IBM teams with Rational on e-commerce

In a move to bolster their ability to create and speed to market enterprise-scale, e-business applications, IBM has announced a marketing and development alliance with Rational Systems that heavily promotes Java and XML as well as the fledgling Unified Modeling Language and XMI programming standards.

With the deal, the two companies hope to offer a set of soup-to-nuts development solutions that better allows programmers working in teams to design, develop, test and deploy enterprise-level applications. They hope to come up with solutions for better business process modelling, business requirements definition, code generation, change request management and systems management.

The deal comes at a time when officials from both companies believe the industry is quickly transitioning to a new phase in the evolution of e-business applications development, one that emphasises tying together systems spread across multiple platforms in order to present users with integrated views of its business.

"A banking customer who wants an audience-of-one presentation of all his relationships in the supply or value chain can have that. You can create an application that spans a lot of legacy systems and integrates different companies' systems rapidly," said Joe Damassa, vice president of application development marketing for IBM's Software Solutions group.

Damassa believes the new standard for success going forward will not so much be the number of transactions per second Web application servers can generate, but how many business process changes users can implement in a month.

"A key indicator will be how fast you can make business process changes in order to stay competitive in the e-business world. That is why we felt it was important to hook up with Rational to create faster development cycles for these apps," Damassa said.

The first fruits of the partnership will be seen later this week when the companies deliver a new integration between IBM's Visual Age development environment and the Rational Suite, an effort that has been underway for the past three months. Centered on the XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) bridge, the integration enables round-trip engineering efforts between VisualAge for Java and Rational Rose.

Explaining how the integration between Visual Age and Rational Rose works, Rational officials said Visual Age is able to read Java code, transform it into an XMI definitions and from that create a visual model in Rational Rose. This presents developers with a graphical representation of the architecture of the code they have written. The process also works in reverse, they said.

"If you wanted to design your architecture graphically by drawing pictures in UML (Unified Modeling Language), you can. The models you draw in Rose can immediately generate Java code from those in Visual Age for Java," said Eric Shurr, vice president and general manager of Rational's corporate marketing group.

Available for download on June 30, the new integration will be delivered as an add-in to Visual Age for Java at for registered users. The product will ship as part of IBM's Visual Age for Java Enterprise Edition.

Officials from both companies said the alliance is a logical commitment given the common goal each has of leveraging and extending users existing systems by delivering new mission critical functions for e-business.

The deal further strengthens the existing development relationship the companies have in place, they claim. For instance, IBM's San Francisco components currently ships Rational Rose models with the San Francisco Application Framework and IBM's Insurance Application Architecture features integration with Rational Rose.

The Rational Test Studio currently can be used to automate and test applications written in Visual Age, and the Rational Suite Performance Studio can test applications built on IBM's Websphere Application Server, company officials pointed out.

Also as part of the alliance Rational will more fully embrace IBM's Application Framework for e-business allowing the company to more easily integrate its technologies across the breadth of IBM's major development platforms from mainframes to Windows NT-based servers.

By leveraging the Framework Rational officials believe they can better leverage IBM's abilities transform core business processes and build more scalable and secure e-business applications. The Applications Framework complies with several open standards including Java, Enterprise JavaBeans and Corba.

Rational officials believe its Rational Suite enhances IBM's Application Framework for e-business by better unifying software teams and supplying integrated solutions for analysts, developers and testers working together.

"We are making it imperative in the software we ship to unify teams working together with different suites for the analyst, tester and builder functions," Shurr said.

According to officials from both companies, the only products that overlap in their respective lineups is IBM's Team Connection repository and Rational Clear Case repository. Despite this, officials from each company said they will continue to sell the products separately while highlighting the communication bridge that allows users to work across the two products.

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