IBMs Rational Move Paying Off

In an eWEEK interview, Mike Devlin, GM of IBM's Rational software development division, expounds on the division's role in IBM and how the acquisition is working out.

Mike Devlin, general manager of IBMs Rational division, will be top dog at the Rational Software Development User Conference this week in Dallas. When IBM finalized its $2.1 billion acquisition of Rational Corp. in February 2003, Devlin traded his CEO position for that of general manager of IBM Rational. Devlin talked with eWEEK Senior Writer Darryl K. Taft about competition, Rationals role in IBM and trends in the business of delivering software development tools.

What do you think of the Microsoft Visual Studio Team System announcement, with Microsoft [Corp.] now covering more facets of the software development lifecycle?

Microsofts planned entry into the enterprise lifecycle tooling space really validates what weve been doing for more than a decade—improving the speed and quality of software development through industry-proven best practices, and automating that with tooling.

/zimages/5/28571.gifFor more on Microsofts Visual Studio Team System, click here.

Do you think it will have an impact in the industry?

It will likely introduce lifecycle tooling to some smaller Microsoft-centric development teams who may not have had the resources to invest in tooling before, or who have worked mostly on smaller projects that havent necessarily required a more disciplined approach. We view this exposure as a good thing, as it potentially broadens the market we serve.

Do you expect it to impact Rational at all?

Most companies are heterogeneous in that they develop software using a mix to platforms and technologies, including both .Net and J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition]. IBM Rational will continue to provide development solutions that span our customers platform and technology choices, and that really differentiates us from Microsoft. In fact, were really one of the few, if not the only company in a position to do that and do it well. Of course we fully intend to provide a very compelling development platform using our own Eclipsed-based technologies, but well continue to work with Microsoft to ensure that our solution supports the Microsoft platform and the needs of our customers.

Whats Rationals role in IBM now? How do you identify yourself?

Rational is the brand thats driving the overall software development strategy, which makes sense given thats our background. And what weve defined across IBM in total, and particularly across the Software Group, is something we call the Software Development Platform and we had an event last December to introduce our strategy there. Basically it integrates all of our various tools, basic WebSphere Studio, Eclipse technology; those groups have been moved into Rational and are part of our team now. Lee Nackman, who is the leader of developing the WebSphere Studio tool, is the Rational CTO and is heading up the development of our practitioner desktop tools and that includes modeling and testing and the core Java IDE and J2EE support. And, talking more broadly than that, it includes WBI, the WebSphere Business Integrator, as well as integrating with the various database tools from the DB2 team and so forth.

The way to think of it is the total IBM play is this complete end-to-end lifecycle solution that is integrated both within the tools themselves but also of course to the underlying runtime environments such as WebSphere and DB2, and to the systems management environment. In fact, were doing a bunch of cool stuff with the Tivoli guys, integrating a lot of what were doing in terms of testing, so that we can really be integrated into operational deployment. So for example if you find a problem you can monitor it using the Tivoli monitoring capabilities to detect problems with the operational system, get information back to the developer round trip and get it back out. Then you could update the operating system and monitor performance. So theres a lot of cool stuff going on on the Tivoli side, the business integration side, and with the core runtimes of DB2 and WebSphere.

Were continuing the Software Development Platform as an open platform on several dimensions. Open in the sense that we support multiple environments, not just IBM. So that includes [Microsoft] Visual Studio and Microsoft .Net of course, but also [BEAs] WebLogic, other alternative databases and so forth. But even more deeply, the way were making it open is that its all based on this core Eclipse infrastructure, which is a totally open-source environment. So Eclipse provides the basic common components, the user interface, the framework for tying everything together, and most importantly the underlying meta-model facility so that we can provide very deep integration between tools and to the runtime platform. And we have hundreds of ISVs and partners that are building other tools. So thats pretty exciting.

And the reaction from customers has been incredibly positive, both around the completeness of the solution and the open approach where were supporting all the open standards and the open-source capabilities means, particularly for our large, more technical customers, like Cisco and Ericsson, where they have very specific needs, they can go in and add those capabilities into the Eclipse environment and fully integrate them with all of our tools. That whole Software Development Platform is the message were really driving this year, and all of our tools offerings will be put in that context.

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