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3/20/2008
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IBM Preps Team Concert, A Collaborative Development Tool

Rational Team Concert is based on Jazz, a technology platform for tools that will give them collaborative properties, such as sharing a common source code.

Team Concert, Rational Software's upcoming collaborative development tool, is expected to debut in mid-2008, according to John Kellerman, principal product manager for Jazz and Eclipse, who attended EclipseCon this week.

Most existing tools for enterprise IT languages, such as Java, C++, and Cobol, were designed to handle one step of the development process, such as requirements capture, system design, or code production, in isolation. IBM's Rational Software unit is developing a platform for collaborative software development, Jazz, that binds both the steps, and the team, more tightly together.

Rational Team Concert is based on Jazz, a technology platform for tools that will give them collaborative properties, such as sharing a common source code repository, tracking and sharing information on bugs jointly, and linking the status of finished code to the results of software testing. The Jazz shared technologies also will be able to use Eclipse's Equinox, a runtime for Java applications that carries its component handling capabilities across different device environments.

Team Concert, due in June or soon after, will not be the only Rational offering to be based on Jazz. Other elements of the tool suite will eventually adopt Jazz-based technologies as well, said Kellerman in an interview at the Santa Clara, Calif., convention center, site of the Eclipse users' gathering this week.

Rational's Jazz technology will include ClearCase, Rational's version control and configuration management tool, and Rational ClearQuest, its change management system. Both have existing multiple-site, multiple-team member applications, but the idea is to make them easier to use by teams using only a browser interface.

"Over time, other products in the Rational tool line will become based on this Jazz technology," he predicted. "Software development is inherently a team activity. We must reduce the friction that keeps the team from working together."

Such a move will keep IBM's high end, sophisticated Rational tool line from falling out of step with Microsoft's popular Visual Studio tools, whose Team System edition incorporates many collaborative features. Likewise, startup CollabNet has been pioneering collaborative tools that draw on its founders' distributed open source code development experience. CollabNet is sponsor of the open source Subversion code repository for distributed development teams.

A view into how IBM's Jazz platform is progressing is available online, where registration is free. IBM is developing Jazz as commercial code -- but with an effort to offer "transparency" to the project, the way an open source project would. It hopes to collect customer feedback that way and get more early users of the code.

IBM also is tapping university researchers to help with Jazz' development through a series of grants.

Kellerman said researchers at Saarland University in Germany "are looking at how team communications and defect information [collected by Jazz] can serve as a predictor of code quality." IBM has made a $25,000 grant for the research.

The University of Calgary, Canada, has received two $25,000 grants to study how the Jazz Team Server can be integrated with "agile" development techniques, and whether social networking can aid software development teams, said Kellerman.

Other grant recipients include North Carolina State, Carniegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and Brown University in Providence, R.I.

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