Rose and Clearcase

Our development team has use of the enterprise Rational suite. We use Rational Rose, Clearcase, and Clearquest frequently. I am in design mode right now. So I use Rose heavily. All of the Rose files are checked into Clearcase. The project is pretty big. Luckily most parts are split out into separate catalog (cat) files. I only load those units which I need. However I have some painful problems due to the slow networks here. It takes a long time to check files in and out of Clearcase.

Today I have determined what I call a severe perform or functional problem with Clearcase. I make use of the Clearcase support which is integrated into Rose. When I chose to check out a file, I get to enter the Clearcase comment for the check out. I like to enter very descriptive comments so I can reconstruct exactly what I did later by just looking at the comments. So I get to the comment dialog within Rose. Then I switch Windows tasks to another application to figure out what to type in for a comment. By the time I switch back to Rose, the screen has hung. It never comes back.

Now I will confess that this is not a crucial problem. But it is no fun to have to kill the Rose application with the Windows task manager. It is very slow launching it again and loading the units I need. I wonder if this is a problem that I should submit to IBM. For now I have a work around. Prior to checking anything out, I figure out what my check out comment will be. That way I do not have to switch tasks. And although Rose is slow when performing Clearcase tasks, at least the app eventually completes the task and comes back.

Aside from this problem, I find both Rose and Clearcase working pretty well. I imagine the enterprise suite license costs a lot of money. The product is provided by our customer so I do no know the details. I just assume the cost is high. For such a high price, I should not have to suffer from such bugs. As a developer, I can understand that perfect code is impossible to write. So I will but the IBM developers a little slack for now.

Crystal Reports

We have a few consults from Oracle Corporation working for our client. They are not directly on our project. They have their own separate contract. However they work on the same system our team maintains. Recently the manager from the Oracle side wanted to extract a bunch of database change information from Rational ClearQuest. And it was not going well. You would think it would be easy to export the data from the tool. It was just not working out.

The test manager from our team heard about this problem and volunteered to help. I think this manager uses ClearQuest on a daily basis. The Oracle consultant explained what she was trying to accomplish, and how the tool was not cooperating. The test team manager understood the problem and explained that there was a limit to the amount of information you could easily export from the ClearQuest spreadsheets. The recommendation from the test manager was to use Crystal Reports to programmatically extract the data.

Now I do not know how the Oracle consultant is going to get the job done. But I do know that she could not come out and say she would use Crystal Reports. That would not be the Oracle way. Their team’s job is to make money for Oracle. But it is also to promote the use of new and expensive Oracle products. They are supposed to be the experts on Oracle technology. If they had to revert back to a product from a competitor like Crystal Reports, it would look very bad. The real problem is that the IBM ClearQuest tool was not making life easy.

In the end I think the consultant was not able to extract the data she wanted in a meaningful way. The task was delegated to another Oracle consultant who manually grabbed the information from ClearQuest. But the output was not easily to work with. Maybe everybody just does not know how to work with IBM Rational ClearQuest well. I have to believe that people who use this tool need to occasionally export the data from the spreadsheets the application displays.

BlackICE Defender

My project recently moved to a new building. This happened because a new company won the bid for the maintenance contract. The change did not impact me much. I merely switched companies. A number of other long time developers on the project did the same. However we all suffer from a new problem on the project. Clearcase access has become very slow. Part of this slowness is due to the fact that we now need to make many network hops to get to the Clearcase server. The slowness is very painful.

One day the delay was so severe that a developer asked the Configuration Management team to intervene. Our CM team has some connections with the team that runs the Clearcase server. The answer turned out that the network was not our main problem. It was the BlackICE Defender service running in the background. When this service was disabled, Clearcase performance improved drastically. Our CM guy stated that IBM has dropped support for Clearcase to coexist with BlackICE.

From what I recall, BlackICE was an application for virus protection. I did a little more research and was surprised by what I found. Apparently BlackICE is now a product distributed by IBM. And they were in fact withdrawing support for the project. However this did not seem to imply that it would not longer coexist with Clearcase. Instead it seemed like IBM was dropping it from its product line. This was very confusing and even suspicious.

For now I am living with the Clearcase performance problems. BlackICE Defender is installed on my workstation for a reason. It is not up to a developer to be disabling system components they know nothing about. This problem should be addressed at an enterprise level. Our CM Team was disappointed that the Clearcase server team did not escalate this issue to an enterprise wide level. There must be more to this story than meets the eye.

Luckily our management team is working on some alternate solutions to the network performance problems. I am hoping that this shall also solve my issues with Clearcase.