Microsoft Poaches Key IBM Tools Developer

As IBM launches its annual Rational developer conference, Innovate 2011, Microsoft announces its hire of Erich Gamma, formerly a key engineer in IBM's tools efforts.

ORLANDO -- Microsoft is crowing about poaching one of IBM's key tools developers just as IBM is holding its annual Rational Software Development Conference here.

Microsoft announced that Erich Gamma, former distinguished engineer at IBM and a leader in creating IBM's Jazz next-generation collaborative development environment, has joined Microsoft. Gamma has been considered the co-father of Jazz.

In a June 6 blog post, Jason Zander, corporate vice president for the Visual Studio team in the Developer Division at Microsoft, said:

"Today I am thrilled to announce that Erich Gamma will be joining the Visual Studio team as a Microsoft Distinguished Engineer! Erich's contributions have had a huge impact on the software industry. Erich has a passion for shipping high quality, elegant software, something he shared with the community as co-author of Design Patterns. He has always had a passion for building tools to make development more productive and pleasant. Together with Kent Beck he developed the JUnit unit test framework. He was one of the key technical leads of the Eclipse project and he has led the Eclipse Java Development tools. Recently his focus was on making teams more effective. He was an initial member of the Jazz project and the technical lead of Rational Team Concert. Finally, Erich has worked to bring teams together across the application life cycle and he was the lead of Rational's Collaborative Lifecycle Management effort."

The timing of the Microsoft announcement could not be more calculated as it came on the same day IBM held opening keynotes at its IBM Innovate 2011 conference here. In his keynote, Kristof Kloeckner, general manager of IBM Rational, said the new products IBM announced at the conference were all based on Jazz.

An IBM press release on the new software announced at Innovate said:

"The new software offerings are built on Jazz, IBM's open software development platform that supports sharing and interactions among software and systems design and development teams. New features allow developers to interact quickly; sharing data instantaneously from any source in the development process and connect teams and development communities in new ways."

When Microsoft initially set out to build an ALM (application lifecycle management) platform and to deliver its VSTS (Visual Studio Team System) and TFS (Team Foundation Server) solutions to compete with IBM and Rational, the software giant hired several former Rational engineers to get its strategy and products off the ground. Now, as VSTS and TFS have made considerable headway in the ALM space, Microsoft has come back to nab one of IBM's ALM experts, as well as one of the few people intimately familiar with IBM's Jazz, its collaborative development push and its plans to better integrate the development and operations roles in the enterprise IT environment. Gamma is intimately familiar with those plans because he has been involved with Jazz from its outset.

Discussing the Microsoft/IBM competition in the ALM tools arena in a 2005 interview with eWEEK, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said:

"We looked at Rational before IBM bought it. The number of actual seats and users they have is tiny. And so if you can take some of the good concepts and put them in an ease-of-use package and at a price point that you can get out, I think developers want this stuff you just have to make it easy enough to use and at the right price.

"And I think with Visual Studio Team System we have that. And I would expect to see our share of high-end software life cycle seats to really climb quite dramatically for the next year."

Asked for comment at IBM Innovate 2011, an IBM spokeswoman said IBM does not comment on personnel issue, but that the company has several Jazz experts on hand at the conference if more information on Jazz is required.

However, one particular Jazz expert, Erich Gamma, is not in attendance. And his absence is apparent. Microsoft's Zander said Gamma will join Microsoft in August.

"Erich will continue to live and work out of Zurich, Switzerland, where we will be opening a small Visual Studio development lab with Erich as the lead," Zander said in his blog post.