IBM Readies Rational Revamp

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-06-05

IBM Readies Rational Revamp

IBM is making a major upgrade to its Rational software development platform to better help enterprises build complex applications in an effort to keep its lead in application development tools.

At its RSDC (Rational Software Development Conference) in Orlando, Fla., beginning June 4, IBM will announce the latest version of its IBM Rational software development platform, known as IBM Rational Release 7, Team Products, or "Baltic."

The move comes a little more than three years after IBM purchased Rational. IBM officials said the new IBM Rational Software Development Platform automates much of the software development and delivery process and helps enterprises overcome geographic and organizational silos that hamper development projects.

The software focuses on team development and collaboration, according to Daniel Sabbah, general manager of IBM Rational, in Somers, N.Y. Sabbah said the platform also features significant upgrades to all IBMs core ALM (application lifecycle management) tools and supporting products.

Analysts say IBM has three main motives for revamping its Rational tools. The company has lost ground in the testing market to Mercury Interactive, and integration between Rationals various tools has lagged, said Jim Duggan, an analyst with Gartner, in Stamford, Conn.

In addition, IBM is hearing footsteps from Microsoft, the No. 2 player in application development tools, said Carey Schwaber, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.

"Rational still has the edge in terms of total functionality," said Schwaber. "But I do believe that vendors like Microsoft have started to catch up on the underlying platform."

That talk irks Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software, and the architect of IBMs Rational purchase.

"We do not see Microsoft as being much of a competitor because theyre focused on a Windows-only model of execution. And medium and large businesses tend to run more than just Windows," said Mills.

Indeed, Heather Mardis, a software release manager at Stratus Technologies, in Maynard, Mass., said Rationals even support for Linux and Windows is a big benefit but that the companys tool set on Linux had become "a tad moldy."

To ditch the mold, IBM is relying on a new product dubbed IBM Rational ClearQuest 7, which delivers advanced workflow and activity management. This tool allows developers to trace a software asset through the development life cycle and to demonstrate compliance with an alphabet soup of regulations through audit reporting, said Sabbah.

Lee Nackman, vice president of product development and customer support for IBM Rational, said the focus of the new release is "on trying to accelerate global software delivery."

As such, Nackman said IBM is focusing on "more-closed-loop software delivery management, flexible and integrated test management for distributed teams, and extended globalization support."

Next Page: Revamping Rational.

Revamping Rational

Revamping Rational

To reach those three goals, the Baltic release required a 12-pack of products.

Products in the Baltic platform include IBM Rational BuildForge 7, technology IBM acquired in May when it bought BuildForge.

The software helps developers automate their software development process.

The Baltic release also includes IBM Rational ClearQuest 7, which verifies and tracks changes in the software development process, and IBM Rational ClearCase 7, which manages and controls software development assets.

IBM Rational Portfolio Manager 7 is a dashboard for monitoring the software development process, and IBM Rational RequisitePro 7 enables developers to track, manage and document requirements, Nackman said.

In addition, integration between IBM Rational BuildForge 7 and IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7 with Rational ClearQuest enables development teams to work together better throughout the delivery life cycle, from tracking requirements to building and releasing software to managing testing processes to deploying the final product, Nackman said.

"We have been doing work to integrate across the Rational and Tivoli product lines to foster tracking and auditing the evolution of assets in production," Nackman said.

"The result is better and faster build and production cycle time."

Click here to read more about IBM Rationals .Net Tools support.

Other products in the Baltic release include IBM Rational Functional Tester Plus, for managing tests, defects and project changes; IBM Rational PurifyPlus, a run-time analysis product; IBM Rational Robot, a test automation tool for quality assurance teams; IBM Rational Rose, a visual design and development environment for enterprise Java and .Net systems; IBM Rational Rose RealTime, a model-driven development solution; IBM Rational Team Unifying Platform, an integrated suite of infrastructure tools and processes for providing common access to development assets; and IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager, for automatic provisioning and deployment of a server, IBM officials said.

Next Page: Rationals road ahead.

Rationals Road Ahead

Rationals road ahead

IBM has been using the names of major bodies of water as code names for its tool platforms. In 2004, IBM at RSDC launched its "Atlantic" desktop tool set, which integrated IBMs tools with the Eclipse platform. And later this year the company will announce "Caspian," the next major revision of IBM Rationals desktop tools platform, sources said.

Sabbah said IBM is aiming to provide governance for the software development process by building discipline into the tools themselves so developers do not have to bother with red tape or bureaucracy.

"Geographically distributed, Web-centric solutions are becoming the norm, and this requires focus, discipline and accountability," Sabbah said.

IBM also is enhancing its tools line as competition in the ALM software space continues to heat up, with Microsoft moving into the space with its Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server, Borland dropping its integrated development environment line to focus solely on ALM, and others such as Mercury Interactive and Serena Software making moves to chip away at IBM Rationals leadership position.

Sabbah said he is nonplussed by analysts comments about competition from Borland and Microsoft, both of which have hired former Rational developers and architects. "Theres a big difference between hiring people who know how to do it [software development process] and changing the culture of a particular organization to actually produce and systematically execute in the marketplace around a particular theme," said Sabbah.

Mills said the $2.1 billion IBM spent on Rational was well-spent because the company needed to deliver tools to build complex enterprise applications. However, Mills said IBM has more work to do on Rational.

"Theres sort of a nirvana, an end state where you have true end-to-end life-cycle tooling and true end-to-end traceability," Mills said. "We have more work to do. We know what the end state is. The smoothness with which the tools interconnect is a priority for [Sabbah]," Mills said, adding that integration between the various tools is always an area for improvement.

Nevertheless, Mardis said the new Rational platform is a step in the right direction. "The ClearQuest client provides the same look and feel across our Windows and Linux development environments," said Mardis. "This has become very important, as we often need to share resources between the product development teams and things are complicated when the tool sets behave or look different."

Meanwhile, Sabbah also said that, at RSDC, IBM will start a discussion about collaborative development. The goal? To spin out an open-source initiative to spur collaborative development and create better tools to support it. Sabbah said IBM will donate code and work to establish standards and perhaps an organization akin to the Eclipse Foundation that is focused on collaborative development.

In addition, IBM will be making partnering announcements, including a new Ready for IBM Rational software program, new tools on the companys AlphaWorks site and more, Sabbah said.

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