Why DocApps are bad

January 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Continous Integration, Development | 4 Comments
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A recent comment on one of my posts pointed out that you could script DocApp installs using an unsupported ant task. This is certainly a useful facility however it doesn’t overcome the basic problem with Documentum Application Builder and DocApps – they don’t integrate well with source code control systems that are used to maintain all the other code and artefacts needed to develop a working system.

Think how you probably develop code for your system. You probably store your source code in a repository (Visual SourceSafe, Subversion, CVS, etc.). You probably have integrations in your IDE to allow you to automatically checkout and checkin code. You probably build your code automatically from the source code system. This is is all fairly standard development practice (hopefully!).

If you are a little more advanced then maybe you also package and deploy your application automatically and you store automated tests in your source code control system. The tests would be automatically executed whenever you build and deploy from your souce code control system.

Basically the source code control system is the lynchpin of your whole development effort. Using version control and labelling you can see how different releases have progressed and maybe track where and when bugs were introduced.

DocApps sit completely outside of this setup, you are effectively using a development docbase as an alternative source code control system – without all the benefits of a properly featured SCC! In an ideal world all your Documentum configuration assets would live in the source code control system – that includes things like type definitions. Now all the source artefacts for your development live in one place. Hopefully this is exactly what Composer will allow you to do.

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  1. Robin,

    I have also struggled with this challenge in the past. When I started working with Documentum I tended to favor scripts as an alternative to DocApps. Over time, I have come to treat the DocApp archive as one (zipped) artifact in the source control repository. If Composer does facilitate version control for DocApp contents it would be a welcome change.

    Thanks,
    Pawan

  2. Pawan, sounds like we have followed broadly similar paths! In fact there’s a posting somewhere (I think on contology) from 2006 where I question why a user would want to script object type changes when they can use DAB and DocApps.

    However consider this very simple requirement: our test manager is always asking our development team for a list of change files for each release. The development team can easily supply this information for source code, scripts and configuration files using something like WinDiff, or VSS or the like. But changes to WebPublisher templates we can’t have – they are stored in a development docbase and packaged in a DocApp.

    Really a DocApp (as with a DAR) is a deployment artefact; it is generated from your source artefacts in order to deploy to target environments. In this respect it should be treated like a JAR file or a DLL.

    I too hope that Composer facilitates version control, it appears to from all the marketing materials I’ve seen but I’m looking forward to playing around with it in the near future.

    Robin

  3. Hi Robin,

    I agree that this is a reason why DocApps are bad.

    This is something we explicitly wanted to address with Composer.

    In the Composer world, you check in the ‘source’ Composer Project. Following the example you laid you, the Composer Project could include type definitions.

    An automated build process can be used to generate the DAR and deploy the DAR on a nightly basis.

    You can then supply your test manager with the list of changed files, do diffs on the different versions of the type definition, etc.

  4. Laurence Hart has put together an excellent post on his blow by blow (successful) attempt to work with composer http://wordofpie.com/2009/03/10/my-journey-from-docapp-to-dar/


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