IBM Rational Previews Wares for Software Investment Management

IBM's Rational division this week gave attendees at its annual user conference in Orlando, Fla. a peek at three new products focused on the notion of "software investment management," as well as previews of some older software delivery products that are being tuned for cloud-based infrastructures.

"If you think about the role of software in businesses, it embodies the processes we use to run those businesses every day," said David Locke, director of offerings management for IBM Rational. "Not many companies do it, but you should be managing it as a strategic asset, whether you are acquiring it or building it from scratch."

One of the new products, IBM Rational Insight, addresses this issue directly. Built on IBM's Cognos software, it's designed to provide a dashboard that measures, monitors and analyzes software project performance. Locke said Insight can be optimized for everyone involved in managing the project, from lower-level project managers to the CIO. Cognos, a business intelligence tool, allows Insight to look at the actual artifacts being created -- the business models, requirements, test cases and code. The Insight product is available starting June 3.

Mining actual artifacts is one of the strengths of the second new product announced, the IBM Rational Focal Point for Project Management. Still in beta, this solution is designed to help project leaders manage their resources, even when they're spread across geographical and organizational boundaries, Locke said. The company expects it to be available by the end of 2009, he said.

The third new offering, the Measured Capability Improvement Framework (MCIF), provides what IBM described as a framework for measuring results and managing projects. The tool can measure results allowing project managers to incrementally improve software deliver, IBM said. MCIF provides a logical methodology to discover problems in the software delivery process. From there it provides a solution, company officials said.

All three are products built on the Jazz collaboration platform, which IBM released to open source in 2007. Jazz is the result of a joint effort by IBM's Rational and Research divisions to build a scalable, extensible, team-collaboration platform for integrating tasks across the software lifecycle. It's built on Eclipse and designed to provide a framework that makes it possible to include everyone working on a project, from developers to stakeholders.

Out of the new products, Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond said he is hopeful, but cautious, about the capability Insight might provide to developers. "Analytics and metric are a critical need for development shops, and it's something most ALM [application lifecycle management] tools don't do a very good job of collecting," said Hammond, who attended IBM's conference. "We'll see what IBM does with Insight, and how quickly you can get actionable data from it."

IBM also gave attendees an update on ongoing efforts to expand its cloud computing capabilities, including a preview of a new set of cloud-based services. The company showcased several IBM Rational Software Delivery Services for the Cloud, which will "provide all the benefits of Software as a Service...with the added benefit of cloud virtualization and flexible pricing," the company said. Formal technology previews of these services, which will provide virtualized software a service with tiered pricing, are planned for later this month.

Locke said IBM also plans to provide a technical preview later this month of IBM Rational Services in the Cloud. "You can use our tooling while it's hosted in a cloud, as well as creating applications that will be hosted by a cloud -- in other words, apps for a cloud," Locke explained.

Given the current economic conditions, IBM needs to offer more flexible options for developers, Hammond said. "When you're in chancy economic situations and your primary competition is from the low end, what better strategy than to go back to your base -- the base that will pay whatever price is necessary to ensure that their software works, because the cost of failure could be millions of dollars in product recalls or even lives," Hammond said.

Hammond, who before joining Forrester was part of the Rational brand strategy and planning team and was responsible for launching the IBM Rational Software Development Platform, was referring to Rational's so-called heritage products, such as ClearCase, Rose and Apex.

"The original Rational was a hardware company that built ADA machines (the old R1000) for organizations like the FAA for their tracking systems," he said. "My best customers for Rose Java were always the technical and systems folks, with a smattering of finance and telco thrown in. Telelogic's products like Doors and Rhapsody are still used primarily in the space, as well."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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