Synon was a software company which, at its height, dominated the worldwide market for third party application development tools for the IBM System i (formerly AS/400) platform. Its products continue to be widely used in that sector today, distributed and supported by CA Inc..
Synon pioneered what is now sometimes called Architected Rapid Application Development (ARAD).
Synon's first product was Synon/1, a programming productivity toolkit for the System/38, launched in 1985. In the same year the company appointed its first overseas distributors, in Australia and Norway.
Synon's flagship product, Synon/2 was launched in 1986 and became an immediate success with System/38 users. The same year, Chris Herron, formerly CEO of Fusion, along with Patrick Batty of Toronto, and Gerard Wolf of Chicago, set up Synon Inc, Synon's US sales and marketing subsidiary, in Larkspur, California. Synon also established a worldwide distribution channel with subsidiaries in France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.
Simon Williams went on to develop the Associative Model of Data and to found Lazysoft.
In Synon/2 (now CA 2E), developers use a specialised language to define an application's data model and the rules that ensure its integrity. They then select from a set of around 30 pre-built program design templates which perform edit, display and print functions in full screen, multi-line and transaction (full screen header above a multi-line detail) modes. Developers may further specialise the procedural logic of the selected templates and link templates together by using action diagrams.
The tool then automatically instantiates the specialised templates over the data model and generates sophisticated high-level language code in RPG, COBOL or Java without any further developer intervention. It also generates the SQL or DDS code to define the necessary database tables and views.
Synon kept precise productivity metrics during the internal development of its SMA accounting system. In total, 2,385 days of effort were expended on development and QA over a 14 month period, which resulted in the creation of 2.42 million lines of HLL code (excluding comments) in 2,081 programs. This is equivalent to the production of 1,016 lines of fully tested and documented code per person per day. The all-in, fully loaded cost (including management, design and end-user documentation) was £416 per program.
Synon/2 was also ahead of its time by adopting a strictly object oriented approach to the programs that it generated. For instance, programmers could not use native HLL commands to operate on database tables: instead, all physical database creates, changes and retrievals were encapsulated within individual templates, which were in turn evoked by generated programs. Thus programs could be automatically regenerated with no manual intervention following changes to the structure of the database.
In 2001, CA introduced an add-on tool to CA 2E called Web Option, which allows 2E customers to web-enable their existing applications and to run those applications (which were originally designed for an IBM 'green-screen') inside a standard web browser.
Obsydian (now CA Plex) follows the same general principles as Synon/2, with the important exception that developers can create and re-use their own abstract design templates. The CA Plex toolset also operates web and client-server applications, and generates in C#, C++, Java, RPG400 and RPGIV and is multi-platform.