IBM Rational Upgrade Steps Closer To Unified Platform

Mike Devlin, general manager of IBM Rational, said the release of Rational's desktop practitioner tools, code-named Atlantic, should be generally available by Dec. 31. Through enhancements and new software, Atlantic aims to create a standards-based, unified platform that provides functionality for all phases of application development, from requirements-gathering to testing to deployment and production. Atlantic's use of the open-source Eclipse 3.0 IDE as a foundation will allow developers to customize their toolsets according to their role in the application life cycle, Devlin said.

Meanwhile, IBM rivals—led by Microsoft—are banding together to fight their common foe. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is so concerned with IBM Rational that it has tapped large integration partners to provide industry-specific business processes and methodologies to make Visual Studio Team System a real contender. Those partners include Accenture, EDS and Capgemini, sources told CRN.

Indeed, integrator sources said they're putting their own differences aside to provide their intellectual property to Microsoft to fight IBM. "We're willing to do this because of the IGS threat," said one source, referring to IBM's huge Global Services arm, with which they all compete. In the spring, Microsoft Visual Studio Product Manager Prashant Sridharan acknowledged Microsoft is working with third parties, saying that "system integrator processes and methodology will plug into the Visual Studio IDE" and that Microsoft would talk more about that late in the year.

"Microsoft is really trying to be an enterprise player, but IBM put a sword in its heart with the Rational acquisition," said a Microsoft solution provider partner, who requested anonymity. "Now [Microsoft] has to regroup."

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Sources said that while the Visual Studio toolset is on schedule, some third-party content will have to be downloaded later.

Visual Studio Team System is Microsoft's answer to the complete application life-cycle management solution IBM Rational can offer. It will come in several SKUs aimed at tailoring packages to developers' roles in the application life cycle.

But if Atlantic delivers the breadth of functionality IBM Rational promises, Microsoft faces tough head-to-head competition with IBM to provide a complete set of application life-cycle management tools.

IBM Rational's Atlantic represents "the biggest release of our product line in the last four or five years," Devlin said. It is the most significant release of the Rational portfolio since Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM acquired the company in February 2002.

Atlantic leverages IBM's software portfolio to the greatest extent so far, Devlin said. The new toolset will reflect the notion of the "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.

Microsoft also plans to link the development process with data-center operations in Visual Studio Team System.

At the same time, Devlin reiterated his consistent message that though IBM competes with Microsoft in the tools market, the Atlantic release will continue to promote IBM Rational's support for heterogeneous environments, including .Net.

Still, IBM Rational seems to be phasing out its 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. IBM Rational executives stressed that the division will continue to support Rational Rose and XDE for customers that have made significant investments in them. Any customer that wants to upgrade from those products to their next-generation counterpart may do so for free.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.