Derek Robinson 00:00:01 Welcome to Data Points, a podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app. Links can be found at datapoints.intersystems.com. I'm Derek Robinson, and on today's episode, we welcome George James, CEO of George James Software, to talk about their source control solutions and developer tools.
Derek Robinson 00:00:35 Welcome to the Data Points podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. On today's episode, I'm joined by George James of George James Software, a longtime partner of InterSystems. Many developers familiar with InterSystems technologies may know who George James Software is, but George is with us today to talk about their relationship with InterSystems, their developer solutions, and their vision for the future. So without further ado, here's my interview with George.
Derek Robinson 00:01:03 All right, George James, thank you so much for joining us on Data Points. How's it going?
George James 00:01:08 Oh, great. Thank you, Derek, for inviting us to join you on this podcast.
Derek Robinson 00:01:13 Yeah, it's really exciting from our standpoint. We pretty much, every episode that I've done on this has been an internal InterSystems guest that I've had on, so it's really exciting to have someone that is not at InterSystems but is a close partner and partner with all of our business and everything to join us. So as we jump in here, tell us a little bit about who George James Software is. That's your company?
George James 00:01:34 Yeah. So we're a London-based team of software developers. Um, and right from the outset, the company is focused on system maintainability. It's a well-known note that over the long term of supporting a system, it's a much greater cost than the initial development. So the greatest gains can be had from improving the process and practices in this area. To that end, we focus on activities that can help our customers do a better job of supporting and maintaining their systems and applications. Our activities include consulting, training, and support, but what we're most well-known for is our range of developer tools for things like source control and debugging. We've always been specialists in systems products, so both Deltanji, which is our source-control solution, and Serenji, which is our ObjectScript debugger, have been purpose-built to work with InterSystems IRIS.
Derek Robinson 00:02:33 Right, right. Nice, nice. And so we're gonna talk in more detail about some of those, but as we expand upon sort of who you guys are and your relationship to InterSystems, I know for a lot of our listeners, we frequently will talk about InterSystems customers and partners, and, you know, that group is often put together, and I don't know how many people really distinguish necessarily between the two when it comes to things that are important to InterSystems and what we are putting out there and what we're building. Um, so can you tell us a little bit about George James Software's relationship with InterSystems and how that's developed over the years?
George James 00:03:04 Yeah, that goes back a very long way. Um, I think I first encountered InterSystems in in about 1979.
Derek Robinson 00:03:14 Oh, wow. Only one year after InterSystems was founded in '78.
George James 00:03:19 Yeah, that's right. They were a new company at time, and that was a conference in London, I seem to recall. And anyhow, I've used InterSystems technologies as a customer since then, all through the 1980s, building healthcare applications. And at the end of that decade, I founded George James Software. And right from the outset, we were using InterSystems technology as a core focus for us. And we've continued to provide solutions to InterSystems customers ever since. Our aim has always been to augment InterSystems' awesome technology with developer tools that can help customers with the maintainability and supportability of their applications over the long term.
Derek Robinson 00:04:09 Nice. That, that's great. Um, so kind of with that history, can you talk a little more about sort of now in the modern day, like how do we work together currently with George James Software for those wondering kind of what the relationship looks like today?
George James 00:04:21 Yeah. Well, we've always worked closely with InterSystems, but I feel that we work closer now than we have ever done. Um, we're involved, I guess, in two areas at the moment. Firstly, we get involved pretty early stage with new InterSystems customers when they need a source control solution. And secondly, we're doing some new product development work with you, which I'll talk about in a moment. Um, often with new customers, we find ourselves getting brought in at an early stage by InterSystems sales engineers. They know that Deltanji can address their customers' source-control needs, and by bringing us in at the start, they're ensuring that the customers' application software is gonna be well-managed and controlled right from the get-go. Um, and that's a big win for sales engineers. It's one less thing for them to have to worry about when they're onboarding a new customer. So that works out really, really well. Um, we're doing some work in the VS Code area as well. So VS Code is the most-used IDE for software development, and this is for very good reasons. It's an excellent tool with an extensible architecture that provides for some very innovative extensions, so right now we're working with InterSystems Developer Experience team to improve the integration between VS Code and IRIS. We're doing this in a number of new areas and you can expect to hear more about this in the coming months, I think.
