IBM Delivers SCM Tools for Visual Studio 2005

With the official release of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 toolkit, IBM is making a reversal of sorts and delivering a new version of its SCM tools for Visual Studio 2005 customers.

SAN FRANCISCO—With Mondays official release of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 toolkit, IBM is making a reversal of sorts and delivering a new version of its SCM tools for Visual Studio 2005 customers.

IBM officials said the company would make its IBM Rational ClearCase and IBM Rational ClearQuest software configuration management tools available for Visual Studio 2005 customers by the end of this week.

The move is significant in that it beats Microsoft at providing SCM tools of its own for the team development version of its new development platform: Visual Studio 2005 Team System, IBM officials noted. Forrester Inc. analyst Carey Schwaber, said, "Though Microsoft doesnt always speak of it as such, Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server is Microsofts SCM solution. Its in the same category of tools as ClearCase and ClearQuest. The functionality is comparable, and in a few ways its superior, but performance and scalability are still big issues. Microsoft is currently recommending no more than 500 users per instance—a far cry from the 8,000-plus users Rational cites for some ClearCase deployments."

However, Microsoft was unable to deliver Visual Studio Team Foundation Server in time for Mondays launch of the rest of the Visual Studio platform. However, the company said the Team Foundation technology will become available in the first quarter of 2006.

Meanwhile, IBMs SCM tools, which include IBM Rational ClearCase and IBM Rational ClearQuest, offer customers a single point of control for automating the management of software assets across all key enterprise platforms, the company said.

Moreover, improved management of development projects across an organization can lower the cost of operations by maximizing resources, increase flexibility in responding to organizational change such as mergers and acquisitions, and improve efficiency in meeting guidelines for regulatory compliance mandates, such as Sarbanes-Oxley.

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IBM officials said the new version of IBM Rational ClearCase for Visual Studio 2005 enhances support for geographically distributed development. And the updated version of IBM Rational ClearCase also includes technology that allows developers creating or modifying code in Visual Studio 2005 to automate changes across the organization, regardless of where the code is housed. This replaces the time consuming and error-prone manual process of informing other members of the team of changes, searching through repositories to pinpoint the code, and then updating it.

In an interview with eWEEK earlier this year, Danny Sabbah, general manager of IBMs Rational division, indicated IBM would tend to back off on support for .Net tools. This weeks news appears to be an about face.

However, Carl Zetie, an analyst with Forrester, said: "It was never their [IBMs] intention to abandon the Microsoft space, but their emphasis on Java, WebSphere, and Eclipse—plus the fact that their Eclipse-based integration across the whole lifecycle is a lot tighter than for Visual Studio—meant that they found themselves sending the wrong messages. They have had to work hard to correct that impression. Lets face it, a lot of organizations are still heterogeneous, and if you cant support the Microsoft platform with an infrastructural product like SCM, youre going to lose the Java business too."

Meanwhile, Schwaber said that in addition to performance and scalability issues, Team Foundation Server is also Windows-only. "It only runs on Windows servers and includes only Windows clients. This is where Microsoft is leaving it up to the VSIP [Visual Studio Industry Partner] ecosystem to provide a solution. Microsoft wont build clients for other platforms or IDEs, but partners like SourceGear are already starting to. In the meantime, assets stored in Microsofts SCM solution can be accessed only from Windows and from Microsoft development tools."

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Yet, in contrast, "IBM is providing the ability to access a single SCM solution from multiple platforms (Windows, Unix, Linux, z/OS) and most market-leading development environments," Schwaber said. "Theres nothing special about this, though: All of the other SCM vendors are also building plug-ins for Visual Studio 2005. Theyll all be beating the same platform heterogeneity drum. The only thing IBM has over the other vendors is that its plug-in is the first to market."

Schwaber listed among Team Foundation Servers strengths its integration with Visual Studio 2005 professional, reporting and analytics, extensibility through custom programming, and its low price point. Among its weaknesses, Schwaber lists: platform support, scalability and performance, custom programming environments and reliance on third parties for critical functionality.

However, Microsoft plans to enhance Team Foundation Server by improving its performance and scalability—from 500 users to tens of thousands of users; and to integrate Team Foundation Server with other key Microsoft technologies such as Project Server, System Center and BizTalk. In addition to Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft also is officially launching SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk 2006 on Monday.

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