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MKS Inc.
410 Albert St.
Waterloo, ON
Canada, N2L 3V3
Phone: 519 884-2251
Fax: 519 884-8861
Phone: 800 265-2797
e-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.mks.com

Test Platform
Toshiba Satellite Pro 4600, 866MHz Intel Pentium III processor, 20GB Disk, 256MB of Memory, Windows 2000 w/ Service Pack 2

Specifications
Platforms: Windows NT/2000, 98/95, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX

Pricing: SIE Server is $4,000, SIE Client License is $750 per named user, IM Client License is $750 per named user

Despite the "slowdown" in technology, the developers and project managers who I speak with continue to be under enormous pressure to deliver new applications and technology at a frenetic pace. It can be incredibly difficult to juggle all the various development tasks when team members are working on multiple projects.

Developers often find themselves working with different teams for each autonomous project - and each project is often at a different stage of the project development life cycle. This combination is a breeding ground for all sorts of disasters including lost code, recurring bugs, missed deadlines, and questionable product quality. An important line of defense for project managers, developers, and quality-assurance engineers alike is a source-code control system. For large, geographically dispersed project teams, MKS Source Integrity Enterprise Edition 8.1 might just be the perfect solution.

MKS has been in the source code integrity business since 1984. SIE 8.1 represents the very latest version of their source code management product line, and it integrates with MKS Integrity Manager 4.2 to tie in source code control with defect tracking and workflow management. SIE 8.1 uses a completely new architecture that is based on an application server layer. Users can connect to the server using a Java-based client/server application and to IM through a thin-client browser-based interface.

Installing and Configuring SIE 8.1
MKS ships the software on two separate CDs - one for the Integrity Server and one for the client installation. I tested SIE on a Windows 2000 server, but SIE supports a variety of different server platforms including Linux, Solaris, and HP-UX. SIE uses a database to store security and change package data. But the real repository data (projects and archives) is stored on the filesystem. The current release supports Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and PointBase as the database.

I used the built-in PointBase database as the repository and followed the simple Install-Anywhere instructions to install Integrity Server. The installation is simple, but you may run into a problem with the FlexLM license manager. MKS ships out a license file with the software, and you'll need to get the FlexLM license manager configured properly before you can connect to the server. MKS offers both "named user" and "floating" licenses for SIE 8.1, which is a plus, but I'm not a big fan of FlexLM as a license manager.

Once you get the server installed the real fun begins. SIE 8.1 is loaded with features and functions for source code control and security. I can't imagine any configuration that SIE would not be able to support with its vast array of functions. For example, the server provides for five different security-realm configurations (Unix, NT, LDAP, flat file, and WebLogic Server). However, configuring the security realm requires you to edit a series of property files and manually restart the server using the Windows NT Services Manager. (There's no GUI server manager.) This is typical of IM and SIE in general. The products are loaded with functionality, but it can be difficult to figure out just how to implement a certain feature or function. In all fairness, the client installation goes much smoother, since there's very little configuration that you need to worry about once you have the server up and running.

Working with IM and SIE
MKS provides a Java client application that you can use to connect to the Integrity Server. When you install the client interface it automatically detects the various IDEs you may have installed. SIE supports many of the popular IDEs, but I noticed that it didn't always support the most recent versions. For example, SIE supports Borland's JBuilder 3.0 Java IDE, but it failed to detect the JBuilder 4.0 or 5.0 releases I had installed on my desktop. However, it will support JBuilder 5.0 by the end of the year.

One of the advantages of SIE is that it does support a command-line interface as well as the more familiar GUI. Thus you can easily create command scripts to work with SIE from your own development environment as necessary. The GUI interface is useful to get the gist of the SIE environment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure  1:

The SIE client connects to the server using WebLogic's proprietary protocol. I was able to connect from my laptop to the newly installed Integrity Server that was running on a separate machine. However, MKS also allows you to connect to a remote server with SIE. Using the list of sample users and the demonstration password (from the MKS Web site) I connected through my NetScreen firewall to an SIE server that was running on MKS's remote site. This feature makes SIE ideal for highly distributed teams (including teams that might include contractors who are working off-site).

Once you connect to a server, you'll be working with three basic source code objects: projects, sandboxes, and members. A project is a group of related files (source code, design specifications, graphic images, Web pages, etc.). As a developer, you'll work with project files through an interface known as sandbox. Through the sandbox you can add new members, which are the individual program files that make up your project. I was able to add Java source files and Jtest project test files to my local sandbox, and then synchronize the whole lot back into my project. SIE provides a wealth of security features and management functions for managing projects including lock management, check-in/out procedures, and revision tools.

One of the more powerful features of the MKS product line is its ability to integrate source code control with defect tracking through Integrity Manager. Integrity Manager provides tools for tracking defects, builds, and enhancements through a powerful workflow layer. IM works with the "change packages" that are created within SIE. For example, a change package can be associated with a group of Java source files, and IM can associate this same change package with a defect report. Thus project managers and customer service teams can track problem resolution all the way back to individual source modules.

Team members can access the Integrity Manager database through a Java client interface, or they can use a standard Web browser as shown in Figure 2. The combination of SIE 8.1 and the Integrity Manager provides a complete environment for managing source code and tracking defect resolution.

Figure 2
Figure  2:

Summary
I found MKS Source Integrity Enterprise Edition 8.1 to be a very powerful and comprehensive source-code control solution. SIE 8.1 is clearly the "Cadillac" in its product category and I believe that teams of enterprise developers will find it to be a compelling solution. Geographically dispersed teams will find the remote-access features to be particularly enticing, though smaller development teams and workgroup developers may find SEI 8.1 to be overkill for their needs. However, MKS also offers Source Integrity Standard Edition for smaller, localized development teams.

JDJ Product Snapshot

  • Target Audience: Project managers, Q/A team, programmers
  • Level: Advanced developer
  • Pros: Feature-rich product, support for client/server and Web interfaces, workflow integration with Integrity Manager 4.2, integration with popular development IDEs, flexible licensing policy, and command line interface
  • Cons: Complex server configuration, overwhelming feature set, can be expensive: IM and SIE together are $1,400 per named user

Author Bio
Jim Milbery is an independent software consultant based in Easton, Pennsylvania. [email protected]

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