding has focused its development efforts on building a comprehensive tool for managing change, projects and help desk on the AS/400. "When you start looking at IFS, the immediate issue is long object names [those longer than the standard 10 characters] and path names," Schlieben says. "So you have a hierarchical structure that creates a new challenge for AS/400 change management ventures."

SoftLanding has come to define change management as managing all the activities surrounding changing applications -- from help desk through project management through actual source and object management and the programmer tools associated with that process and eventually to deployment. Change management could be the implementation of new subsystems or applications, or simply modifying existing applications in a minor way.

"The challenge for any of us in this business is to keep up with the technology," Schlieben says. "As the IFS was introduced [with OS/400 V3R1], we saw it as an opportunity but also as a challenge due to the architecture of the IFS structure vs. OS/400 naming conventions and so forth. We built an IFS change management solution, which means we can check out objects within IFS, we can promote objects within IFS.

"All of the things our change management engine does for OS/400 objects it now can do for IFS objects," Schlieben concludes.

SoftLanding worked directly with IBM to define an integration with Code/400, according to Schlieben. "We're trying to provide a framework for managing change," he says. "The challenge is for us to be an integrator that supports the products our clients are using. We have always maintained that if there are other tools out there that customers would like to use, we will make a way for them to use them, without having to abandon our product because there's another tool they want to use."

The bi-directional interface is designed to enable TurnOver users to launch Code/400 sessions directly from TurnOver's Programmer Worklist Manager and create a TurnOver menu option on the Code/400 screen.