IBM Sharpens Rational Tools

The new standard is a bid to make IBM's Rational change management tools more interoperable with other vendors'.
IBM's Rational tools will be among the first to implement a specification designed for development tools used in information sharing and interoperability with other tools.

The spec appears to implement one of the lessons learned from the Eclipse open source project: Tools become more valuable the more they can share files and interoperate with other tools.

Java tools got a new lease on life in the face of severe competition from Microsoft's well integrated set of Visual Studio tools, thanks to the Eclipse programmer's workbench ability to exchange files.

Now the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) specification is trying to implement that value-add to change management software tools. The specification comes from the community on the Web, sponsored by IBM. The Wiki and discussion site is pulling together ideas on how to make change management tools more collaborative and drafting specifications based on those ideas.

Eclipse was once an internal IBM project to pull together the different tools that the company's software units kept spawning. When it became an open source project through IBM-donated code, it continued the process among a broad group of third party vendors. Change management represents another broad set of software vendors as a potential group to adopt OSLC specifications.

With the release of OSLC spec in June, the collaborative tools community took its first step toward a basic goal, said Scott Bosworth, program manager for IBM Rational's OSLC effort. "We want to make life better for software delivery teams by making it easier to use tools together," he said in an interview.

In the past, independent software vendors in change management, such as Borland, Serena Software, MKS and Telelogic (recently acquired by IBM) had to build their own point-to-point integrations with other tools. If ten tools were integrated with one change management system, the complexity of all the integrations made it that much harder for each tool to continue expanding the group's interoperability universe, Bosworth said.

OSLC provides a set of formats and interfaces that let many ALM or application lifecycle management tools tap into a change management system in the same way, sharing their information through it.

The Rational tools that have incorporated support for OSLC are Rational Team Concert 2.0, a team-based source code management system with the ability to produce work items, builds and reports; and Rational ClearQuest 7.1, a bug tracking and workflow automation tool. Rational Change 5.2 (formerly a Telelogic tool), an enterprise change management tool, will support OSLC in September.

Rational Quality Manager, a quality assurance tracking system, currently makes use of OSLC to integrate with Rational Team Concert and ClearQuest and, in the future, with Change "The ALM market is quite fragmented. This will make it less costly to create integrations between tools," said Bosworth.

"Software delivery teams rely on a range of tools from different industry sources to get their job done," said Martin Nally, CTO of IBM's Rational Software unit, in the announcement. has about 20 vendor members and contributors.

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