Yesterday at IBM Innovate 2011, IBM announced a new Rational Solution with an eye towards a cloud dominated future. IBM Innovate is the annual user conference for their Rational Software users. During the event, they also showcased Suntrust Bank, a large US bank, using Rational Software which reduced the software deployment issues by 93%, help reduce the cost significantly, deploy much faster than anytime in the past and reducing the software build time by 5X. This was used as an example to tout “Agile”, a theme in this conference along with collaboration and integration.
What is IBM Rational?
Released as an IDE for Ada programming language in 1985, Rational (under IBM) has evolved into a software development platform for speed, quality and predictability of software projects driving greater value to the organizations using them. As it is in the IBM’s marketing message software is everywhere. It drives our life completely. But the delivery of software is a very complex process, compounded by the need to greatly reduce costs, add agility while maintaining the streak of innovation. Moreover, unlike in the past, software development is more globalized and more distributed. There is a clear need for a framework that enables such a collaboration while, also, tightly integrated throughout the development lifecycle. IBM Rational provides one such environment targeted at today’s global enterprises.
What is in the new software?
The new software is built on Jazz. Jazz is IBM’s initiative to build a community around developing a platform for software and systems delivery to make it collaborative and productive through integration of information and tasks across the phases of lifecycle. The platform will help improve the software and systems lifecycle by breaking down the walls between various tools used in the process. It has a more flexible architecture that is more in tune with the collaborative web architecture. Even though it is not a right comparison, you can imagine it as something like github for internet age developers but with products on top of the platform that can help in the entire lifecycle of software and systems delivery. Some of the products on top of the Jazz platform include Rational team Concert, Rational Quality Manager, Rational Requirements Composer, Rational Rhapsody and Rational Software Architect Design Management. Other Rational products talk to them using the Jazz architecture.
Some of the features of this new solution are:
- Collaborative Design Management that enables distributed teams to integrate designs seamlessly with other development tasks and information, such as requirements, codes and quality management assets
- Collaborative Lifecycle Management which helps software development teams improve their productivity by offering an integrated application lifecycle management (ALM) solution to avoid the pitfalls of working in silos with broken communication, which results in project delays, low quality or budget overruns
- Collaborative Development And Operations to bridge the cultural divide between the Rational products and newer technologies like cloud computing, workload optimization, agile development, etc.
What is their plan for a cloud based world?
For them, cloud computing is still in the early stages and they are keeping a close watch on its maturity. In fact, my only motivation to attend this conference is to understand IBM’s plan for Rational Software as the industry moves more and more into using cloud based services. As someone who has seen the speed at which startups build their solutions for the cloud based world, there is not much going on with IBM Rational to be cloud ready. But IBM, like many other giants including Microsoft, has to protect their existing cash cow while prioritizing for the future. Moreover, their clients are large enterprises that evolves at dinosaurial pace compared to SMBs. So, IBM is slowly repositioning their offerings to meet the needs of the cloud based world.
Right now, they have made the Rational products agnostic to the underlying infrastructure. They have it optimized to run on IBM SmartCloud Enterprise and other IBM Cloud Infrastructure. They are also saying that these can be run on top of any public clouds, like Amazon, Rackspace, etc. or any private cloud platform. However, they are keeping a close watch on delivering Rational Software as a SaaS. They are closely aligning themselves with the SaaS model both on the technology side as well as the licensing side. In fact, even though they don’t offer a SaaS solution directly, they are working with partners to deliver the Rational Software as SaaS. CloudOne is one such partner delivering Rational Software in an elastic, on-demand model. IBM is open to tweak the license to help partners like CloudOne offer a multi-tenant SaaS solution. Maybe, as the market demand increases, IBM might go direct to offering Rational Software as SaaS.
As it is the case with any big software vendors, IBM Rational Team’s embrace of cloud is pretty slow. However, from my conversations with executives and some partners, I could see that they get the cloud. They clearly understand that the cloud space is moving at a much faster pace than what they would love to have. They also understand that they need a lot of catching up to do. They see all the challenges in front of them and also see the opportunities in the cloud world. Their optimization of Rational Software to seamlessly work on top of the public and private clouds is just the first step and they need to do a lot more before they can be completely cloud ready. Unlike their infrastructure counterpart who seems to be having a problem in getting their cloud offerings and messaging right, Rational Team understands the cloud space clearly. I hope they put it to action in the coming years and transition to meet the needs of their customers who will definitely be moving to cloud based solutions sooner than later.
Disclosure: IBM took care of my travel and stay during the conference