Micro Focus announced its new Mainframe Maintenance Solution, designed to help large corporations reduce the applications maintenance burden.
Beta tested in the UK by Natwest Bank, Micro Focus claims the suite can reduce maintenance projects from months to minutes.
Nav Saini, environment specialist at Natwest, commented: "Mainframe Maintenance Solution gives programmers [an] insight into their code; they have a clearer perspective on how it is structured and what it is doing. These functions simply aren't available working on a traditional editor in the mainframe."
Mainframe Maintenance is a Windows workstation based emulation environment. It consists of the Revolve analysis tool; an application test suite; a range of implementation and training services; and the Mainframe Express engineering environment - "the cornerstone of the whole suite" according to Kevin Brearley, Micro Focus UK product marketing manager.
The range is based on the 10-year old Workbench technology, which now has a 40,000-plus installed base.
Brearley said: "Workbench is all about providing application development on the workstation, but our customers have been asking for mainframe maintenance on the workstation. This suite enhances productivity by providing transparent access to application code and data that is stored on the mainframe, Lan server, or workstation."
It provides seamless connectivity to mainframe data via standard connectivity software. Programmers can then compile, edit, debug, and test mainframe code on workstations without downloading the entire application into the Express emulation environment.
Brearley said: "It is an alternative environment in which to maintain mainframe applications. We can move hundreds of mainframe programmers to the PC workstation environment and the maintenance teams can work across a Lan, sharing all resources, but with no loss of security. It is a big step forward."
The graphical interface of Mainframe Express provides a window on the application maintenance process, while offering the familiar feel of the mainframe.
A graphical view of application structures is built into a repository, and when users make any screen changes affecting the relationships between programs and files, the database is scanned and reflect the changes accordingly.
The system handles most OS/390 mainframe software applications including those created in Cobol, Assembler, Cics, IMS, DB2 and CList. It also supports JCL on workstations, but there are no capabilities for handling mainframe Unix.
Other facilities include a project management feature to intelligently assess the scope of applications, and team support functions coordinate the work of large project teams.
Automation features include install wizards and auto-configuration, both speeding up the setup of new maintenance projects. Brearley said that programmers adapt very quickly to the environment, with only two or three days' training, which are part of the package.
The speed with which programmers adapt is key. Many maintenance staff are contractors, and because of poor documentation of code written over 10 or 20 years, they take several weeks to become fully productive. "This environment means they don't waste time reinventing the world," commented Brearley.
As a programmer picks up where another leaves off, he can use the suite to view the whole picture in a more logical context, becoming productive more quickly.
Brearley added: "Testing is performed on the workstation via the Touchstone white box. It opens up the application and programmers watch code execute to see it thoroughly exercised. They capture errors at the workstation level instead of on the mainframe, and the earlier errors are identified, the quicker and better the maintenance process."
Micro Focus has been developing the new suite for about 18 months, and it will announce additional Year 2000 features over the next few weeks. Available this month, a 10-user system costs $120,000 or around #100,000. Most corporate mainframe environments run to hundreds of programmers, and Micro Focus offers packaged and negotiable deals for the big sites.
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