IBM Appoints Open-Source Promoter To Head Rational Software

Danny Sabbah is a 30-year veteran of the company and an architect of its open-source policy, as well as overseer of its mainstream WebSphere middleware.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

May 24, 2005

4 Min Read

The general manager of IBM's Rational tools unit, Mike Devlin, who co-founded Rational Software before it was acquired by IBM, will retire Thursday. Devlin will be replaced by Danny Sabbah, a key figure in both the Eclipse open-source initiative and IBM's recent acquisition of Gluecode Software.

Sabbah is a 30-year veteran of the company and an architect of its open-source policy, as well as overseer of its mainstream WebSphere middleware. While acting as head of development for WebSphere, Sabbah was among the IBM executives who advocated Eclipse as a rallying point for the fragmented Java tool field. Without a set of Java tools that could work together, Sabbah argued that Java would fall behind its competitor, Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net.

In 2000, he authorized developers of the IBM VisualAge integrated-development environment, an engineering team acquired with the purchase of Object Technology Inc., to produce a broader programmer's workbench for Java. The Eclipse workbench was released as open-source code in November 2001, and has become a shared platform for hundreds of Java tools, allowing them to work together.

"I didn't develop the code. I was the head of development who said let's push this into the open-source community," says Sabbah, who delivered a keynote address at the IBM Rational Software Developer's Conference in Las Vegas yesterday.

Lee Nackman, another backer of the move who was head of application-development tools at IBM at the time, is now VP, Rational product development. Eclipse "has succeeded beyond anything I dreamt in my wildest dreams," Nackman says.

"Eclipse's power in growing a community was just unbelievable," adds Sabbah.

Both Sabbah and Nackman will oversee the continued integration of Rational tools with IBM's Tivoli transaction-monitoring system. During a demonstration in his keynote, Sabbah illustrated how a Problem Resolution Toolkit that works with the Rational Application Developer tool could take data from a Tivoli log file and use it to troubleshoot a problem in a production application.

The toolkit is meant to bridge the gap between software developers and the operations staff responsible for running software applications after they've been developed. Application developers have typically thrown their finished wares "over the wall" between themselves and operations staff, with each side pointing at the other if something goes wrong, Sabbah notes.

"Applications form silos. People form silos, too," Nackman says. The Problem Resolution Toolkit will minimize that debate by isolating the exact nature of the problem. It's available for free download from IBM's developerWorks Web site and will be included in the next release of Rational Application Developer due out sometime in 2006.

Another toolkit, also made available May 23, is the Performance Optimization Toolkit, designed to work with the established Rational Performance Tester tool. The Performance Optimization toolkit is intended to give a developer feedback from Tivoli on an application that isn't meeting performance expectations. Tivoli can capture event information if transaction levels fall below preset thresholds, as in service-level agreements.

Operations managers frequently know when there's a performance problem with an application but are unable to define what's happening inside it. The toolkit gives developers the data they need to recreate the circumstances under which the application slows down and directs them to the code that's responsible, Sabbah says.

IBM will continue to look for ways to allow distributed teams, including projects with segments of the team working offshore, to collaborate more effectively, Sabbah says. It also will seek to further tie development to Tivioli and the observed results in production systems.

In addition, Sabbah says IBM will continue to build out a set of open-source software, such as the LAMP stack that's supported by Gluecode Software. LAMP is a combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and the PHP, Perl, and Python scripting languages.

Sabbah says IBM doesn't view open source as competing with its commercial software. Instead, open-source software makes a low-end asset that's "good enough" for a company to use as it gets started. If it succeeds and grows, it may choose to move to software that's assured to scale with its growth, such as IBM WebSphere Application Server Express, he says.

Nackman says the Gluecode acquisition gives IBM the chance to offer its open-source support for a fee. In fact, Gluecode's business model was to charge for open-source support, and Nackman says its acquisition "gives us another business model," one that IBM hasn't been able to invoke in its early support for Linux and Apache.

In another move, IBM said it was teaming up with Red Hat Software, the Linux supplier, to provide Linux skills-building and open-systems curriculum to colleges and universities seeking to set up such courses. IBM launched its Academic Initiative a year ago and frequently includes donations of IBM software and hardware as part of such curriculums.

IBM also singled out the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton College of Business as a school it would help to establish courses that prepare students for IT jobs in retailing, transportation, and electronics. The customized curriculum emphasizes open systems and includes donations of IBM software, hardware, and volunteer services from experts within its ranks.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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