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IBM Upgrades Rational Tool Suite

The ClearQuest repository will store the results of bug tracking, change orders, requirements, and early versions of a software application, as well as capture and store the results of tests on the various assemblies and compiles of an application.
IBM is upgrading its Rational Software line of development tools into the management arena so that the software development process becomes just another auditable business workflow process, one that can be kept in line with compliance requirements.

A big part of moving toward that goal has been the adding of testing management and test results to the other steps of software development. The testing team can now document and share what code has been tested, what the configurations were that underwent testing, and what the results were with other members of the development process.

IBM will tell its Rational user group meeting in Orlando this week that ClearQuest has been enhanced with BuildForge's management capabilities. The ClearQuest repository will not only store the results of bug tracking, change orders, requirements, and early versions of a software application, but it will also capture and store the results of tests on the various assemblies and compiles of an application, showing which ones encountered the fewest problems and which yielded the highest efficiencies.

The result, says Siemens AG Principle Engineer Rainer Ersch, has been improved understanding of software performance during and after development. "The enhanced traceability that IBM Rational now produces helps Siemens' medical group adhere to FDA compliance requirements. Without this functionality, our products would not meet FDA approval and could not go to market," Ersch said in an e-mail message from Germany.

Ersch was referring to the ability of Rational ClearQuest Version 7 to capture permanent electronic signatures as managers sign off on code submissions, test results, and deployment configurations. "For my company, e-signatures and deployment tracking are an absolute must," he wrote.

IBM is quickly capitalizing on its May 2 acquisition of BuildForge Inc., a supplier of a software build and release management system. The build in a development process assembles various team submissions together into a working whole. IBM has upgraded 12 different tools in its Rational suite, now dubbed Rational Team System 7, with cross-team capabilities from BuildForge.

But the biggest change is to its development workflow tool, ClearQuest. It's as if the concepts of workflow management, accountability, and risk management are suddenly being applied to software development--a process that has sometimes been regarded as so disjointed as to be barely manageable at all.

Siemens spent half its 5.2 billion euro R&D budget last year on software, employing 30,000 software engineers. "An important goal is to extend our Change and Defect Management System to be a complete workflow system, where all information regarding our projects comes together," wrote Ersch. By making the ClearQuest repository the shared storage unit for bug tracking, progress reports, and test results, developers can see a fuller picture of the significance of bugs or getting a particular piece of code to meet requirements. The shared ClearQuest repository makes it simpler to perform "monitoring, reporting and traceability" as a project proceeds, Ersch wrote.

Many Siemens development teams are now distributed across different locations, and the Rational ClearQuest can share synchronize results across different servers around the world.

In addition to IBM, Microsoft is building more cooperative project management elements into its Visual Studio Team System. Borland, a former tools company, exited that business to supply a framework to manage the software development and deployment process.

IBM made the BuildForge acquisition in early May to leapfrog its tools' team capabilities ahead of the competition. Incorporating BuildForge capabilities helps the Rational tools suite overcome the barriers that exist between three enterprise silos, says Roger Oberg, VP of strategy for IBM's Rational Software division.

One of those silos is the software development process itself, conducted by skilled programmers and their project manager. Another is the software testing process, conducted by those skilled at generating tests for new software that indicate whether it meets the requirements for which it was created. The third silo is the software deployment team, a part of IT operations that must configure and install the software on data center hardware. To a surprising extent, these three groups lack channels of communication with each other about what they know about a newly produced application.

"In most organizations, the development, test, and deployment teams throw things over the wall at each other," says Oberg.

Rational ClearQuest in the past has been IBM's tool for setting up and managing the development process. The test result capture provides an audit trail that indicates whether the software will do what its developers intended and how it will perform once it's deployed. Both the development team and deployment team can benefit from such information now that it can be loaded and analyzed in a shared system, says Oberg.

"We previously had a separate test manager product. With a very manual effort [of entering test results in an unrelated product], you could link the tests to the requirements [stored in Rational RequisitePro] and to the various builds of the software," Oberg acknowledges.

The enhancement of ClearQuest along with other elements of the Rational suite mean software development can start to be treated as another business process, one that can be mapped, documented, monitored, and audited, Oberg says.

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