IBM advancing global-based software development

Big Blue's Rational division is hoping to build worldwide software engineering communities

Building on its Jazz strategy for collaboratively building software, IBM Rational will offer versions of its products geared toward global cooperative development with an eye toward boosting SOA in 2007.

In an interview Wednesday, Daniel Sabbah, general manager of Rational, said the company is re-architecting core elements of its product set to leverage the Internet and Web 2.0 concepts such as AJAX-based (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Web interfaces. The goal is to accommodate community-based software development, he said.

New products bearing these changes will start to appear toward the end of the first half of this year, Sabbah said. IBM seeks to make software engineering more flexible and more reactive with its plan, accommodating agile processes.

"The aspect of it that's much more interesting is really building software engineering communities," Sabbah said.

Noting the trend toward collaboration between U.S. and offshore developers, IBM seeks to provide a platform accommodating a global, distributed model. These developers will able to work on aspects of development, such as requirements modeling, architecture, changing legacy code, documentation, and bug fixes.

According to Sabbah, the company seeks to optimize SOA development with its plan. SOA is largely about decomposing large parts of monolithic software into more flexible components, he said

As part of the effort, Rational products will add capabilities to manage architectures and software lifecycles for building more flexible software in a globally distributed fashion. Internet-based community project efforts also will be enhanced, according to Sabbah.

"There's plenty examples of people doing organizationally distributed and globally distributed development, and they need better tools to be able to do that, and they need to understand the coherent architecture," Sabbah said.

"[IBM's effort is] certainly related to ALM (application lifecycle management), but it's a different dimension of (ALM) because in this particular case, the application itself has to be dynamically assembled with many of the parts coming from places where you couldn't predict," Sabbah said.

"Every single element of our product portfolio will have a globally distributed element to it" and feature the ability to be hosted under Internet standards, Sabbah stressed.

He raised the notion of offering Rational products via a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model, but did not openly commit to this.

"As we transform our product portfolio down this particular path, our ability to deliver a software development platform will enable a SaaS model. But we're not announcing today any kind of a SaaS model," said Sabbah.

A service supplier, whether it is IBM or someone else, could, for example, host a quality management process for distributed teams worldwide, Sabbah said. Such a process even could be used by different companies, said.

He called IBM's plan "a natural evolution of the capabilities that we provide today."

"It's a different way of delivering those particular capabilities [that is] much more amenable to the types of requests and business models that our customers are essentially under today," Sabbah said.

IBM's plan will include creating a community around Jazz with some technologies to be free and open source and others fee-based. It is similar to how the IBM-developed Eclipse Foundation functions, in which open-source technologies are melded with for-profit endeavors.

The company has been vague about its Jazz effort, said analyst Carey Schwaber, of Forrester. "I just hope they do it in a way that enhances rather than confuses," she said.

Jazz hopefully will mean shared collaboration experiences across IBM experiences, such as a discussion board that could be used across different tools, Schwaber said.

The Jazz project integrates teams across a software and systems delivery lifecycle. Users of the Jazz framework will be able to assess the full impact of changing a requirement. Jazz involves management of software development worldwide and automatic notifications of changes.

Citing issues IBM had with the Catapulse hosted development service early in the decade, Schwaber said she did not anticipate Big Blue again delving in hosting of applications. "They're not going to go into that business again," she said.

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