Rationals Devlin Eyes Tight IBM Ties

IBM's newest software brand, Rational, has a challenging mission: making its tools-reputed to be complex and not for fainthearted developers-simpler to use.

IBMs newest software brand, Rational, has a challenging mission: making its tools—reputed to be complex and not for fainthearted developers—simpler to use.

Thats according to Mike Devlin, former CEO of Rational Software Corp., now general manager of IBMs Rational division, in an exclusive eWEEK interview last week. IBMs acquisition of Rational closed Feb. 21.

"How do you help a VB [Visual Basic]-type developer or somebody thats just developing HTML Web pages or who thinks of themselves more as a creative artist?" Devlin asked. "How do you help them contribute in a software project?"

For starters, Rational, of Lexington, Mass., is implementing Rapid Architected Application Development, gained from the acquisition of NeuVis Inc. in August, across its tool set, Devlin said. "One of the problems with these VB-type solutions is you can quickly produce a bunch of spaghetti code thats unmaintainable and hard to evolve if youre not careful," he said. "So we believe we can structure it so that you can have those tools but have that in the context of a well-designed, component-based enterprise architecture."

A long-term focus for Rational is to bring its MDA (Model Driven Architecture) technology to IBM products. "The idea is theres too much complexity, so we want to allow people to design at a higher level of abstraction," Devlin said. "But not just design, but also to build using design patterns and existing components and so forth.

"In the same way there was a big change going from assembly language to [third-generation languages], theres another level to modeling," Devlin said. "We raise the level of abstraction to make it easier for people to hide a lot of the details and build these systems more easily and more completely. They may not even know theyre building models. The user interface to them may look like theyre doing forms with VB or PowerBuilder."

Experts agree that Rational can help popularize model-driven development.

"That is indeed the ultimate promise of MDA, that for some applications you can automatically generate some or all of the code from the design," said Richard Soley, CEO of the Object Management Group, of Needham, Mass., the standards body that oversees MDA and Unified Modeling Language specifications.

"As a company that is a recognized expert in Rational tools, processes and techniques, were excited about this move," said Brian Lyons, chief technology officer and co-founder of Number Six Software Inc., an Arlington, Va., development company and a gold-level member of the Rational Business Alliance Program. "Were excited about anything that puts those tools, processes and techniques into the mainstream."

Among near-term goals, Devlin said IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will more tightly integrate all Rationals infrastructure products, including testing and quality assurance tools, with IBMs WebSphere Studio development environment."You should also expect that well increase our level of integration not just with WebSphere but with products like Tivoli, Lotus products and DB2," he said.

Similarly, Devlin said he expects Rationals development process methodology, the RUP (Rational Unified Process), to be adopted by IBM Global Services and the PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting group at IBM.

"What I expect over time is RUP to be integrated into that whole suite of process technologies [so] that we can offer to a customer anything from very high-level, almost McKinsey [& Co.]-type business-transformation-type work, all the way down to hard-core technical software development process," Devlin said.

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