IBM RSDC 2008 – Fytte the First

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Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

So, it’s now Day 2 at at IBM RSDC (Rational Software Development Conference) 2008, and what are my impressions so far?

Well, first, if you are one of the small (?) group of people who have written Rational off as impossibly clunky and “so not Web 2.0”, think again. Actually, that was always unfair; you don’t get Rational’s market share with products that don’t work, but they were optimised for different conditions and different kinds of development. There are still people who need them but IBM needs to move its toolset forwards—to cope with optimising business outcomes rather than coder productivity (building the right business systems as well as building code right); (more) agile development; social computing/networking; and the triumph of globalisation and distributed development.

Of course, as I’ve said elsewhere, globalisation and distributed development is a lot more than simply performing local development in lots of places and ‘duct taping’ the results into some sort of whole. However, IBM can be its own case study here and Steve Mills (Senior VP and Group Executive, IBM Software) is quite convincing when he describes IBM’s own approach to distributed development. I think that IBM really does know what it is talking about—for large scale development at least.

So, its approach to modernising the Rational toolkit is based on the Jazz platform, which it hopes will emulate the Eclipse model (starting off as an IBM collaborative, community-based platform, which cuts its links with IBM as the community matures). The bottom layer of Jazz (Open Lifecycle Service Integration) integrates the existing Rational tools (ClearQuest, ClearCase, BuildForge, Requisite Pro, AssetManager)—and also, most interestingly, Subversion (and, potentially, other tools). I do wonder how radical the changes to the latest releases of thes Rational tools will be (it’s possible that the name is just branding), although IBM can’t afford to offer anything too radical to existing customers.

This is all held together by Jazz Team Server and, on top of that, new products (Team Concert, Requirements Composer and Quality Manager) are built on the new Jazz platform. The new products add real value, it seems to me: Team Concert (which will soon support System z and System i server development) includes real-time monitoring of project health and collaborative Wikis for team communication, for example; Requirements Composer at last deals effectively with capturing and refining requirements (not just managing them as fixed lumps of text); and Quality Manager integrates business-driven quality requirements with development. It’s also interesting that new Rational tools are recognising mainframe developers as first-class players.

Related to Rational renovation, I think, is the Telelogic acquisition. If you thought that this was just the acquisition of extra customers or the killing of a rival, think again. There are holes in the Rational offering, especially around development of System Architectures and Telelogic plugs them. Neeraj Chandra of Telelogic is still on the team (technology strategy advisor or something to Martin Nally, Rational’s CTO) and the impression I got was that both sides saw nothing but opportunities from the merger

So, is there a dark side to what seemed a rather exciting set of conference announcements? Not really, although my cynicism may reassert itself as I look at some details in future blogs—the devil is always in the detail. My only real concern so far is that, although IBM talks about integrating development and operations, about working for desired business outcomes instead of code delivery and many similar good things (and convinces me that it really is working on these lines), we still have Rational, and Tivoli, and WebSphere—shouldn’t these just be aspects of a coherent whole rather than 3 separate fiefdoms within IBM? And senior management in these groups may be collaborating, but are Tivoli developers friends with Rational developers and WebSphere developers—do they all go down to the pub together, for example. I don’t know, but this is an issue Rational’s customers may well have too—it is all very well to talk about business outcomes and building for operations etc. but you may have to do a lot of clever (subtle) social engineering in order to get your troops at the sharp end to collaborate in spirit as well as in letter. Steve Mills seems to run a very tight ship and can mandate the use of Rational tools and process by his programmers—but he can’t make a programmer actually like his counterpart in Operations.


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