Our developers use the tool for application development.
Our developers use the tool for application development.
It's helping onboard application developers who might be new to the mainframe environment. Whether they're interns or global development resources, they might be new to the mainframe environment, and giving them this Eclipse tool to use, instead of having to learn the traditional mainframe interfaces, has helped them with that onboarding process.
The most important features are the file editing and browsing features. They are essential to an application developer; those are functions they have to be able to do. Having some nice features related to those activities really helps them.
Also, the debugging capabilities are important. Again, they are essential to application developers.
The area for improvement is related to the testing tools that are available for unit testing or acceptance testing. I know they have some out there that we are not licensed for at this time, but it seems like some of the Eclipse tools that are used for other programming languages, they're all just built-in and they're a little more intuitive to the developers. Making those testing tools as intuitive as possible, and as integrated as possible into the workbench, would be really beneficial.
We have not encountered any stability issues so far. We've gone through two upgrades and we haven't had any issues with the upgrades. If anything, I'm having a hard time keeping up. They put out releases quarterly, and sometimes those quarterly releases have some really nice features, but the process for me to bring that software in, test it, and then roll it out to our end-users, makes it difficult for me to keep up with the rate at which they're putting out releases. But we haven't had any stability problems with it at all.
We did initially encounter some scalability issues. When we first started bringing it in at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, its memory requirements were pretty substantial, and some of our developers - the machines that they were working on at the time - were running into memory issues. It would run very slowly or they would have to restart or it would hang. But since we've upgraded our developer machines, at end-of service - our routine process - and they've gotten additional memory on their machines, we haven't had that problem anymore.
As far as the software vendors that I work with go, Compuware has some of the best support, in terms of listening to customer requests and accepting enhancements to the product and the like. We haven't had many issues with Topaz Workbench where I had to open problem tickets. The problems that we discover in Topaz Workbench are usually attributed to some other product. But their support is some of the best that I deal with.
Topaz is the only Eclipse-based developer solution that we've had at UPS.
Initially, it was fairly complicated. Topaz leverages the functionality from other products quite a bit, and the setup issues were attributed to those other products: things that we didn't have in place, we didn't have installed, we didn't have configured. I spent a lot of time going through the features of Topaz that were not working, trying to find which product it was that was missing a configuration step or a setup step. That took me the better part of six to eight months to get it all ironed out.
It was fairly complicated to get all of the features and functions working. As far as Topaz itself goes, they're just built-in and expected to work, but as I said, those features are really attributed to other products, the setup and configuration that's required for those products. But since we've gone through those initial setups, doing upgrades and doing maintenance has been really straightforward. There has really not been a lot to do in the configuration and setup portions.
Topaz Workbench is included in our Enterprise Agreement. They've been great as far as letting us deploy it to as many users as we want.
The only thing I would mention related to the licensing and/or the pricing is that they have some visualization features in there that are licensed by concurrent users. We're starting to trip up on that. We're looking to probably increase the number of concurrent licenses that we have. But those types of licensing strategies, where they license by concurrent users or the number of seats, are confusing for some people. They don't understand why it works sometimes and doesn't work other times.
It would be much easier if it was licensed a little differently than that. To try and explain to my end-users why certain features don't work some of the time but other times they do, it's a little confusing, and it's because of that concurrent user license strategy.
We didn't evaluate other products before choosing this product. The product was included in an Enterprise Agreement. When it was included in our agreement, we were not shopping for an Eclipse-based product like this. When we did need one, it was the one that we had and I think we got lucky, because I have seen competitors' products and I think Topaz from Compuware is far above and beyond its competitors.
Pay attention to the installation of those back-end products. Topaz leverages the features and functions of a lot of mainframe-based products, so you really have to make sure that those other Compuware products are installed and that they're configured properly. You can spend a lot of time trying to research why features of Topaz are not working, and it turns out that it's really a feature of another product that you don't have installed or configured properly.
I rate it as an eight out of ten. The only reason I wouldn't rate it as a ten is because of those initial setup difficulties that we had and because the system requirements for the tool were, initially, pretty lofty. It's a pretty memory-extensive application to run on your workstation. But I think that's common to a lot of Eclipse-based products like this. I don't think it's necessarily a Topaz issue, it's more of an Eclipse issue. The lighter weight they can make it, the better it is for companies like us which have to push it out to hundreds of users, potentially.