IBM deploys Rational to target legacy apps

After acquiring Rational Software for US$2.1 billion in December, IBM has offered some insight into its plans to wrap Rational’s development tools into the On Demand initiative.

Coming down the pike is deeper integration of Rational’s application development life-cycle management tools into each of IBM Software’s key product units: WebSphere, Tivoli , IBM Lotus, and DB2.

Specifically, Rational’s products will be retooled to take advantage of Tivoli ’s authentication services. The two together will help corporate and third-party developers build and deploy automated testing and monitoring solutions.

IBM will also hone Rational’s line to take better advantage of DB2’s data-modeling features. Additionally, Rational’s tools will be reworked to function more smoothly with WebSphere 5.0’s modeling, code-trace, and visualization capabilities, and will be enhanced to help developers better exploit the collaboration capabilities of Notes, IBM executives reported.

One of the primary goals driving the effort is to alleviate the problems enterprises face when managing legacy applications and environments, IBM executives said. With IBM research reporting companies of all sizes spending between 70 percent and 80 percent of their IT dollars on maintaining legacy systems, few dollars remain for new technology acquisition.

"The reality is it is a cluttered world out there, with most IT money spent just to maintain existing infrastructure. The only way users can get to the next level is in terms of savings through integration and breaking down these silos of data. We see Rational helping with this," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive at IBM Software in Somers, N.Y.

However, salvaging the hidden value of legacy applications and freeing up enterprises to spend more on new applications is just one of the key initiatives IBM executives outlined to analysts during briefings held in April.

The key to strengthening On Demand is to improve corporate developers’ ability to create applications that seamlessly integrate with applications inside the firewall, as well as those run by partners and suppliers.

To that end, Mills said IBM has already shared millions of lines of code across all of its major server software platforms. As the company weaves Rational into the mix, that sharing process will become much easier. "We are delivering an architecture that is a modular one, not a tight, entwined ball. It is loosely held. Rational will contribute significantly to that," Mills said.

"With the addition of Rational, [IBM] feels they have a much more complete software development environment for the On Demand world they see coming. To them, Rational plus WebSphere equals the best kind of developer productivity. But it’s a little early to see exactly how well that will play out," said one analyst briefed by the company, who asked to remain anonymous.

During the past year, IBM executives have been talking about adapting IBM’s key products and technologies to take advantage of a modular architecture.

With a modular set of software offerings, IBM contends the company will be able to respond more quickly to strategic trends in the marketplace and tactical moves by individual competitors.

"Rational is already a complete platform, and when used with WebSphere, [it] will achieve some pretty impressive results, we believe. You will see us deliver a set of hooks and optimized connections through IBM’s tools for Rational," Mills said.

Most analysts support Mills’ belief about the technical contribution Rational can make to enhance IBM’s modular architecture and its fit with Web services.

"There is no reason why Rational’s portfolio can’t be brought to bear on this strategy in concert with all their other server-based applications," said Dwight Davis, senior analyst at Summit Strategies Inc. in Boston .

"The drawback to Rational’s tools has been that they are difficult to use. IBM could make some new friends out here by tying [Rational’s tools] together with Eclipse and making them a little more friendly to work with," said John Henderson, a senior systems analyst at a large systems integrator specializing in solutions for the retail market.

Mills echoed that sentiment, noting that Rational will focus on developing applications for multiplatform environments. "You don’t want to bolt [...] functions into an application. You want to build that sort of function seamlessly into it," he said.

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