IBM, Rational reach common ground at the one-year mark

Integration efforts remained a work in progress as IBM marked the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of Rational Software in Lexington, Massachusetts, in mid December. But the company showed signs that it's making headway.

Its newly consolidated developerWorks Web site, launched this month, will give the Rational pages the same look and feel as those displaying content for IBM's other software product lines.

IBM also plans to expand its developer outreach programs next year by increasing the number of technical events it stages from 120 last year to 400 next year, said Buell Duncan, general manager of developer relations at IBM.

Duncan also said Rational's user conference will be folded into IBM's developerWorks Live conference next year "because Rational is the lead inside of IBM for the efforts as we drive this IBM software development platform."

Executives outlined how the company will continue its long-term effort to move to a common architecture across all of IBM's software products, including the Rational development tools. To that end, IBM is using its Eclipse open-source development framework to give developers a common interface for its tools.

"We were a business partner with IBM for many years before joining IBM, so we had already made considerable progress integrating our products," said Mike Devlin, the former CEO of Rational and now general manager of IBM's Rational software business unit. "But now we're really accelerating that."

The merger is working out well for customers such as John Pritchard, a software architect at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Integrated Systems and Solutions unit in Colorado Springs. Lockheed is an IBM hardware customer, and Pritchard's group uses IBM's WebSphere application server and integrated development environment, as well as Rational modeling and testing tools.

Pritchard said that in the past, the group had to go through the integration process to get the code generated by Rational's Rose modeling tool imported into the WebSphere Studio Application Developer.

"Now they're doing that, and it allows us to focus on developing a system," he said, adding that the next step will be to move to the newer Rational XDE modeling tool, which is more tightly integrated with WebSphere Studio.

One Window

Now that Rational's Purify testing tools are integrated into WebSphere Studio, developers no longer have to export files from Studio to Purify and close down one tool to work in the other, Pritchard added. Instead, they can work with a single window open.

"I think these are things we would probably have seen anyway, but they just come out faster now," he said. "You'll see an IBM update of a product, and they've got a bunch of Rational integrations with that."

Pritchard said he also would like developers, testers and product managers who use different IBM and Rational tools to be able to look at a common interface when they work. He said that Eclipse is geared toward developers and has added modeling.

Eric Schurr, vice president of marketing in the Rational division, said the company not only will continue to work on integrating products that currently can't share a common user interface, but it will also tighten integration among products that have already been integrated through the Eclipse framework.

Schurr said WebSphere Studio Application Developer features a Unified Modeling Language visualizer that was jointly built by the WebSphere and Rational teams. But he said Rational's XDE modeling tool will be more tightly integrated in the future.

The same is true of IBM's Tivoli performance monitoring tool, Schurr added. So far, the Rational Robot automated testing playback technology has been integrated, he noted.

The Rational Unified Process (RUP), a set of best practices for developing software, was updated to be more componentized and customizable. Schurr said that in the future, RUP will add content from the Summit methodology that was obtained through IBM's acquisition of PwC Consulting last year.

But Mark Driver, a Gartner Inc. analyst, said that although some of his clients are seeing value from the broader range of developer products that IBM now offers thanks to the Rational acquisition, other users are concerned about the Rational division's support for non-IBM products like Microsoft Corp.'s .Net technologies.

Driver said he thinks some users may stop using Rational tools as Microsoft starts to offer tools that are more competitive with Rational's development life-cycle products.

Rational executives insisted that they will continue to support the .Net development environment. And Devlin said he anticipates that Rational tools eventually will let developers build service-oriented architectures with a common set of modeling and testing tools, even if some services are .Net-based and others are J2EE-based.

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