Over ten years ago PrismTech developed the PrismTech Total CORBA Solution (PrismTech TCS) product range. PrismTech TCS brought together the very best Open Source ORB (TAO & JacORB) technology available and combined it with PrismTech’s own outstanding OpenFusion CORBA Services into a integrated product bundle, which was then distributed and supported by a single organization, PrismTech. The combination of outstanding technology and the best “total cost of ownership proposition” available was something that the market bought into in a big way and has fueled the rapid growth in the demand for Industrial Strength Open Source middleware.
Industrial Strength Open Source is a term coined by PrismTech and is used to describe the added value that a professional software products company such as PrismTech can bring to leading Open Source technologies. Open Source technology for use by commercial organizations in sectors such as Defense and Telecommunications is accepted as viable alternative to COTS software only once key requirements are met and perceived risks mitigated. Key concerns include the quality and robustness of the implementations, on going evolution and enhancement of the technology, packaging and availability, technical support availability and service level guarantees, code base management and management of Open Source community co-ordination activities.
PrismTech have developed a complete life cycle approach with clearly defined services and supporting process for adding Industrial Strength to Open Source Middleware in order to address these requirements and concerns. The PrismTech approach is accepted by many of the largest companies in the world covering a range of business sectors. These organizations have one thing in common, they are not prepared to compromise on key aspects of the software that they use, even if they can save money in the short term by doing so.
PrismTech’s process for adding Industrial Strength to Open Source includes the following life cycle states:
At major release points in an Open Source product’s evolution PrismTech will select a snapshot of the Open Source community’s code base on which a subsequent commercial release will be based. This code base will then be stabilized further and then only made available as part of an official PrismTech release once our own internal product QA processes have been successfully completed. The code base all times will be held and maintained under strict configuration management control. Typically, only bug fixes or controlled enhancements will ever be applied to this code until the next major synchronization point. PrismTech also ensures that any bug fixes or enhancements that we make are put back into the community’s code base prior to the next major synchronization point.
PrismTech provides additional value add functionality not generally available in the Open Source community releases as part of our commercialized product releases. This functionality ranges from extra user documentation and example code through to additional product capabilities, product performance optimizations and utilities to make the product more user friendly.
PrismTech provides its commercialized Open Source product releases on a wide range of platforms, supporting different OS, compiler, and hardware combinations. Typically, many of these platform combinations are not available directly from the Open Source community. Once a platform is officially supported it is integrated into PrismTech’s testing and release management systems. This allows us to make regular maintenance releases available to our customers across all of the supported platforms.
Prior to each release (major, minor, maintenance or patch) of the product, thorough and comprehensive testing is performed before the software is allowed to go out of the door.
Testing is performed on a number of different levels and includes:
- Regression testing – includes tests developed to ensure that the software is working correctly from a functional point of view. New tests are developed each time the product is enhanced or a bug correction is made and run before each release to ensure that any changes introduced have not affected the correct operation of the product
- Soak/stress testing – includes tests developed to load the software, typically by creating adding and removing many client connections and observing the software in order to detect any errors or bottlenecks
- Backwards compatibility testing – between minor (whenever possible) and maintenance product releases PrismTech guarantees backward compatibility between releases, both at the binary level and also at the API level
- Performance testing – performance of our products is critical. Performance improvement and testing is carried out on a continuous basis. Prior to each release PrismTech measures the performance of our products to ensure that no performance degradation has taken place due to any changes
- Interoperability testing – PrismTech have developed a suite of tests that can be used to ensure that different CORBA products interoperate. Interoperability testing is performed between different versions of the same product (e.g. between TAO 1.4 & 1.5) but also between different products (e.g. TAO 1.6 and JacORB 2.3). Interoperability testing is performed prior to each release.
PrismTech provides commercial grade packaging for all of our products. All releases are provided “pre-built” in binary format and are ready for use straight “out of the box”. We package the distributions using commercial installation technology in order to make installation and configuration of the software as easy for users as possible. All releases include comprehensive release notes, detailing the content of the distribution, any bugs fixed in the release, known issues etc.
PrismTech makes regular product releases available to all of our customers. In addition to major and minor product releases which include new functionality, regular maintenance releases are made across all of our supported platforms. PrismTech customers benefit from bug fixes made by both the wider Open Source community and which PrismTech has merged into our code base, and also any fixes that our customers have specifically reported and that we have fixed ourselves. In this way we are constantly improving the quality of the product and making these improvements available to our customer base.
PrismTech is renowned for its top quality and timely support and this is offered on a worldwide basis including 24x7 coverage where necessary. We have a range of standard support packages available, but can also offer tailored packages that can meet the most demanding service level commitments required by our customers. Unlike other vendors who typically only offer time and material based support for Open Source products, PrismTech’s support contracts are available on an annual basis with the advantage that all fees are known up front with no hidden or un-bounded costs. This is exactly the same model that we use for any of our other COTS products and is a model that in our experience large successful organizations prefer.
Each Open Source product release (major, minor, maintenance and patch) and also the code base itself is managed and controlled very carefully by PrismTech. Only changes that have been verified through rigorous testing are included in our releases. For customers with mission critical systems in deployment PrismTech provides the option to maintain and manage a code base specific to an individual customer. By coordinating closely with the customer only atomic level corrections are ever applied to these code bases. In this way PrismTech can help ensure that any maintenance or patch releases made from the customer’s managed code base will not introduce defects into a deployed system. This approach also minimizes the re-certification work that a customer may have to undertake with a deployed system.
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