IBM Rational: Rival Microsoft Faces Uphill Battle

In an eWEEK interview, IBM Fellow and Rational Chief Scientist Grady Booch discusses Rational's development strategy and competition from Microsoft with its Visual Studio Team System application lifecycle development tools.

At the recent Rational Software Development User Conference, IBM Fellow and IBM Rational Chief Scientist Grady Booch delivered a keynote on his predictions of the software development landscape circa 2032, the 50th anniversary of Rational. Following his keynote, Booch sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Darryl K. Taft to discuss Rationals development strategy going forward and the new competition from Microsoft Corp., which will enter the application lifecycle development tools market next year with Visual Studio Team System. Booch, a co-creator of UML (Unified Modeling Language), also discussed why the language is so relevant to the tools space.

Meanwhile, in a candid, dueling interview, Rick LaPlante, general manager of Microsofts Visual Studio Team System, shared his views on the companys strategy for the new tool, competition with market leader Rational, and why Microsoft is not so keen on UML.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEKs interview with Rick LaPlante.

When you first heard about Microsoft Visual Studio Team System, what was your official thought?

I expected this was going to happen. It was just a matter of when. It was obvious Microsoft was going to have to pursue that strategy, and so it was just an issue of time for us. My other response is Im actually delighted they entered the marketplace because it legitimizes what Rational has been doing for years, saying that individual compilation tools arent enough—that the whole developer experience is one that requires a fusion of a lot of things. And they recognize what weve been doing for years.

Do you think Microsoft can catch up to Rational?

Well, let me expand the issue by looking at Borland, because they have pursued a similar strategy, first with the acquisition of Together and then lots of other things in that space. Rationals history and experience has been that its taken us a good seven-plus years to get a reasonable fusion of a variety of tools for the developer experience. Not because were stupid people, but its a fundamentally hard problem. Therefore, I respect the Microsoft and Borland teams, but our experience says this stuffs a lot harder to get right than you first realize.

Its easy to get some of the creature comforts right, but as one moves to the deeper semantics of connecting all the various artifacts and the various tools, that becomes much harder indeed. And it requires not only some deep architectural work to make right, but also a clear vision as to how we expect people to use these tools. One of the things that radically differentiates IBM Rational from the others pursuing this strategy is we have in place a process—the Rational Unified Process [RUP] —thats been well-tempered by time and customers. And so its not that its a dictatorial process, but it simply reflects back upon what we see are good practices, and our tools follow those practices. As opposed to the strategy of saying lets impose tools and force people to conform to those tools. That tends to fail.

Microsoft has stressed the importance of modeling, but theyve said not strictly UML and MDA (Model-Driven Architecture). But if they dont pursue that, at some point will their strategy peter out, or will they pave their own new way for the industry to follow?

Well, increasingly you see Microsoft, and I cant speak fully for them, but looking on the outside, increasingly theyre taking the non-standards/open standards route. Even the statements theyve made about not necessarily supporting UML is another stake in that direction. Is that a long-term sustainable strategy? Hard to say, except that IBM Rational is placing its bets on the open marketplace, primarily because in the kinds of systems people are building these days, there is a far greater need for interoperability, and that demands a common understanding of standards against which we build all sorts of things. So we think that kind of openness is necessary for the current and future generation of systems.

I wish Microsoft the best. That strategy Microsoft is pursuing is one that weve intentionally not because we view the openness to be far more important.

Next Page: UML 25 years from now.