CM Tools & Infrastructure TDA & Team Leader
Andrew’s role within ICL PFI covered the design and implementation of central CM services using Merant’s PVCS Dimensions, for subsequent service provision to many large programmes each with multiple projects, and all geographically distributed across multiple sites. This was a challenging requirement, and Andrew was assisted in this task by two ‘techies’ reporting to him. Andrew himself reported formally to the Configuration Manager, on a weekly basis.
The main part of the solution Andrew was responsible for consisted of a Sun E450 server running Solaris and PVCS Dimensions with a back-end Oracle database. This PVCS installation contained multiple base-databases, each in turn containing several different products. In this way access control was easily available to ensure data security across the multiple user programmes. All item libraries are held on this server, with the exception of COTS packages which are stored on distributed NT servers for ease of access, with pointers to them from within PVCS. The latter detail has proven less than ideal in practice but was a compromise mandated by the users at system inception.
Backups of all servers are made every night with tapes being rotated on a 20 working-day cycle. Tapes are sent offsite each week to ensure safe storage and returned again two weeks later. Permanent archive copies are retained every fortnight and their location alternates between offsite and local. Disaster Recovery (DR) capability for the main PVCS service is provided by a duplicate server located 25 miles away to which changes in both Oracle database and item libraries are replicated every night. The manner in which COTS data is replicated across the distributed NT servers is such that DR capability is automatically provided. Andrew was responsible for the design of all backup and DR processes, as well as the majority of the physical system architecture….
Users on the site local to the PVCS server access it across the LAN from a PVCS PC Client installed on their local PC. For other users on remote sites, Andrew initially provided a Terminal Server, and more recently a farm of Citrix MetaFrame servers, to address WAN latency issues and thus provide a substantially improved level of application performance. Merant’s PC Client is designed for use across a LAN, not a WAN. Unfortunately the PVCS INET web client did not provide the functionality ICL PFI required so was immediately ruled out.
To further improve performance for users remote from the main PVCS server, Andrew piloted the usage of a DFS node (literally, Distributed File System). This is simply a NT server containing the PVCS item libraries but not the PVCS Oracle database. The PC Client links to the DFS node and only SQL*Net queries pass between the DFS node and the Oracle database. If the DFS node is local to the users this ensures that all item data is rapidly accessed on the LAN, with only a limited amount of slower WAN traffic (the SQL*Net query) being generated. Andrew confirmed this theory using a LAN analyser, and the result in practice was a significant reduction in the time taken to fetch items from PVCS which has proved invaluable where large baselines are being retrieved.
Where it has been necessary to generate ad-hoc scripts (e.g. for testing) Andrew has used Perl, and for ad-hoc reporting Crystal Reports. Despite having staff to assist in these tasks, Andrew is able to (and frequently does) do them himself.
Andrew has obviously documented all the above: designs, decisions, reasons and processes, and both documentation and any reports generated are available to all interested parties on the intranet as well as being held securely in PVCS itself. Where possible all reports are of a defined “standard format” which has been negotiated and agreed between the programmes – at Andrew’s suggestion – such that they can easily be re-used by other programmes to avoid duplicated effort.
In addition to the above, Andrew’s broad depth of knowledge and experience, not only of PVCS Dimensions and Configuration Management, but also of server architecture, LAN and WAN design, ensured that he represented the division on an ongoing basis at technical meetings aimed at determining a corporate strategy for rolling out Configuration Management services and practices across the entire ICL group.
PVCS Dimensions, Windows NT Server, Solaris, Oracle, COTS, Citrix MetaFrame, Terminal Server, Visual Basic, VBA, PERL, Crystal Reports.