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IBM Tweaking its Development Platform

IBM is making good on its promise to improve its software development platform, and by extension, the development of Java applications.

During a conference call with reporters Monday, IBM executives said the IBM Software Development Platform, which is based on the open Eclipse consortium framework and cemented by the Rational Software technology IBM acquired last year, is driving its efforts to streamline business processes.

The platform, which will be ultimately be interoperable with the Armonk, N.Y. company's five software brands, lets developers model, visualize, analyze, create and test programs.

"Software development is a business process itself," said IBM Rational General Manager Mike Devlin. Indeed, the practice of creating software is not unlike supply chain management, enterprise resource planning or other similar processes, he added. "It triggers other processes."

The ideal is a cornerstone of Big Blue's e-business on-demand strategy, which helps enterprise IT adapt its infrastructure as computing demands fluctuate.

In one example, IBM is working to simplify data objects in a standard way to bind data in Java classes and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB), said Jeff Hammond, Group Marketing Manager of IBM Rational.

Though Hammond declined to be more specific about the various projects, he said developers can also expect an open-source metamodel of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) 2.0 on top of Eclipse, as well as bridges between the Business Process Execution Language for Web services, or BPEL, and UML over the next few months.

Key to IBM Rational's software development practices, UML is a notational language for mapping out and visualizing complex software written by former Rational chief scientist and current IBM Fellow Grady Booch to help manage major projects. BPEL is an XML-based standard for defining how users can stack Web services to implement business processes.

UML can be customized to support the modeling of systems that will be deployed to a Web services infrastructure. The UML profile for automated business processes expresses that complete BPEL artifacts can be generated from UML models.

IBM has been working to "rationalize" or make UML interoperate with BPEL in anticipation of the growing explosion of Web services. This will lead to more comprehensive service-oriented architectures (SOAs).

Discussion of standard support in the IBM Software Development Platform is also an important issue, Devlin said. In addition, he said IBM is committed to driving standards in the operational deployment space so that "multiple vendors can interoperate from a tools point of view."

Hammond said IBM is working with industry working groups in order to ensure Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), a graphical notation for modeling business processes, can be integrated with UML. Also on its working group to-do list: support of BPEL while working with Tivoli in order to map between the Eclipse Modeling Framework and Common Information Model (CIM) metamodel.

Moreover, IBM is working on integrating aspects of Project Hyades, which will bring test, trace, and monitoring tools into Eclipse. Hyades will make it possible to integrate a range of testing and quality assessment tools with Eclipse.

Hammond also said IBM is moving aggressively over the next 18 months to make Eclipse the foundation of its software in an effort to become more open.

"If you look at our products from Rational, I would say that over 80 percent are Eclipse-integrated today," Hammond said, referring to such products as the WebSphere Studio Application Developer 5.1. "As a general strategic direction, we are moving those products from Eclipse-integrated to Eclipse-based."

Hammond said IBM is rapidly accelerating the integration of Rational within IBM, which is important as rival vendors ready their own development environments. On the Java side, IBM competes with Sun Microsystems, which is planning to launch its latest Java Studio Creator environment (formerly Project Rave), and Borland.

Although it collaborates with Microsoft on several current and pending Web services standards, IBM competes for mindshare with Microsoft and its .NET development platform.