IBM and Rational reach common ground

Integration efforts were still a work in progress as IBM marked the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of Rational Software...

Integration efforts were still a work in progress as IBM marked the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of Rational Software last week. But the company has showed signs that it is making headway.

Its consolidated developerWorks website, launched last week, will give the Rational pages the same look and feel as those displaying content for IBM's other software product lines.

IBM intends to expand its developer outreach programmes 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 chief executive officer 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's Integrated Systems and Solutions unit. 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 modelling 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 added that he would also 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 modelling.

Eric Schurr, vice president of marketing in the Rational division, said the company not only will continue to work on integrating products that cannot share a common user interface at present, 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 Modelling Language visualiser that was built jointly by the WebSphere and Rational teams, adding that Rational's XDE modeling tool will be more tightly integrated in the future.

The same is true of IBM's Tivoli performance monitoring tool. 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 componentised and customisable. 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 Gartner analyst Mark Driver 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 such as Microsoft's .net technologies.

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

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

IBM to release WebSphere updates

This week IBM intends to release an update to its WebSphere application server that adds support for some of the latest Java technologies and for a proposed standard to ease the building of user interfaces for web applications.

WebSphere Application Server 5.1 will include support for Java 2 Standard Edition 1.4.1 - also known as Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.4 - and improvements in the areas of security, XML and debugging, said Bob Sutor, IBM's director of WebSphere integration software.

Sutor said the latest version will also add beta support for JavaServer Faces, a proposed standard being developed through the Java Community Process, an organisation that Sun Microsystems established to evolve Java technology. Using the programming model that JavaServer Faces defines, developers can assemble reusable interface components in a web page and connect them to data sources.

"It makes it much, much easier to deploy very rich applications yet still have them server-based," said Sutor, adding that the JavaServer Faces standard is expected to be finalised next quarter and that he did not anticipate substantial changes.

On 30 December, IBM will release an update to the accompanying WebSphere Studio Application Developer tool set to support JDK 1.4 and JavaServer Faces. Sutor said the 5.1.1 release will give developers a pallet of controls that they can drag and drop, and the means to make easy connections to databases.

In the new application server and tool releases, IBM will also provide early support for Service Data Objects, a specification that describes a simple, unified programming model for data access to heterogeneous systems.

IBM and rival BEA Systems submitted the proposal to the Java Community Process earlier this month. The result of a vote to determine whether the specification has been accepted is due later today.

Sutor last week disclosed the road map for the next major release of WebSphere. He said IBM expects to start delivering Version 6.0 in the second half of next year. That release will feature support for J2EE 1.4 and performance and usability improvements.

Carol Sliwa writes for Computerworld

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