Is Rational Waking Up?

A few months back, we posed the question as to whether IBM Rational is finally waking up after a decade long-slumber. After several years of weak results, Q3 showed some promise. Rivals were now following Rational into a market (Application Lifecycle Management) that it invented. It looked like something was happening here.

But since then, Q4 returns showed a drop to old habits. Admittedly, maybe you could attribute that to anticipation of a new direction under new management, followed by a refresh to the team products that are the core of its product line. Software vendors often find their customers holding off purchases when a new version is coming.

No matter, we finally heard Rational's answer this week. And aside from a couple of compelling expansions of its issue and defect tracking system, we were frankly underwhelmed.

First the good news. Rational integrated test management into ClearQuest, the issue and defect tracking system. So, when a defect is spotted, it is added as an issue, workflows can be applied, tests automatically generated, and results entered in with a process that is fully closed loop.

Another cool feature is the linking of their newly acquired BuildForge tool, which automates the process of software builds (where you assemble all the code that has been changed into a new version, or "build") with ClearQuest. And in turn, ClearQuest has added a link to Tivoli Provisioning Manager to initiate deployment when software is ready to enter production.

The result is that issues, or the workflows associated with solving them, could automatically generate new software build cycles, and have continual tracking from build through test and deployment. That could be very important when it comes to compliance issues and sound IT governance.

While build integration here was looser - via APIs rather than deeper metadata integration - this marked a promising start toward assimilating their new acquisition.

We would have loved to see more integration further upstream with requirements and version control. Unfortunately, the new refresh didn't touch assets like Requisite Pro, the requirements tool, which continues to struggle with an underpowered engine that is over a decade old.

Rational is not yet fully supporting globally distributed development. The new version tweaks performance on web-based clients of a number of their tools. However, Requisite Pro still cannot support federated development environments where there may be multiple sources or iterations of the truth. And it groans under its reliance on Word, rather than extending support to more stable formats like PDF (admittedly, Rational is not alone there).

Rational (and few others outside of upstart MKS) has not - or may never - get to the point where global, federated repositories finally replace the patchwork of data replications and file transfers linking its tools. But it has yet to take advantage of service- enabling them, which could provide a shorter-term workaround for making the ties that bind a bit more flexible to support the globally distributed development that is becoming the norm today.

For all that, we'll still have to wait.

About the Author

Tony Baer is a Senior Analyst at Ovum, covering application lifecycle, SOA, and IT Service Management. Tony is a well-published IT analyst with over 15 years background in enterprise systems and manufacturing. A frequent speaker at IT conferences, Baer focuses on strategic technology utilization for the enterprise. Baer studies implementation issues in distributed data management, application development, data warehousing, and leading enterprise application areas including ERP, supply chain planning, and customer relationship management. As co-author of several books covering J2EE and .NET technologies, Baer is an authority on emerging platforms. Previously chief analyst for Computerwire's Computer Finance, Baer is a leading authority on IT economics and cost of ownership issues.

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