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
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).