SCM tools key ATPCO effort to automate development life cycle

Application Development Trends'
2002 Innovator Awards
Application Engineering
Honorable Mention

In most cases, corporate development operations must justify technology investments to IT management and, in some cases, to corporate executives. In the case of industry consortia, the justification process is many times far more complex, requiring backing and approval from at least some of the owners.

In the case of the Airline Tariff Publishing Co. (ATPCO), based in Dulles, Va., that means justifying investments to most of the major airlines that own the operation, which was founded to collect and distribute airline fare and fare-related data for the airline industry and other pieces of the travel industry.

Company officials say the operation gathers data from more than 550 airlines worldwide and distributes the information via multiple global information systems, including Sabre, Worldspan, Galileo International and Amadeus/System One, as well as through various computer reservation systems.

The project garnering the honorable mention position in the Application Engineering category of the Application Development Trends Innovator Award competition was a piece of a significant project to upgrade ATPCO's software development infrastructure, with the aim of automating the development life cycle and thereby cutting development time and building a better product, officials said. The project, undertaken by the firm's Core Development Group, called for incorporating configuration management into the overall development process.

Rakesh Nayak, technical project manager, said ATPCO selected the PVCS Dimensions toolset from Merant, Portland, Ore., for the project over several competing tools, including offerings from Rational Software and MKS Inc. The Merant tool replaced a far less formal SCM program that included an array of tools, including Microsoft's Visual Sourcesafe SCM tool and the DOORS requirements management system from Telelogic AB, he said.

The project met the goals set by management -- a 50% decrease in time-to-market for building and delivering new solutions to members and customers compared to pre-project performance during the final months of 1999, said Nayak.

Development managers acknowledge they faced significant risks in implementing a configuration management process in the life cycle. Providing hard data to prove customer benefit or attributing revenue gains directly to the project could be difficult, if not impossible.

Once it was agreed to implement configuration management, a committee headed by Chauny Dunbar, director of the Core Applications Development unit, was formed to evaluate several technologies.

The committee chose PVCS Dimensions because of the inclusion of both change and version control capabilities in the same tools, and for its ability to support mainframe and client/server platforms, officials said. The committee also agreed to utilize the LoadRunner testing toolset from Mercury Interactive Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif., to test the implementation of PVCS Dimensions, as well as Microsoft Project from Microsoft Corp. to create a project schedule and to implement a formal deployment process.

Once a configuration management development team was created, the group first took on the time-consuming task of setting and tuning the tools to ensure that the processes effectively mirrored those already established by ATPCO.

Application profile:

Tools and Technologies:
Merant PVCS Dimensions, Oracle databases, Windows NT and OS 390, Mercury LoadRunner, MS Project

Development Team:
Nancy Testerman, Nancy Cochran and Rakesh Nayak

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.


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