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8/27/2003
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Tool Integration On Track At IBM/Rational

Rational's ex-CEO says tools such as XDE Developer, Purify, and ClearCase are already integrated into Eclipse, a universal open-source tool platform.

As Rational Software has been absorbed into IBM over the last six months, the technology fit is working, thanks to the Eclipse open-source developer's workbench, says former Rational CEO Mike Devlin, now general manager of the IBM/Rational unit of the IBM Software Group.

Devlin this week told attendees at Rational's annual user conference that the post-acquisition plan is on track and Rational tools, such as XDE Developer, an integrated development environment for modeling, coding, and testing apps, are already integrated into Eclipse. So are Purify, for error checking in code, and ClearCase, for version control. Other elements of the Rational tool set are slated to become Eclipse plug-ins--tools that can work with other Eclipse-compatible tools, Devlin told the conference.

In an interview prior to the keynote, Devlin explained that IBM came up with the Eclipse standards-based developer's workbench and released it as open-source code in 2001. Many tools may be plugged into the workbench and share developer files. IBM needed such a unifying foundation for the many tools it generated inside its Software Group, he noted. Devlin said being incorporated into the IBM Software Group has been "a process not without pain." Early this year, he feared that customers of Rational, which had been a platform competitor to IBM, would drop Rational tools because of the acquisition. "I was very nervous about some of our major customers whose business overlapped or competed with IBM," he said. Large system integrators also were customers he considered at risk.

Results from the first quarter this year, however, showed that major customers weren't turning away, Devlin said. "I have to give our customers a lot of credit for sticking with us."

He said after Eclipse, Rational will more closely integrate its tools with IBM's WebSphere application server and related software. In addition, Rational is pushing development of its tools in the direction of building quality assurance into the early stages of software development rather than trying to provide it as a last step. Typically, a development project is hurried for a deadline, and then the code is turned over to quality assurance. Bad decisions made during the project can lead to built-in quality issues.

"People spend way too much money on quality late in the development cycle. We're trying to change the culture," he said. Rational is trying to build in evaluation of how well code sequences meet the requirements of the business model and whether they follow best practices.

In addition, Rational is giving XDE Developer the ability to use Universal Modeling Language, a set of syntax and diagramming conventions for modeling an application, to diagram a running application. Called activity tracing, the diagram shows what messages are passing between software objects; which objects are running on a thread, a series of related, sequential steps in code; or how much time a query to a database is taking.

Devlin said the UML diagrams can be built in the testing phase of a program, regardless of whether the application was originally built from a UML design. "We're using UML as a common language between testers and developers," he said. In the past, they haven't had a shared language, he noted.

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