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PowerBuilder: Article

PBDJ Product Review: AllFusion Harvest Change Manager

Helps your organization meet its development goals

As the software configuration manager, I provide the administration of the source code management tools, which includes the entire infrastructure of the environment for development; server support that the tool resides on; installation of the client of the product; developing the environment and life cycles for development; and providing best practices, procedures, processes and training of all the developers on proper source code management with the development tools in our environment.

In 1996, as the software configuration manager for the State of NH, Department of Health and Human Services, we were involved in development using PowerBuilder with the Product Version Control System (PVCS). At that time, APIs and SCC controls were immature in terms of interfacing capability with development tools of the day. Many development tools at the time really didn't take into consideration software configuration management activities. There were a lot of workarounds that had to be developed to interface with the developments tools. It was a lot more complicated then, than it is today. We have come along way in the maturing of automated software configuration management, process-based products.

Due to the complexity of the embedded library structure of PowerBuilder at the time, managing source code was no easy task. You could experience locking libraries, corrupt objects, check-out and check-in problems, and promoting or attribute issues on files. PVCS at the time did not interface very well with PowerBuilder. Due to these problems an executive decision was made in 1998 by CIO Richard Bailey to purchase Harvest Workbench. Harvest Workbench was developed by a company called Platinum Products based in Santa Barbara, CA. We thought that Harvest Workbench would solve all the issues that we were experiencing with PVCS.

Unfortunately, we were wrong and encountered many of the same issues. It was like a bad movie that you don't want to see again. With that said, though, there was a real commitment from Platinum Products to solve the issues once and for all and interface the two products. So, working closely with Platinum an interface was developed to solve the communications issues with PowerBuilder for check-outs and check-ins of files. We have been using this product ever since and it truly is a success story.

In 1999, Computer Associates acquired Platinum Products and Phil Wallingford from E. Crane Computing was introduced to the State of NH. Phil has been an integral part of the State of NH's development team for many years now. We currently use two of Phil's products: PowerGen and HarPB. We use PowerGen to perform all builds in house for PowerBuilder development, and we use HarPB, which is the interface to Harvest for all PowerBuilder check-outs and check-ins. We have a fully automated process based on PowerGen that operates flawlessly.

Below are definitions of AllFusion Harvest, a description of the graphical user interface, distinctive features, advantages, objects, snapshots of an example life cycle, and my synopsis of the product along with my review.

AllFusion Harvest Defined
Harvest is a client/server application. We have Harvest installed on a Windows 2000 server. The client and server portions can both be executed on the same machine or distributed across multiple platforms. The client portion of Harvest consists of the graphical user interface (GUI) and the command-line interface. The server portion contains most of the program logic.

Harvest is designed to streamline and automate complex software development processes across multiple platforms. AllFusion Change Manager Enterprise Workbench provides unparalleled levels of CCM support. AllFusion Harvest Change Manager is a powerful solution for the automation of the development process and integration of application change management functions across the entire enterprise.

The Harvest user interface, graphical user interface (GUI) is designed for ease-of-use and minimal training time. Standardized icons and toolbars are used throughout the interface.

Harvest's distinctive features:

  • Readily adapts to your development process. You can create any life cycle you can think up. Very flexible.
  • Enables synchronization of concurrent development activities - this is a nice-to-have if this is your environment. We perform linear development in our environment.
  • Allows you to develop multiple projects in parallel and then merge them together as needed - this is also a nice-to-have but we prefer creating a new environment with its own baseline.
  • Allows you to track information associated with every change. The status accounting of this product is a truly great feature. There is nothing you cannot find out about a file. When it was checked out or checked in, by who, on what day, what time, what was done, the size of the files(s), etc... This feature is superior.
  • Facilitates integration with other development and maintenance tools through an open architecture and command-line interface.

I don't think that any product does this well all the time. There are always going to be tools that require interfacing that are complicated to interface with for many reasons. I feel the most important thing to remember about interfacing products is not whether it doesn't work but is there a support team behind the product. When there are bumps in the road, and there inevitably always are, is the commitment there from the company to support and solve the problem(s).

This is the only way that interfacing problems can be overcome - there has to be an investment from the company to be successful whatever the communication issues are.

Distinctive features continued:

  • Employs an open architecture to enable easy access to CCM information. This is something Harvest is very good at - any type of information you need is available in the tool at any touch from file(s) information, to processes, access, and repository data.
  • Provides a complete solution that encompasses all facets of the software development and maintenance process.
  • Provides a consistent interface across all development and maintenance platforms in the environment.
  • Allows you to navigate efficiently with the Harvest Workbench.
  • Easy to use - this is one of the most important aspects of this product. I can have a user trained in several hours and using the product productively, usually the same day. The ease of the product allows for greater productivity for the developer. The logical state promotes, demotes, check-outs, check-ins and the package-driven processes add great clarity into the software development process. Having the power of an Oracle back end adds to the efficiency of retrieval and storage of the product as well.

More Stories By Al Soucy

Al Soucy is software configuration manager at the State of New Hampshire's Department of Information Technology (DoIT). In that role Al manages software configuration for dozens of PowerBuilder applications as well as applications written in Java, .NET, and COBOL (yes, COBOL). Al plays bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric rhythm/lead guitar, drums, mandolin, keyboard; he sings lead and back up vocals and he has released 8 CDs.

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