News: MKS Moves Web Development Closer to AS/400

As AS/400 environments become more diverse and e-commerce-enabled, keeping track of changes on numerous platforms in numerous languages can become a nightmare. A core processing system may be running RPG code, but the e-commerce system is running Java.That's why Chicago-based < a="" href="http://www.mks.com">Mortice Kern Systems Inc. (MKS) has unveiled a suite of software management tools targeted at multiplatform environments.

Of particular interest is the fact that new versions of MKS Source Integrity--previously available for Windows NT and Unix applications only--can now be used to manage software code on the AS/400 integrated file system (IFS), allowing AS/400 developers to work with languages such as Visual Basic, Java and HTML. Source Integrity also supports major development environments, including IBM's Visual Age for Java, Microsoft's Visual Studio and Symantec's Visual Cafe.

MKS Source Integrity can be used within the same framework as MKS SDM-Implementer, a change management tool for RPG shops.

"We brought Implementer from the AS/400 world together with a product from the Unix and NT world," says Dave Martin, software configuration management (SCM) group product manager for MKS. "These days, there's a lot of desktop development occurring on the AS/400 platform," he says. "For example, Java applications--developed on the desktop--are being hosted on the AS/400. Developers need a way to be able to manage their development activities on the desktop, while simultaneously taking full advantage of the AS/400's production control capabilities."

The expanding use of AS/400s for Web sites and e-commerce requires development tools that can handle such complex environments, says Richard Heiman, analyst with International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.). "IS organizations are under unceasing pressure to deliver high-quality applications at an ever-faster rate." However, AS/400 environments are underserved by the current crop of SCM tools on the market, he notes. While AS/400 systems tend to be more tightly integrated with the database--and thus require less development efforts than other platforms--there are still up to 100,000 AS/400 sites than could benefit from robust SCM products.

MKS is pursuing this market by offering Source Integrity for Web-related languages, and Implementer for the core processing system, Martin notes. MKS is positioning itself as "a strong single provider of all of software management solutions," he says.

The Sports Authority (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) reports that it has been using MKS SDM-Implementer to successfully manage AS/400 software development across a fast-growing network of locations.

Previously, the retailer, which maintains an AS/400 at each of its 206 store locations, had difficulty managing changes to its core retail and financial systems, says Bob Hartmann, manager of information systems for The Sports Authority. "In the past, if two different programmers put the same object into production, it may go in two different ways. With more than 200 stores out there, that's a problem for us."

A developer would put an application into production at a rate of "three or four stores a week," Hartman relates. However, when problems cropped up and were fixed, the next set of stores received different code. In the process, The Sports Authority, which maintains a staff of about 45 developers, expects to save up to $3 million over a five year period.

MKS Source Integrity is part of a larger family of products known as the MKS Integrity Framework, which consists of: MKS Source Integrity Professional Edition, MKS Source Integrity Select and MKS Source Integrity. In June, MKS went to market with new releases of each, including Integrity Professional Edition 3.2, Integrity Select 3.2 and Integrity 7.4.

MKS Source Integrity 7.4 features improvements in the following areas:
  • Web-based process and workflow
  • ease of use and productivity
  • release and post-release maintenance
  • support for e-business development on AS/400
Along with AS/400 support, the Framework products include Web-based process and workflow improvements, which puts SCM functions over the Internet. New enhancements also enable users to categorize specific releases, identify bills of materials, and quickly compare two individual software releases to isolate differences. MKS also offers what it calls semi-isolated "Sandbox" environments, which enable developers to work on and test past releases of applications, but still remain in touch with mainstream development.