If you were talking to someone whose organization is considering Compuware Topaz Workbench, what would you say?
How would you rate it and why? Any other tips or advice?
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 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.
The Topaz Workbench is easy to use with good plugins. I would recommend people use it, but I would install it as a solution, not as a standalone. Get a single pane of glass for all your developers. We don't have an automated unit testing solution. It's all manually based for the mainframe. Currently, we don't have an automated testing testing. We may look to adding this feature in the future. However, we have some challenges because we are still mainframe-centric, so the SCMs on the mainframe don't click well with other tools. The solution should expand in the next couple of years as the company struggles to get developers to do COBOL. The solution was rolled out through mainframe developers only. Topaz workbench is one of the most integrated into Eclipse that I've seen from the mainframe vendors. For example, some of the other vendors don't use the Eclipse functionalities. The postings on this site are my own and do not represent in any way Western & Southern Financial Group's (including its member companies) positions, strategies or opinions. The information contained on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or as a recommendation of any particular strategy or investment product. This profile should not be considered as a solicitation for services.
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.
I really don't have any advice, I haven't used it enough.
Focus a lot on user training, anything you can do to enhance the user learning and utilization of it. It is a switch from traditional mainframe tools, so it does take time to work on the training. Overall, I give it a nine out of ten. It's pretty well implemented and documented. I know they are continuing to add features to it. Some of their products aren't up to full functionality, to what they have on the mainframe, but they are working on that. They are constantly adding new features.
It might be of benefit if there were training for, and incorporation of, millennials and new people coming in to work on the mainframe through an Eclipse environment. But as far as people who are already familiar with the mainframe, this solution has some big drawbacks.
As always, with any product, I compare * the ease of use * how easy it is to install * the usefulness to the user * how simple is it for them to understand While we install the product, we don't necessarily use it. However, we have to provide support to the user who is using it. Our group supports 40 different products, so they need to be very easy to use, and I need to be able to look things up because I'm obviously not going to be an expert on 40 products. Installation manuals and documentation are crucial. That goes hand in hand with a company's support site. With 40 different products and however many different vendors, everybody has a different support site. Some are really easy to use and really great, and some are not at all easy to use. That is another piece that plays into my opinion of products. I would go with an eight out of 10 when rating this product. Obviously, it's not perfection, but it's very useful, relatively easy to install and maintain, and we've had a good relationship with support personnel. That all goes hand in hand to say that it's a good product, it's worth the trouble of installing and maintaining.