IBM Readies Rational Revamp

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 06-05-2006

IBM is making a major upgrade to its Rational software development platform to better help enterprises build complex applications in an effort to keep its lead in application development tools.

At its RSDC (Rational Software Development Conference) in Orlando, Fla., beginning June 4, IBM will announce the latest version of its IBM Rational software development platform, known as IBM Rational Release 7, Team Products, or "Baltic."

The move comes a little more than three years after IBM purchased Rational. IBM officials said the new IBM Rational Software Development Platform automates much of the software development and delivery process and helps enterprises overcome geographic and organizational silos that hamper development projects.

The software focuses on team development and collaboration, according to Daniel Sabbah, general manager of IBM Rational, in Somers, N.Y. Sabbah said the platform also features significant upgrades to all IBM's core ALM (application lifecycle management) tools and supporting products.

Analysts say IBM has three main motives for revamping its Rational tools. The company has lost ground in the testing market to Mercury Interactive, and integration between Rational's various tools has lagged, said Jim Duggan, an analyst with Gartner, in Stamford, Conn.

In addition, IBM is hearing footsteps from Microsoft, the No. 2 player in application development tools, said Carey Schwaber, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.

"Rational still has the edge in terms of total functionality," said Schwaber. "But I do believe that vendors like Microsoft have started to catch up on the underlying platform."

That talk irks Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software, and the architect of IBM's Rational purchase.

"We do not see Microsoft as being much of a competitor because they're focused on a Windows-only model of execution. And medium and large businesses tend to run more than just Windows," said Mills.

Indeed, Heather Mardis, a software release manager at Stratus Technologies, in Maynard, Mass., said Rational's even support for Linux and Windows is a big benefit but that the company's tool set on Linux had become "a tad moldy."

To ditch the mold, IBM is relying on a new product dubbed IBM Rational ClearQuest 7, which delivers advanced workflow and activity management. This tool allows developers to trace a software asset through the development life cycle and to demonstrate compliance with an alphabet soup of regulations through audit reporting, said Sabbah.

Lee Nackman, vice president of product development and customer support for IBM Rational, said the focus of the new release is "on trying to accelerate global software delivery."

As such, Nackman said IBM is focusing on "more-closed-loop software delivery management, flexible and integrated test management for distributed teams, and extended globalization support."

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