Derek Robinson 00:06:09 Right. Nice, that's great. And we actually had an episode earlier in our podcast where we talk to Raj Singh from InterSystems about VS Code and developing with VS Code. That's a good related topic to look at there. As we kinda shift that conversation more towards source control, as that is one of the key tenets of your product offerings, what are some of the ways that George James software's solutions are, are different than, say, you know, GitHub, which many of our audiences might be familiar with? Talk about your source control solutions in that way.
George James 00:06:39 Yeah, so Deltanji Source Control is indeed, it's our flagship developer tool. Um, and I'd like to say first what a little bit about why source control is important, right? It very much goes back to what I said at the beginning, which is that maintainability is paramount. Without good source control, there's very little assurance that the developers are working on the code that they should be working on. Um, they can be right working on the wrong version or in the wrong place, and that that can lead to regressions and other problems, which all translate into poorer quality and increased costs. So that's why source control is important. And that's why Deltanji is such an important tool, both to us and to our customers. Um, the architecture of Deltanji enables us to integrate very closely with IRIS. Because of the close integration, Deltanji can give users a much better fitting solution than the generic tool like Git or GitHub. Um, it's also got a fully configurable workflow solution that goes beyond the traditional CI/CD pipeline and automates the whole project lifecycle from the very start of development right through to the end deployment in the production environment. So Deltanji's integration with client tools like Studio, VS Code, and the Management Portal itself, mean that source control operations, such as deploying a set of changes right through its production, can often be done simply with just a few mouse clicks. So that makes it very easy for developers to work with it all.
Derek Robinson 00:08:28 Right, right. Nice. Yeah, sounds like there's a lot of features there and kind of make sense why, as you mentioned earlier, you often work with new InterSystems customers that do need a source control solution to help them get up and running. So a lot of those features you mentioned, and at the very end, you sort of started talking about the integration with client tools like Studio, VS Code, Management Portal. Um, just building on that in, you know, more general terms, how does Deltanji sort of benefit InterSystems IRIS users specifically?
George James 00:08:54 InterSystems IRIS is a complex product. Um, it's got a lot of moving parts, and each of those has different source control needs, and many of those needs are actually fairly unique to IRIS. But because we know the product very very well, we've worked with it for a long time, we understand the internals and workings of ours, and by leveraging that, Deltanji Source Control provides a solution that can handle all of those moving parts within ours in a way that's seamless to developers. So we take care of the differences between different components and provide a single unified way for developers to work with the various kind different kinds of sources that you find inside IRIS. For example, even though productions are implemented as a monolithic class definition, Deltanji is able to actually dig into the class definition and manage each of the configuration items within the production as a separate and discrete component for source control purposes. Um, this makes it a lot easier to handle concurrent development and changes that have to be deployed at different points in time. And when you're dealing with a production containing many hundreds of configuration items, this becomes a major win.
Derek Robinson 00:10:31 Right, right. Yeah, absolutely. That's, that's a huge benefit. Um, so, you know, when we look at some of those features you just mentioned, a lot of them with Deltanji that mesh really well with InterSystems IRIS, I know that things like Serenji Debugger, which you mentioned earlier in the intro to the podcast, have also been presented at past Global Summits. I remember watching a presentation on that. So what are some of the other features of your products that do mesh well with InterSystems IRIS that maybe weren't included in that last answer?
