Tying development to business

Unification of business needs and software development is critical for enterprises, according to IBM Corp. executives speaking at the IBM Rational Software Development Conference 2005 in Las Vegas late last month.

The officials stressed a team-based, process-oriented strategy for development.

“Better software translates into better business,” said Roger Oberg, vice-president, marketing of Rational Software within the IBM Software Group, in opening up the morning’s keynotes on May 23. Building better software requires participation of architects, business analysts, developers, testers, release managers and others, Oberg said.

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Today’s reality, in which ROI is vital, dictates that better alignment is needed between software and business, said Daniel Sabbah, general manager of IBM Rational. “Our task is to evolve patterns of success in software engineering,” Sabbah said.

An attendee said he agreed that business, processes and software development need to be unified. “That’s the only way that business knows what they need and what they’re going to get,” said attendee John Garis, process architect for IT at The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., which offers insurance. He stressed he was not speaking on behalf of his employer.

The disconnect between users and software development has led to finger pointing, according to Sabbah. “We tend to treat operations as a wall over which we throw development operations and assets when we as developers are finished with them. We then argue incessantly over whose fault it is when they don’t work or don’t scale,” said Sabbah.

To help unify development with business needs, IBM is announcing a set of services that integrate the business view into the software life cycle using Rational Unified Process templates and best practices, Sabbah said. Specifically, the company unveiled software that can automatically identify and repair problems in business applications, to enable fixing in minutes and hours rather than days or weeks, according to IBM.

Offerings blend middleware from the Rational development and testing tools platform with Tivoli application management software.

Products announced include IBM Problem Resolution Toolkit for Rational Application Developer and IBM Performance Optimization Toolkit for Rational Performance Tester. These are intended to enable a faster, automated process for problem identification in business applications. The packages will particularly benefit companies building a services-oriented architecture (SOA), IBM said.

The tools gain troubleshooting capabilities from Tivoli’s Monitoring for Transaction Performance software, for diagnosing and fixing transaction performance problems. The Tivoli software monitors application performance and quality while the application is live.

Service offerings were also unveiled, including IBM Standard Deployment Service for Rational Portfolio Manager, IBM Fast Track Deployment Service for Rational Portfolio Manager and IBM Rational Project/Program Management Assessment Service. Rational Portfolio Manager provides business and development teams with a set of capabilities for planning and managing IT projects.

IBM Software Release and Deployment Service, meanwhile, helps users to more effectively use Rational ClearCase and ClearQuest with Tivoli Configuration Manager. Also unveiled were new capabilities for software quality tools. Rational Performance Tester is being fitted with functionality to improve ease of use and accuracy of application testing. New HTML rendering capabilities let users view Web pages being tested, instead of just viewing the code.

The IBM Rational Functional Tester Extension for Siebel Test Automation will enable customers deploying Siebel 7.7 applications to verify that their Siebel apps will function as intended. Another tool, Rational Performance Tester Extension for Siebel Test Automation, provides load testing capabilities for Siebel 7.7 applications. The two Siebel-related offerings ship by mid-summer, with pricing to be announced when the products are available.

To enable development of application services, IBM is focusing on enabling services definitions to be captured as XML documents, which describe the services independent of implementations. The idea is to represent abstraction and modularity as XML documents that can be passed around networks.

IBM also is announcing resources for implementing SOAs, as part of its developerWorks program. A Rational Unified Process plug-in for business modeling aligns with a plug-in for SOA and two UML profiles for modeling and representing software services, said Sabbah.

Also at the conference:

• IBM is supporting development of services to make it easier to do geographically distributed development, via the company’s ClearQuest change-tracking system, according to the company.

• IBM said it plans to integrate Lotus capabilities for building collaboration and community into its software development offerings.

• Sabbah said IBM has demonstrated but is not ready to announce its SOA Workbench package, which focuses on establishing services and connecting them to existing deployments.

• Sabbah expressed doubts about Microsoft’s ability to meet enterprise needs with the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 platform, which is to feature team-based development. “I still don’t believe they understand core elements of what it means to deal with enterprises,” Sabbah said. Microsoft is still too focused on its own platform, according to Sabbah.

• Sabbah stressed that the notion of composite applications still is a vision, but one that would change the shape of the application industry.

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