DataAge 4.0 gracefully ages data archives

DataAge 4.0 gracefully ages data archives

One of the Y2K troubles that companies could face involves applications stumbling over future date fields found in a database. For example, an application that calculates a shipment date for an order could work today, but fail when working with dates six months into the future. Additional problems could emerge because of incorrectly formatted dates buried in a company's archives, which could sink the logic of an otherwise correct program.

Creating suitable test data for your software can be expensive and time consuming for your development team, but skimping on the test could expose your company to losses or litigation if your programs produce the wrong results in the future.

If this dilemma raises a few concerns, you may be interested in Cyrano DataAge 4.0. This versatile product promises to analyse and push into the future every date field in your archives, without requiring you to perform any additional programming. Although its documentation is somewhat cryptic, I found DataAge 4.0 easy to use and flexible enough to adapt to virtually any date format and any business logic for aging dates.

Well designed for diversity

Unlike Millennium/400 from Visionet Technologies, DataAge lacks a search tool to automatically identify data fields in a database; nor can it automatically import the data structures definition as can Ager 2000 from Princeton Softech. But DataAge has multi- platform support and a powerful date-definition and scripting language; these make it a good fit for diverse environments.

As a bonus, DataAge can produce an incredible amount of reports to document your testing efforts, and it can process your archives, converted to ASCII format, on any supported platform.

DataAge is one of the components of Cyrano's Year 2000 Tool-kit, which has been designed to help test various aspects of the transition to 2000. Some of the components are specific to the Digital VMS operating system; these include DateWarp, which allows you to test an application to a future date without altering the system date and time.

Differing from DateWarp, DataAge's target, as its name implies, is your data. You can use the software to create test data from an existing archive, regardless of the originating platform. The product has a command-line server component that performs the actual aging of your data according to the business rules that you specify using the client component's graphical interface.

Thoroughly testing how your software will react when you move your data into the future is not an easy task, because it involves creating test data in which all the date fields are consistently aged according to your business rules. For example, those future dates should skip over non-working days, and this involves overlapping the standard calendar with modifiers such as company, local and national holidays.

To test your data, you need to provide DataAge with the elements of your testing process. Typically this involves describing or importing a data structure and defining the algorithms to increment each date field in your archives. Using the client GUI, you can instruct DataAge to modify the content of a date according to aging rules that you tailor to each field, and specify multiple aging algorithms for each date.

Once you've completed this interactive process, the DataAge client generates a script that drives the server components. These analyse and modify the content of your data structure. Again, the DataAge server is a batch program that can run on any of the supported platforms. You can, for example, create your script using the Windows client and run the actual aging process of your files on one of many Unix systems.

DataAge has very powerful features to describe any possible date format and can work with each date field according to your business requirements. At execution time, you complement your "time travel" information with two tables, a naming reference for months and days of the week, and a holiday table - the server includes these in its execution logic.

For example, you can define tables describing your company's working calendar with a great degree of accuracy; and, because this is a run-time table, you can easily run multiple executions of the same aging logic against different calendar tables. Multinational companies will appreciate this feature, because they can create test files for different countries using the same script.

The functions of the DataAge clients are rigidly divided into: administrative tasks, such as creating projects, defining users, importing data structures and creating scripts; and user tasks, limited to defining date fields and specifying your aging criteria. I had no problems with the user features, because the GUI is intuitive and easy to use.

However, making the system work may require additional efforts that are not supported by the product. For example, DataAge works on archives only in ASCII format, which means that before running the scripts to age your archives, you need to convert them to text files. Although the documentation suggests conversion techniques for the major DBMSes, this is a task that DataAge leaves to you. You will have to consider the time and costs involved in this upstream and downstream conversion to support the aging process.

Nevertheless, I found that despite the shocking sticker price and a few rough edges, DataAge 4.0 can be an invaluable aid to thoroughly testing your applications for the year 2000.

If your software is already in the future, but your data are not, DataAge can help you get them on the same page of the calendar.

The bottom line 3.5/5

Cyrano DataAge 4.0

Summary: This flexible "data-aging product" helps prepare your data archives to match your data applications. The year 2000 compliance tool works on mainframes, Unix, and Windows NT platforms. Although DataAge does not provide a search tool to automatically identify date fields in a database, nor automatic import of data structures definition, its support for multiple platforms, together with a powerful date-definition and scripting language, make it attractive for diversified environments.

Business Case: In addition to the high sticker price, budget for training costs and the time to convert your databases to ASCII as well as create your date definitions in the catalogue. DataAge's flexibility makes it possible to concentrate projects from multiple platforms into a single workbench and test bed. You will also gain a single point of control over all of your data aging projects.

Pros: ¥ Data-aging process works independently of the platform you are supporting ¥ Powerful scripting and data-definition language ¥ Multiple-platform supportCons: ¥ Expensive ¥ No database conversion tools ¥ Works on data archives only in ASCII formatCost: Available on application.

Platforms: Server: OpenVMS, Windows NT, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, Digital Unix, IBM OS/400 and MVS; client: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT.


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