December 11, 2003 11:24 AM PST

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IBM is boosting its developer outreach programs and its Java tools as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows-only strategy.

The company on Wednesday launched a revamped version of its DeveloperWorks Web site with improved searching capabilities. The new site combines IBM's existing developer support Web site, with a parallel site that had been maintained for customers of IBM's Rational division.

IBM acquired tools maker Rational about one year ago for $2.1 billion.

Additionally, IBM will increase its number of developer-training programs from 120 this year to 400 next year, said Buell Duncan, general manager of IBM's developer relations. Big Blue hopes that growing the population of developers who use IBM tools at companies and independent software providers will create future opportunities to sell the software, hardware and services for running completed applications.

The developer outreach strategy began in earnest nearly three years ago, but IBM wants to accelerate those efforts, Duncan said. Big Blue is pitching its standards and open source-based approach as a competitor to Microsoft's Windows-oriented developer programs.

"More and more, developers want an alternative to Microsoft," said Duncan. "It's time to crank up the heat and take this to the next level."

IBM and Microsoft, typically bitter rivals in the market for software development tools, have also cooperated at times on key technologies. The companies earlier this year joined to lead the development of Web services standards and technologies, largely in the interest of expanding the potential market for their respective tools.

IBM executives also said they intend to speed up plans to combine Rational's application-modeling and testing tools with other products in IBM's software portfolio. The goal is to create a single "software development platform" all of IBM's various tools can plug in to, executives said.

Big Blue has already integrated Rational's software with IBM's own WebSphere Studio Java development tool. The Rational tools, which are used to design and test programs before they are deployed, are now able to run with WebSphere Studio, which is used mainly for writing code.

In the next major release of the Rational tools suite, due next year, IBM will link the Rational tools with its WebSphere application server, which is used to run Java applications, and with its Tivoli systems management product, said Mike Devlin, general manager of IBM's Rational division. This closer integration will help companies track problems in deployed applications and make design and code changes more quickly, he said.

The follow-on version of next year's major release will increase the integration with the Tivoli set of systems-monitoring tools and inherit some collaboration capabilities from IBM's Lotus line, Devlin said.

The central point of integration for IBM's tools is Eclipse, an open-source tool effort the company started in late 2001. The Eclipse consortium, which now has close to 50 members, is set to become an independent organization with its own board by the end of the year, according to Eclipse. The Eclipse software is a system for combining several different development tools under a single user interface.

Close integration between development tools--when it comes to things like modeling, source code management and testing--is a great time saver for large projects, said John Pritchard, a software architect for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and an IBM Rational customer.

For example, because Rational's bug-tracking software can share information with its design and project management tools, Lockheed Martin was able to spot problems earlier and automatically share that defect information with program managers, Pritchard said. The company cut down on its design time by one-third and saw a 27 percent decrease in the number of defects by going with an integrated suite, Pritchard said.

 

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