New IBM tool analyzes code for mistakes as its written

Rational Software Analyzer automatically scans new code up to 700 times before an application is complete.

IBM's Rational Software unit this week unveiled a development tool that can scan and check code as it's written to uncover errors before they make their way further into the development life cycle where fixes are far more costly.

The IBM Rational Software Analyzer automatically scans the new code up to 700 times before an application is complete. Its operation is similar to the grammar check function in Microsoft Word, according to IBM.

"We unfortunately see a lot of defects in code. You really want to be able to minimize those defects. The earlier you do it in the life cycle the less expensive it becomes," said Dave Locke, director of product marketing for the Rational operation.

For example, Locke added, if a programmer is writing an application to most likely be used in North America, its code will likely reflect the needs of English speaking users. But if that application also needs to also support Hebrew speaking users in Israel, changes will need to be made as to how the words are displayed, he noted.

The code's Java underpinnings has "to deal with this difference in how you handle and parse the strings or the language in the code," Locke noted. Deploying an application built for English speaking users in Israel would require the spending of "hundreds of thousands of dollars to go back to the program I just wrote to fix it. With Software Analyzer, rules are in the tool so errors are flagged in the first development effort versus having to go back."

When errors are flagged, programmers can click on a box to find out what the errors are, and to find suggestions and sample code for fixing the problem, Locke added.

The tool also can be used to flag for known security weaknesses so that when a programmer mistakenly adds such security shortcomings, they can be eliminated right away, he said.

Developed by IBM Labs and built as an Eclipse plug-in, the new tool is available now. A developer edition is US$3,500 per user; an enterprise edition is US$50,000 per server with unlimited users.

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