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IBM has Rational take lead in development tool integration

Big Blue calls it a "simpler approach." And some businesses say the result of the integration plan could be big cost savings.

LEXINGTON, Mass. -- In a continuing effort to simplify its software offerings, IBM said Wednesday that its Rational software group would take the lead in consolidating and developing the company's line of development tools, including the WebSphere Studio tool set.

The move comes a year after IBM announced its plans to buy Rational Software Inc., a Lexington, Mass.-based provider of development tools. The acquisition was finalized in February. Rational brings to the table its Rational Rose modeling software and ClearCase change management software.

The move to integrate the company's broad array of development tools is in line with IBM's overall strategy of converging technologies from existing products. IBM has made several announcements this year to embed technologies such as its WebSphere Portal and Content Manager into its other software lines, including Lotus and Tivoli.

"This is a broad initiative to integrate tools," said Buell Duncan, general manager of developer relations for IBM's software group. "We're committed to providing a simpler approach to our tools offering and, yes, eventually there will be some consolidation of these tools."

IBM executives were not specific about which products would be culled from the portfolio. But Mike Devlin, general manager of the company's Rational group, said he expects to find some "redundancy and overlap," and that will likely mean the elimination of some tools. "We need to rub out the seams," he said.

The key here is to reduce the complexity of software development, said Grady Booch, a Rational Software veteran who is now an "IBM fellow" -- a designation IBM gives to its top technologists.

"Software development is and always will be a hard thing to do," he said. "Rational is our secret weapon."

The framework of this initiative, said Duncan, is Eclipse, the IBM-backed open source project aimed at developing software that would enable several different Java development tools to work essentially as one -- allowing a developer to use source code from one vendor's tool and an XML editor from another's, for example.

"These [development tools] are being built to run in multiple environments," Duncan said. That includes Microsoft's .NET.

John Pritchard, an enterprise architect at Lockheed Martin who works with teams that often include as many as 100 developers, said the integration of development tools is vital to his organization's software development projects.

"It reduces cost in terms of training and redundancy," Pritchard said. On one Lockheed project alone, having an integrated set of tools trimmed $50,000, he added.

As part of Wednesday's announcement, IBM also said it has revamped its DeveloperWorks site, its online resource for tools, code and developer information. Duncan said the group is also increasing the number of IBM-hosted developer events, from 120 in 2003 to 400 in 2004. The goal is to reach some 50,000 developers.

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