George James 00:10:57 Okay. Well yeah, a couple of years ago, this is before lockdown, we presented Serenji on the main stage of the Global Summit. And in that presentation, we showed how it could be used to debug REST services. Um, so is an ObjectScript debugger that's implemented as a VS Code extension, and it allows developers to debug ObjectScript pretty much wherever it occurs within an application. Um, the example that we demonstrated was with REST services, where the code is being executed on the server as a, in a background process, where it's not easy to get at. So what we demonstrated was a mechanism by whereby Serenji can intercept the call to the background process and step through the appropriate ObjectScript code that implements that service, and that provides a much easier and intuitive way for developers to debug REST requests.
Derek Robinson 00:12:03 Right, right. Nice. And, and you know, reaching into another topic there of that really developer-focused set of features, kind of circling back to Deltanji, any other things you'd add about Deltanji as far as it's kind of what it boasts as far as an integration within InterSystems IRIS, specifically looking at those developer tools?
George James 00:12:22 Um, yeah, so Deltanji Source Control has got a number of different client integrations. These expose the capabilities of Deltanji right at the place where developers need them. So for example, our client's integration for the Management Portal will enable people to perform source control actions directly without interrupting their train of thought. When they're working in the Management Portal, they don't have to go out to some other tool and mess around and then come back in. It's all done right there at your fingertips. And we have a client integration for pretty much every place where developers might be working within IRIS. So that includes VS Code, Studio, and the Management Portal.
Derek Robinson 00:13:13 Right, right. Nice. That's great. Um, so we've talked a lot about source control, obviously kind of mentioned at the top that that's one of the key, you know, real strong suits of your product offerings, but what are some other exciting areas of innovation that you guys tackle at George James Software?
George James 00:13:28 Well, we really like VS Code and consider it to be one of the best platforms available for development. We especially like the fact that it's very extensible, and that Microsoft have nurtured a massive ecosystem of extensions, which gives a wide range of add-on features that developers can pick from. Um, and because Microsoft has done such a good job in this area, it's been a great platform for us to integrate our tools into. Um, and we've now got extensions for both Deltanji Source Control and the Serenji debugger. And I have to say that we are able to produce an integration that's much better than any that we're ever able to achieve for Studio, for example. It gives us much greater capability there. So that's why we like VS Code, and going beyond this, we've actually been doing a number of projects building brand new extensions for customers in different areas for VS Code.
George James 00:14:43 So for example, we recently became maintainers of the SQL Tools extension, which is a very popular extension. It's got at least a couple of million downloads, and that must translate into quite a few users as far as I can judge. Um, but SQL Tools is a great little extension. It provides the ability to view schemas and develop queries for dozens of different databases and including across InterSystems IRIS as one of those, which is how it came to our attention. Um, so that's actually a very interesting area for us and gets us to see a bit more about how people are using databases other than IRIS, which is kinda interesting to see sometimes.
Derek Robinson 00:15:36 Yeah, exactly. That's great. Well, lots of exciting stuff, it sounds like, is on your plate. What should listeners do to learn more after this conversation, kind of what should be their next step? How can they go find out more information?
George James 00:15:47 Well if you're interested in source control, and I think every developer ought to be interested in source control, then you should check out our website, georgejames.com, and there you'll be able to find out more about Deltanji and how it integrates with InterSystems IRIS. You can even download a free edition and give it a try yourself. Um, so that's worth doing. If you are already one of our customers and already using any of our developer tools, then first of all, I should say thank you. And secondly, I should say, make sure to follow us on LinkedIn, where you can keep in touch with what's new. Just search for George James software.
Derek Robinson 00:16:28 Right, right. Nice. So there you go. The link for George James website as well will also be put in the podcast description, so you can get it right there quickly and easily. So George James, thanks so much for joining us, and we'll talk to you soon.
George James 00:16:42 Thank you, Derek.
Derek Robinson 00:16:46 Thanks again to George for joining us for that conversation. As I mentioned toward the end there, you can head over to georgejames.com via the link in the podcast description to learn more about their company and to try their tools for yourself. I'd also like to thank Laurel from George James Software as well, who is hugely helpful in making this interview happen and planning it all out. That'll do it for this episode. We'll see you next time on Data Points.