IBM Rational's Atlantic Tools Heading for Open Water

Mike Devlin, general manager of IBM Rational, said the new release should be generally available by Dec. 31. The tool set aims to create a unified platform based on open standards that covers all the phases of application development, from requirements gathering to testing and deployment.

IBM Rational first introduced the update, code-named Atlantic, in July at the Rational Software Development User Conference in Dallas. But on Wednesday Mike Devlin, general manager of IBM Rational, outlined specifics of the new release.

If the release date sticks, it will put IBM, Armonk, N.Y., significantly ahead of chief tools rival Microsoft, which does not plan the release of the next version of Visual Studio until the first half of 2005. Like Atlantic, Visual Studio 2005 also promises to offer a fully integrated application life-cycle management (ALM) platform.

"IBM's timing on this is good," said Melissa Webster, research director for application development at IDC. "I'm sure IBM wanted to get this to the market as quickly as they could."

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Atlantic represents "the biggest release of our product line in the last four or five years," Devlin said. It certainly is the most significant release of the Rational toolset since IBM acquired the company in February 2002.

Atlantic unifies the bulk of Rational's ALM tools on the Eclipse 3.0 open-source IDE, giving developers the option to customize their interface and use only the tools applicable to their role in the life cycle, Oberg said. Integrating the tools in this way allows Rational to present a staggering amount of functionality for architecting, modeling, building and managing applications in a way that is palatable even to less skilled developers, he said.

"You can overwhelm the user with too much technology," he said. "This release of Eclipse has a much simpler user interface, and with the way we packaged it into roles, it allows developers to pick which project and technology they want to use and allows each developer to have a personalized development environment that gives them only the tools they need."

The new toolset also continues IBM's mission to promote open standards and open-source technologies by offering new support for standards such as Unified Modeling Language (UML) 2.0, Service Data Objects (SDO) and the Reusable Asset Specification (RAS), Devlin said.

With Atlantic, IBM Rational also is introducing the notion of "business-driven development process," which means IBM aims to tightly integrate the Rational tools with deployment and production software such as IBM Tivoli, DB2 and other software infrastructure products. This kind of technology integration will help bring software development closer to the business needs of customers, which ties in with IBM's broader On Demand initiative, Oberg said.

"It links the business organization with development and operations," Oberg said. "It's very much an on-demand concept and is what our software development platform will support."

Microsoft also plans to link the development process with data-center operations in the enterprise version of Visual Studio 2005, which has been rebranded Visual Studio Team System.

In addition to its numerous enhancements to existing tools, Atlantic also introduces a host of new software to the Software Development Platform. Among them are IBM Rational Software Architect, a comprehensive design and development tool for application architects; and IBM Rational Software Modeler, a new modeling and design tool offering full UML 2.0 support that allows for different views of the application tailored for architects, system analysts and designers.

IBM Rational also is introducing IBM Rational Portfolio Manager to its substantial lineup. The software is a portfolio project management tool that will be integrated into the platform from IBM's acquisition of Canadian ISV System Corp., a deal IBM announced Tuesday.

The Atlantic release also fortifies Rational's testing toolset with a new product called Rational Manual Tester, a testing solution that enables business analysts to build software tests by hand. In addition, IBM Rational is beefing up support for testing software in Microsoft development environments by enabling developers to use Visual Basic as a scripting language in the Atlantic version of the existing Rational Functional Tester.

Devlin reiterated IBM Rational's message that though IBM is clearly a head-on competitor with Microsoft in the ALM tools market, the Atlantic release will continue to promote Rational's support for heterogeneous environments.

"Many of our customers depend on a number of technologies from Microsoft, and we will continue to support them even where they are not on the same standards base," Devlin said.

Still, Rational seems to be phasing out popular Microsoft modeling products such as Rational Rose and Rational XDE, which have been replaced by next-generation products Rational Software Architect and Rational Software Modeler in the Atlantic release.

Oberg stressed that Rational will continue to support Rational Rose and XDE for customers that have made significant investments in them, but he also mentioned that some of those customers might want to take advantage of certain "entitlements" from IBM to migrate to the next-generation tools. He did not, however, elaborate on what those entitlements might be.

On the partner front, IBM is bolstering the Atlantic release with an addition to its "Ready For" partner program series. The Ready for IBM Rational Software enables IBM business partners to validate that their software and solutions integrate with various aspects of the Software Development Platform. More information on the program can be found at IBM's partner site.