Compuware has joined the list of companies looking to put a more modern front end on the mainframe. The company is set to release Compuware Workbench to provide developers with GUi access rather than relying on the old menu-driven approach.

According to Neil Richards, Compuware's sales director, many of the company's customers have mission critical applications running on their mainframes but, at the same time, are trying to keep costs down by doing more with fewer people. "But many of the people don't have the skills to handle the old menud-driven software and are more comfortable with a GUI-based approach. We're offering them a way to work with this."

Richards said that it as Compuware was not one of the first to market with a Workbench product, it was important to get it right. "We spoke to a lot of our customers and found that what they wanted was to exploit their knowledge of our existing tools and not have to learn a new way of working," He added that additional functionality was an editing feature, something that had not been deemed necessary in any of Compuware's existing products.

Compuware Workbench uses an Eclipse-based GUI as a front-end to Compuware's mainframe products with the capability to launch other mainframe and distributed products. Tyler Allman, a Compuware product manager said that Eclipse had been chosen because it was almost the de facto standard for developers. "People can get an Eclipse framework for no charge from the Eclipse foundation. It's the way the world is going, students coming to university these days get started on Eclipse."

He said that the other advantage of Eclipse was that it enable Compuware to support a range of software. "There's a definite move from proprietary products and Eclipse enables us to offer a non-proprietary solution enabling our customers to add other functionality."

Richards said that the Compurware Workbench was a coming together of various product launches from the company over the past couple of years. "Because of the depth and breadth of everything, we've been leaking out bits and pieces of this. We now have enough stuff to reach critical mass."

Compuware Workbench is currently in beta and will be released in August.