IBM grants Jazz up research funds

The University of Calgary was the only university to land two of the IBM Jazz grants handed out today, which were given to schools doing research on IBM’s collaborative Jazz platform. The university was also the only Canadian school to receive a grant in this area.

Both projects are centred on improved collaboration. The first grant recipient was the team of Frank Maurer, head of the Agile software engineering group at the University of Calgary, who is heading up research that will allow Agile development teams to better work together globally. “We wanted to examine how you can follow the Agile philosophy when it comes to stakeholders, testers, and business analysts,” he said. “We wanted to reduce the amount of documentation that results.”

His team—composed of several University of Calgary students—will be working on capturing detectable requirements and executable specifications so that the Jazz platform can be extended. “By getting the executable specifications, we can get examples of what the system should do. As soon as the software provides a feature that works, the test will show up in green, with features that don’t work showing up in red, so it’s like a traffic light of progress,” said Maurer. “This way, there is a business perspective on what is working, and companies can use this to drive the development process.”

Maurer already has a working prototype of the tool, and hopes to have the next prototype by the end of the year. He was drawn to this research due to the surging popularity of the Agile development platform.

This trend is probably one of the reasons why the project was chosen as a grant recipient, according to IBM Canada’s Kevin Haaland, the project lead for the Jazz-based Rational Eclipse Project Lead. Said Haaland: “A key theme today is making teams more productive, especially when it comes to globally distributed development, and the University of Calgary is right in line with that. Building plans in an Agile way…it can be a challenging issue to make it efficient.”

He added the other grant recipient at the University of Calgary is also right in line with current trends—in this case, the user profile and social networking. Thomas Zimmermann, a computer science professor at the University of Calgary, is leading a team of students in a project that seeks to generate social networking around software development. Said Zimmermann: “We want to build something similar to Facebook where developers can interact with each other and thus develop better software. Software development is getting more and more collaborative, with a lot of people working in different countries, timezones, etc., and we want to observe that, and see what people’s expertise are, what they’re working on…”

Zimmermann is using the grant money to work on Kode1061, a project that he hopes will be at the prototype level by October, when he will start recruiting developers for it. The project would be like a user profile plug-in to the Jazz interface where tags and queries would produce fellow users and projects. From there, users could see who might be the best for a certain task, or be pointed toward documentation that helped another user facing a similar problem.

In the future, Zimmermann hopes to take the project beyond Jazz to become platform-independent and function as an interactive portal for all types of developers.