I haven’t been to IBM’s Rational Conference in a couple of years so I was very interested not just to see what IBM had to say about the changing landscape of software development but how the customers attending the conference had changed. I was not disappointed. While I could write a whole book on the changes happening in software development (but I have enough problems) I thought I would mention some of the aspects of the conference that I found noteworthy.
One. Rational is moving from tools company to a software development platform. Rational has always been a complex organization to understand since it has evolved and changed so much over the years. The organization now seems to have found its focus.
Two. More management, fewer low level developers. In the old day, conferences like this would be dominated by programmers. While there were many developers in attendance, I found that there were a lot of upper level managers. For example, I sat at lunch with one CIO who was in the process of moving to a sophisticated service oriented architecture. Another person at my table was a manager looking to update his company’s current development platforms. Still another individual was a customer of one of the company’s that IBM had purchased who was looking to understand how to implement new capabilities added since the acquisition.
Three. Rational has changed dramatically through acquisitions. Rational is a tale of acquisitions. Rational Software, the lynch pin of IBM’s software development division, itself was a combination of many acquisitions. Rational, before being bought by IBM in 2002 for $2.1 billion, had acquired an impressive array of companies including Requiste, SQA, Performance Aware, Pure-Atria, and Object Time Ltd. After a period of absorbtion, IBM started acquiring more assets. BuildForge (build and release management) was purchased in 2006; Watchfire (Web application security vulnerability and compliance testing software) was bought in 2007; and Telelogic (requirements management) was purchased in 2008.
It has taken IBM a while to both absorb all of the acquisitions and then to create a unified architecture so that these software products could share components and interoperate. While IBM is not done, under Danny Sabbah’s leadership (General Manager), Rational made the transition from being a tools company to becoming platform for managing software complexity. It is work in progress.
Four. It’s all about Jazz. Jazz, IBM’s collaboration platform was a major focus of the conference. Jazz is an architecture intended to integrate data and function. Jazz’s foundation is the REST architecture and therefore it is well positioned for use in Web 2.0 applications. What is most important is that IBM is bringing all of its Rational technology under this model. Over the next few years, we can expect to see this framework under all of the Rational’s products.
Five. Rational doesn’t stand alone. It is easy to focus on all of the Rational portfolio (which could take a while). But what I found quite interesting was the emphasis on the intersection between the Rational platform and Tivoli’s management services as well as Websphere’s Service Oriented Architecture offerings. Rational also made a point of focusing on the use of collaboration elements provided by the Lotus division. Cloud computing was also a major focus of discussion at the event. While many customers at the event are evaluating the potential of using various Rational products in the cloud it is early. The one area that IBM seem to have hit a home run is its Cloud Burst appliance which is intended create and manage virtual images. Rational is also beginning to deliver its testing offerings as cloud based services. One of the most interesting elements of its approach is to use tokens as a licensing model. In other words, customers purchase a set number of tokens or virtual licenses that can be used to purchase services that are not tied to a specific project or product.