IBM to Donate Software Process Code?

IBM wants to launch an industry-wide campaign to pool software development processes and will launch the effort with a donation to the Eclipse Foundation, officials said Wednesday.

The goal is to kick-start an industry-wide effort to pool software development best practices and processes into an open source project able to be used, and reused, by ISVs , IT organizations and educational institutions.

Officials at Big Blue said they will donate 15 percent of the content found in its commercial Rational Unified Process (RUP) product to the foundation to serve as a baseline for the collaboration effort.

They will also donate 300,000 lines of code, which will serve as the foundation for a proposed tool to capture best practices in software development.

The IBM-led proposal will include cooperation and resource support from Capgemini, Unisys , BearingPoint , Armstrong Process Group and Number Six Software.

RUP is a software development process platform that allows programmers to choose the best processes for their projects or build up their own libraries of best practices. It’s a knowledge base using a common process language that makes it efficient for remote, or very large, software projects to collaborate on the process components they want to use.

There are a lot of great ideas and processes used by open source projects and tools vendors today to develop software, but they aren’t standardized so all people can use them, said Per Kroll, IBM manager of methods for Rational.

Officials said there is a lack of standardization in core development activities, such as requirements setting, testing, project management, analysis and design. Two companies might be working on the same type of process but they likely don’t translate over to other organizations, Kroll said.

“They’re all captured in different forms, each organization or community is working on their own,” he said. “That’s creating a problem, especially now as we move to a more global environment for software development.”

The industry needs a common language with which to express software development processes, he said, so others can leverage them instead of having to re-invent the wheel.

That’s where the Eclipse Foundation comes into the picture. IBM wants to build an ecosystem where organizations can come together to determine the best practices for developing software for, say, the Department of Defense, networks or for academia.

“What’s good about it is you can use it for a variety of different reasons,” said Liz Barnett, vice president and analyst at Forrester Research. “An IT shop can use it to put some internal processes on it, to use it as an authoring tool, as well as take advantage of some of the best processes that are contributed by IBM and the other contributors.”

She expects to see open source agile software methodologies like Extreme Programming and Scrum to be part of the IBM-led effort.

What will be most interesting to see, she said, will be how it’s picked up by partners who leverage their own best practices and push them into the industry.

The Eclipse Foundation will need to approve IBM’s proposal before it can move forward with the review and comment process, which generally takes 30 days.

According to Ian Skerrett, an Eclipse spokesman, the proposal will be a nice complement to its existing projects.

“Eclipse is about enabling frameworks for building and deploying software,” he said. “The proposed project will add a framework to allow organizations to build tools for managing software development processes.”

The proposal, if approved, will be part of Eclipse’s Technology Project Management Committee.

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