Rational GM: Microsoft Relationship Cooled Since IBM Purchase

Competition between tool vendors IBM Rational and Microsoft could heat up with Rationa's Atlantic release.

July 20, 2004

4 Min Read
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This week at its IBM Rational Software Development User Conference, IBM Rational executives reiterated their commitment to supporting Microsoft Visual Studio with Rational tools.

In an interview with CRN at the show, however, IBM Rational General Manager Mike Devlin admitted that the relationship between Rational and Microsoft has cooled since IBM acquired Rational in February 2003.

Devlin said the "good news" is that Microsoft is still a "good engineering partner" for IBM Rational.

"They still give us access to all the APIs and technology," Devlin said. "There are views that Microsoft is a bad company and if they don't like you they don't give you access to technology, but our view is that they are a good company to work with, they have great ISV programs, and they give you what you need to make your product available on their platforms."

Even so, Microsoft and IBM Rational are doing "less joint marketing than we used to" and hardly any joint selling now since IBM bought Rational, he said. "I don't expect that to change," said Devlin. "That's not entirely surprising."The competition between Microsoft and IBM Rational could heat up even further with the upcoming Atlantic release of IBM Rational's desktop practitioner tools--which include the Rational Rose modeling tool, the Rational Robot testing tool and WebSphere Studio IDE for J2EE development. IBM Rational gave developers a sneak peak of Atlantic, expected before the end of the year, at the conference Monday in Dallas.

Though IBM Rational tools have appealed mainly to highly skilled developers, Devlin and Lee Nackman, IBM Rational CTO, said the forthcoming Atlantic release should make the tools accessible for less code-savvy application builders. That will make the tools more palatable for a broader developer audience.

"Usability is our first priority in the next 12 months; pricing is second to that," Devlin said. "A lot of the reason we moved to the Eclipse [open-source] framework was for improving usability. Eclipse 3.0 user interface is a lot easier to use, a lot more modern and more appealing."

"Developers want to build more sophisticated things with less and less skill," Nackman said. "Absolutely we're going to be [providing] more and more of that [functionality] in our tools."

The new version of this platform--which, with IBM Rational's teaming tools such as ClearQuest and ClearCase, make up the IBM Software Development Platform--also will take a page out of Microsoft's playbook by including support for forms-based development. This functionality, provided by support for standards such as Java Server Faces and Service Data Objects (SDO), should appeal to business-line users who currently build Windows applications, Devlin said."Atlantic will include a lot more support for simple forms-based development so you can write simple forms that access Web services or access [back-end] data," Devlin said. "That data may be complex to the person writing it, but we reduce this complexity to the business user who needs to access it."

Part of Atlantic's appeal will be that it will, like existing Rational tools, offer functions for developers fulfilling different roles in the application life cycle--whether they be a tester, architecture builder, application modeler or code-writing programmer, Devlin said. And by leveraging Eclipse 3.0, which allows multiple tools to be plugged into one IDE in an easy-to-use interface, Rational will provide tighter integration for all the tools that developers must use.

"[Atlantic] allows you to manage the complexity of this enterprise architecture, [unify] these really strong people in business analysis or architecture, and really leverage your experts, but also your more junior programmers," Devlin said. "You can give them a relatively contained job. It allows you to export a range of skills in your team and put them to the best use."

To further ease the complexity of Rational's toolset, Atlantic will be packaged in different SKUs that target different developer roles, so that each package contains the tools best suited to a developer's job in the product life cycle, Nackman said. IBM Rational is still working out what those packages will be and will have more information as the ship date approaches, he said.

Nackman stressed that--in contrast to IBM's often-criticized practice of bundling disparate products and calling them integrated--Atlantic's use of the Eclipse platform really does offer a unified package. "With Atlantic, these are not independent technologies put in a box," Nackman said. "This is technology all based on Eclipse that is built to integrate together."0

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