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RealTime IT News

How IBM Is Tucking in Its Rational Tools

LEXINGTON, Mass. -- IBM is fusing its own development tools with those it acquired in its Rational Software purchase and calling it the IBM Software Development Platform.

Speaking at a media event here Wednesday, IBM Rational General Manager Mike Devlin said IBM's development tool suite, WebSphere Studio, will now fall under the aegis of Rational, the software tools development company IBM agreed to acquire December 2002 for $2.1 billion.

"From a product point of view, the integration has exceeded my expectations," Devlin told a small group of reporters. "I was a bit concerned about how customers would react [to the acquisition] but universally they have been supportive."

IBM completed the deal in February 2003 to beef up its software development tools portfolio. But it also touched off some head scratching among analysts, pundits and customers who wondered how IBM would present the software tools when they overlap with WebSphere products, such as Studio.

The integration work is proceeding as IBM also carries out a broader plan to realign its five software divisions.

IBM has embarked on a broad, difficult integration strategy to "componetize" the products across the company's five software brands -- WebSphere, Tivoli, Rational, DB2 and Lotus. In a perfect world, products from the brands would be able to work with each other seamlessly, according to Devlin.

In order for that vision to succeed, IBM must integrate key Rational tools to make them work with products in its other divisions. Rational Products include the Rational Unified Process (RUP) platform that allows developers to use only the process components needed for each stage of a project, the Rose visual modeling tool, and ClearCase and ClearQuest enterprise change management software.

Devlin said Rational software already works with a number of Websphere middleware products and provides data modeling support for DB2. One of Rational's goals, he said, is to continue to work to bring Rational closer to the Tivoli brand.

Devlin also reaffirmed Rational's response to the outstanding question about what IBM might do with Rational XDE, an integrated development environment tool that that helps both Microsoft's .NET and Java programmers tie designs to software development.

Now that IBM owns Rational, some in the industry speculated that IBM might pressure Rational to drop .NET support in favor of Java. After all, IBM has heavily invested in and lobbied for Eclipse as an open, Java-based platform and developer's group opposite the Microsoft Developer's Network. Devlin himself said the goal is to eventually base all IBM software on the Eclipse framework.

He also pointed to the number of Web services standards IBM and Microsoft work together on to stress that while the companies certainly compete, they do frequently work together in many areas of software development.

"There are no words we can say to convince people that [we aren't going to abandon .NET], but actions speak louder than words," Devlin said, noting that when Rational launched its last product upgrade in May, there were more new products for .NET than for Java.

Buell Duncan, general manager of IBM ISV and Developer Relations, pitched in, noting that it wouldn't make sense to drop .NET support because customers are demanding support for .NET as well.

Out of IBM's $13 billion software business, $2 billion of it comes from .NET-oriented products, he said. Duncan also unveiled increased support for the IBM Software Development Platform and a redesigned developerWorks site.

Devlin also described Rational's approach for "model-driven development," which is the company's approach to application lifecycle management (ALM), a software industry trend that ensures that software is managed properly from the time it is written until the product is no longer needed. It automates the integration, creation, modernization, and reusable code of artifacts throughout the software lifecycle.

Grady Booch, IBM Fellow and a co-creator of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) , then took the stage to discuss where software development is going and how he believed Rational would enable organizations to do more with less.

Booch, who said his job was to look at software development three to five years down the line, said developers and companies like IBM need to "improve the economies of building software," which has become labor-intensive and draining on human resources.

"We live in an age of increasingly evolving software that is never turned off," Booch said. "We used to build these monolithic applications... but the applications we build now are not islands." He said the trend has turned to distributed systems -- when a "computer you didn't know existed can cause your computer to crash."

Booch said one of the goals is to make UML, a language he helped create specify and visualize complex software, more expressive, and to improve model-driven development by bringing visualization in testing to the stakeholder earlier. This, he said, will accelerate the entry of tools into the marketplace.

Booch said IBM would be at the forefront of the drive toward aspect-oriented programming, which promises radical results for systems that use similar objects to interact with multiple classes.

Examples of "aspects" include programs for logging, error handling, synchronization and optimization. Booch said AOP is an improvement over object-oriented programming (OOP) languages, which don't handle aspects very well from a design standpoint, leading to tangled code.