CA Updates Advantage Gen for J2EE

Company will include .NET support in future versions.

Computer Associates Int'l Inc. (CA) this week unveiled a version of its Advantage Gen development environment that facilitates the creation of J2EE applications and Web services. CA indicated that forthcoming versions of Advantage Gen will also provide development support for Microsoft Corp.'s .NET Web services framework.

Like its predecessors, Advantage Gen 6.5 is a model-based development environment that enables developers to build reusable components, Web-enable existing applications, or integrate legacy software and packaged applications hosted on mainframe environments with Unix or other distributed systems.

Starting with version 6.5, says Michael Amundsen, director of product manager for the Advantage developer series, CA will incorporate support for new component technologies into the Advantage Gen environment. "With this release we're extending that capability to J2EE generation, which means that people are able to take existing systems and move them to the J2EE environment."

John Meyer, a senior industry analyst with consultancy Giga Information Group, says that Advantage Gen 6.5 will enable existing Advantage Gen shops to generate EJBs rather than proprietary code. This isn't exactly groundbreaking, Meyer concedes, but it does allow customers to incorporate mainframe applications that they've created with Advantage Gen first into the J2EE and, later on, into the .NET frameworks. "They have a fairly significant user base, [at least] 1,200 users on the mainframe, so it's a good number of customers that are out there that are using the product today."

Product Marketing Manager Cindy Peake acknowledges that about 60 percent of Advantage Gen customers use the development tool in mainframe environments. Even so, she stresses, "they're typically not using Advantage Gen exclusively for the mainframe. It's very powerful in mixed application environments."

One such customer is the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO), a large Advantage Gen shop that reportedly considered a costly transition away from CA's development environment. "There were proposals on the table to re-write a lot of the server processes that [USPTO] had in place, [and] we walked in and showed them an architecture to salvage that Gen investment," explains Rollie Stephens, founding vice president of QAT, a systems integration firm that helped USPTO devise a plan to transition to a J2EE framework. "They're in a very heterogeneous environment now, with a lot of different technologies, but we showed them how to make those Gen servers play in that environment."

Advantage Gen 6.5 is a J2EE application server-neutral environment. Some Web application servers—including the WebLogic or WebSphere application servers from BEA Systems and IBM Corp. respectively—also have their own development tools. IBM's WebSphere Studio, for example, can be used to create EJBs that it can deploy in WebSphere.

According to Giga's Meyer, Advantage Gen differs substantially from WebSphere Studio and others of its ilk because it describes a model-centric approach to application development. "There are these two modes, [one] model-driven component assembly and orchestration and [the other] code-centric development, and from that perspective, most of what WebSphere does today in terms of its Developer Studio is code-centric development."

In contrast to code-centric tools that assume a degree of developer familiarity with J2EE and its associated technologies, CA's Amundsen says that Advantage Gen can "generate the entire application front-to-back as well as create test code" with little, if any, input from a developer.

Forthcoming versions of Advantage Gen will boast support for Microsoft's .NET framework in addition to J2EE. According to Giga's Meyer, Advantage Gen's new J2EE and eventual .NET support should ensure that "people who have been building [on the Advantage Gen model] are insulated from the target technology, so they can create a J2EE application today or tomorrow, or a .NET application in the future, without understanding the details of those technologies."

QAT's Stephens expects that Advantage Gen's new component generation capabilities should go a long way toward reassuring existing customers in mainframe environments that have a proven skill set in COBOL or assembly programming, but little or no experience developing for J2EE or .NET. "Every organization is playing with, or wants to play with, .NET or J2EE, and this gives existing customers the ability to leverage what they've got instead of re-writing [it]."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.