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Jazz suite updated at IBM Rational Software Conference

Jack Vaughan

Last year, the IBM Jazz collaborative platform for the software development life-cycle had a major roll-out at the IBM Rational Software Conference in Orlando, Fla. This year's version of that event

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saw equally impressive advances on the Jazz product front.

This week, the company updated Jazz suite components such as IBM Rational Requirements Composer and Team Concert. It introduced at the same time wholly new Jazz products known as IBM Rational Insight and Focal Point for Project Management. Underlying Jazz is an XML-based meta data format that employs so-called RESTful services over HTTP.

In the earliest days of Jazz, it was often likened to Eclipse, the pluggable open-source IDE framework originally fostered by IBM. Such comparisons may have been premature, as Jazz's eventual evolution remains to be tracked.

While Jazz, and the related IBM-sponsored Open Services Life-Cycle Collaboration (OSLC) initiative, may foreshadow a new generation of portable and pluggable ALM tools covering test data, bug reporting, requirements and other needs, third-party support is still narrow. Third-party vendors joining IBM in announcing Jazz product plans last year included Black Duck Software, iRise, Mainsoft and VMLogix. Cast, QSM and Galorath introduced new integrations to Rational tool sets at this year's Rational conference.

Outside support for OSLC, which is rolling out in stages or profiles, now includes a handful of individuals. So far these profiles, or workgroups, cover Change Management, Software Estimation and Measurement and Requirements Management.

Eclipse-to-Jazz comparisons may be overstated, said the head of Rational. "You have to be careful likening [Eclipse] to Jazz," said Daniel Sabbah, General Manager, IBM Rational Software. He noted that it was many years after the original inception of Eclipse that it became open source and widely supported.

Jazz and OSLC
How do Jazz and Eclipse truly stack up? "Jazz shares technology and methodology with Eclipse. Both seek to create a common environment," said Laurent Lachal, Senior Analyst, Ovum, in an e-mail message.

"However the two initiatives have different approach, scope and audience. Eclipse is open source; Jazz isn't. Eclipse is about creating a common front end for tools. Jazz is about creating a common back end," he continued.

Because OSLC only came into being last year, it is less mature than Jazz, which saw germination in 2004 and 2005. Both are lacking industry support because of their lack of maturity, and because IBM has yet to make a strong case in their favor, suggested Lachal.

With Jazz the problem is compounded by the fact that it was re-architected last year based on a RESTful approach – this re-architecture coincides with the origin of OSLC, he notes.

OSCL and Eclipse have much more in common than Jazz and Eclipse. The fact that OSLC does not have a big following at the moment is not much of a problem. It will be in two years time if IBM fails to build momentum behind it," said Lachal.

IBM's Sabbah said Jazz was still in its infancy, noting progress such as a newly published Change Management 1.0 profile spec. He said that since Jazz and OSLC have surfaced, others are more able to analyze the format, and perhaps, begin to take part in the OSLC process.

"We need lots of actors to come and play," said Sabbah.

Among companies interested in the progress of OSCL is Mainsoft, which supports a range of tool integration strategies. "By providing the REST APIs, IBM is setting the stage for ISVs to plug into the Jazz ecosystem," said Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft.

"For Mainsoft, this initiative will create additional opportunities to integrate Microsoft SharePoint with Jazz," Cohen continued.

Early Jazz products
The new Rational products shown this week are said to forward IBM's mission to transform "software investments" into strategic business assets. To that end, the new IBM Rational Insight product hooks into the IBM Cognos BI reporting package, to enable line-of-business managers to track a software project's status by measuring team performance.

Focal Point for Project Management represents the debut of a Jazz project manager package. This is a new area for IBM Rational.

Third-party support may grow gradually – even within True Big Blue shops, the uptake could be measured.

"They have had a few months now to play with some of the earliest Jazz products," said Tony Baer, Senior Analyst, Ovum. "At this point, it is a missionary sale."

"It does require new technology. It requires buying new servers. It also requires the software development organization to rethink their processes and become more collaborative," he continued.

In a way it is an inevitable transition," said Baer, "But it is not going to be easy and it is not going to happen over night."


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