Compuware Topaz Workbench Review

Smart editor does code-completion for me; I can get things coded in less time

What is our primary use case?

I'm using it to write or research programs and JCL.

How has it helped my organization?

The smart editor helps because it will code-complete for me. I can see code working a lot faster and I'm able to get things coded in less time.

I've talked to some people who use it for applications and they're seeing that the combination of our source management plugin and using the SlickEdit editor in Topaz, and being able to have the Host Explorer, is an improvement. They're able to do things to the point where they're saving one day a week, potentially.

We can develop in parallel today on ISPF, but it's giving us the advantage of the newer interface into the mainframe programming languages that younger programmers can use and are familiar with, rather than using the ISPF green screen. Our intention is to use Topaz for the next generation of mainframe developers to build mainframe environments. As we hire new people in, if they're familiar with an Eclipse environment - which that's what Topaz is - we can get people up to speed, because all they have to learn is the language. They don't have to learn how to manipulate through a green screen.

Another advantage of using Topaz is for IT personnel that are not familiar with the mainframe to now have an interface into our z/OS environment with an environment similar to the Windows Explorer interface instead of using TSO/ISPF.

What is most valuable?

I'm still trying to figure some things out inside the Workbench. But one of the features that I like is that I can open up and move tabs outside the eclipse window to different screens in a multi-screen environment, and I'm able to expand it to see a larger amount of code than I could see in ISPF.

What needs improvement?

At this time I do not know of additional improvements from my perspective.  Over the last year, Compuware has made major improvements to the JES Explorer, which used to be the biggest negative.

There are some tools in ISPF that are not available outside of ISPF right now, things the programmers may need to look at. They still have to go to the green screen for a few things.  Since we have the free version of Topaz, we do not have access to the new 3270 emulator that can handle this situation in Eclipse. 

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's very stable. We haven't had any issues. The biggest hiccup is that Topaz doesn't always play well with the IBM products that we have integrated in, when installing it. The person who's doing it has to basically rebuild the Eclipse environment when he puts maintenance on to Topaz. That's the only issue we have noticed.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is not a problem. I've been doing some testing with some stuff that I have. I can scale it, bring up all my datasets that I need to look at. It works just fine. I can add new filters, whatever I need.

With how we have configured Eclipse, it takes a couple of minutes to initialize, but once it is up, the performance is very good.

How are customer service and technical support?

I haven't had the need to talk with tech support about it. 

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We've just been using ISPF. The decision to bring Workbench to our organization came about because we had the Compuware products, File-Aid and Xpediter, and they provided a free version of Topaz that includes Host Explorer, Slick-Edit and the interfaces to our Compuware products we currently license.  A colleague that is familiar with other products commented that Topaz is one of the best products he has seen.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very simple.  Again, since we are combining multiple products from different vendors, we have to be careful about the version of Eclipse and the order we install the product into eclipse.  Sometimes this takes a few tries to get it right.

For deployment, zip up the eclipse program files and a default workspace.  These files are sent to our desktop management group who deploy the software using Big Fix.

We also recommend that the developers back up their workspace to a network drive on a regular basis so that they can recover if there workspace gets or they make a change and want to back it out.

What about the implementation team?

We did it all in-house.

What was our ROI?

It depends on what the programmer is doing. It might save them one to two hours in a week, and as much as one day per week. It depends on how much programming they're doing, and what they are doing in their day.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We've looked at some competitors. The only potential competitor might be IBM, with their IDz product. It has an integrated compiler with it. Topaz does not.

What other advice do I have?

Look at it very closely. If you don't have anything, Topaz is great to start with, especially if you're a Compuware shop, since it is free for Compuware clients.

I've been using it more often because we added an Eclipse plug-in for our source management system.   Now, we can start really taking advantage of the Eclipse environment for  our mainframe development.

We don't have an automated testing solution, at least for unit testing. Any automated testing that's done is done more at the user-acceptance or QA-testing stages. That's been done mostly with Rational Functional Tester. We are probably going to be looking at an automated process within the next year or two. We will consider looking at the Total Test product from Compuware, since it plugs it right in.

We have built a single Eclipse environment for all products. We use the P2 installs for the products, including Topaz, and put them into a single Eclipse instance that has a combination of IBM products, our source management product, and other products. We try to have a single Eclipse instance to handle all the application development needs for mainframe developers.

As for providing intelligent insights into programs and data, we haven't used the Topaz piece for that very much. We've got an IBM product, Application Discovery, to give people a little more insight into their programs and their systems. And that's another Eclipse product, so it is included in the Eclipse environment. We've basically chosen to go a hybrid route with products that we already have.

We have 30 or 40 people using it on and off. A lot of them are application programmers. It requires less than one FTE for deployment and maintenance. It's pretty simple to maintain.

I expect our usage to increase. There are going to be some people who won't use because they don't want the learning curve and are very adept at maneuvering around ISPF.  The eclipse environment is going to be very beneficial as we replace retiring developers with younger developers that are familiar with Eclipse.

I would rate it an eight out of ten. It is a great tool. There are just a few things that you have to get used to. 

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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