IBM says today's products are frequently a convergence of mechanical, electronic and software parts. To build such products, a "system of systems" is needed to coordinate all the disconnected activity that must go into them.
It is offering a hardware/software set to provide Integrated Product Management, including product planning, design, delivery, and lifecycle management. Rational development tools are included in the software development phase of product building. In addition, software is frequently part of manufacturing, distribution and delivery and IBM's integrated approach will help companies with these phases of product creation and order fulfillment.
IBM made the announcement at its 13th convening of the Rational Software user group, renamed Innovate 2010, which opened in Orlando Monday. The conference's focus has been expanded beyond software tools to more general purpose business innovation, with many additional units of IBM participating, said Scott Hebner, VP of marketing, in an interview.
IBM also announced a new availability of development tools in the cloud, with software testing facilities as well. Instead of paying a fixed price for a tool or set of tools, customers will buy credits or "tokens" for tool use. "You can exchange tokens for the tools you need when you need them. There's no procurement process, which normally loses valuable time as you await fulfillment," said Hebner. The approach, based on the "pay for use" concept associated with cloud computing, allows customers to decide on what tools they want to use as they get into a project, rather than forcing a purchase beforehand.
Hebner said the flexible license model is available for use of Rational development tools either in the IBM built, online cloud or in a private cloud setting behind the enterprise firewall.
With digital components a key part of any modern product, it is IBM's goal to give its customers the chance "to build an enduring and innovative competency in software delivery," said Danny Sabbah, general manager of the Rational Software unit. "The value, lifecycle and ecosystem of any smart product today is driven by software," he said.
Using Rational modeling, designing and development and testing tools, product teams can get the new software they need to offer new features on a rapidly changing product. Software teams that are part of product development are being called on to deliver those new features at an accelerated pace, said IBM's Meg Selfe, VP of complex and embedded systems, in an interview.
The integrated approach is also useful for developing software that serves a vertical function, such as managing a fleet of trucks through data from the vehicles themselves. "We need to be able to connect this data center on wheels to the (business) infrastructure. We need to use the information to get to predictive diagnostics -- be smarter about how we use the asset itself," she said. Kitson and Partners is using the integrated product management approach is being used to develop a complex housing project, a solar-powered community for 50,000 people, Babcock Ranch, in southwest Florida, she said.