IBM Rational Offers Peek Into the Future of its Tools

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IBM's Rational Software unit Tuesday provided a peek into the principles that will be guiding work on its next generation of software development tools -- including the use of Web 2.0 and collaboration technologies to ease some of the traditional barriers facing software developers.

At its IBM Rational Software Development Conference 2007 in Orlando, company officials played up its presence in the virtual world Second Life and outlined a new Web 2.0 paradigm that will allow business users to build mashups, a new class of applications.

Rod Smith, IBM's vice president of emerging technologies, said that many IT shops are feeling the strain of an application backlog associated with the growth of service-oriented architectures.

"You're seeing the lines of business think about the fact they can get information as syndication feeds," he said. "We can take business opportunities, look at the line of business and get part of our technology in a form that they can consume very easily. Usually it is enough for them to do what they want to do."

IBM also demonstrated Jazz, its new open source middleware that supports collaboration among distributed development teams.

Erich Gamma, an IBM distinguished engineer, said that Jazz can track all aspects of a development project, including events that affect the coding process, potential problems and their causes. The software lets developers discuss the problems and pass code back and forth to fix them. Jazz uses RSS feeds to stream data from Jazz's central repository to all team members, he noted.

IBM plans to use Jazz internally to build new products and to infuse collaboration capabilities into existing tools, said Lee Nackman, Rational's vice president of product development and customer support.

In addition, Nackman said, IBM plans to add business process automation capabilities to Jazz. Such capabilities can be used to understand and automate the team development process, he said. For example, the capability would let Jazz consume a process definition and automatically execute the process within the workflow of the tool, he added.

Nackman also noted that IBM developers are working on a new project, called Styx, which uses the provisioning features of its Tivoli system management software to allow testers to automatically configure a model of a testing environment -- such as the type of hardware to be used -- so that it can be reused by other testers, Nackman said.

"Some of our test teams are spending more than 25% of their time configuring test systems," he said. "The real value here is now testers can focus on testing instead of focusing on the more mundane, manual types of processes they would otherwise have to deal with."

Nackman also provided a peek into the new Polaris features of the company's portfolio management software, which will allow executives to dig deeper into the health of IT projects.

For example, he said, if an executive sees that a particular project in the portfolio is shown as red or in danger of failing, an executive can drill down to discover that the project may have a high rate of defects and the team is failing to resolve those defects quickly. By drilling down farther, the executive could see that the engineering team is overworked and then can take steps to right the project, Nackman said.

"We have transparency at multiple levels," he said. "We have aggregation of data from multiple teams and multiple sources."

This story, "IBM Rational Offers Peek Into the Future of its Tools" was originally published by Computerworld.

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