May 19, 2003 2:03 PM PDT

IBM's Rational cooks up Java plan

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IBM's software group is getting ready to unveil a Java development tool, the fruit of its acquisition of Rational Software, that promises to make it easier for programmers to build custom business applications.

The tool, called IBM Rational Rapid Developer, is expected to be introduced Tuesday as part of a barrage of software announcements from Big Blue. It is constructed so that once a programmer has designed a Java application using its modeling component, it automatically generates corresponding Java code--relieving developers of the task of hand-building the code.

IBM calls this approach "architected RAD," or architected rapid application development, and claims to be one of the first companies to espouse the programming method.

The product is the first significant announcement from the Rational division since the modeling tools company was acquired by Big Blue last December and was integrated into the tech giant's software group. It is set for launch at IBM's Software Symposium in Munich, Germany, this week.

With the new product, the Armonk, N.Y., company is aiming to accelerate the application-coding process and to lower the skill level required to build Java applications. In particular, it is intended to help write applications based on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard, which is typically used to design back-end business applications. Software companies often find it difficult and costly to recruit and hold onto highly skilled programmers.

Rational Rapid Developer marks a departure for IBM, which until now has focused primarily on other phases of the application development process. In addition to the application-modeling tool, the Rational division sells a tool for tracking changes in different versions of source code.

Executives said that IBM's Rational Rapid Developer will be sold as a complement to WebSphere Studio, the company's existing Java-based development product. In a team of programmers, for instance, the more skilled members might use WebSphere Studio to build an application while those not expert in J2EE might use IBM's Rational Rapid Developer. The new tool can generate code for IBM's WebSphere Java server software and other J2EE-compliant application servers.

Other companies have also been pursuing simpler Java-based tools. Sun Microsystems, for one, has said it is working on a forthcoming product that is aimed at wooing away developers using Microsoft's Visual Basic programming language, which is considered easier to use than Java.

The development tool announcement is one of several planned at the Munich conference. IBM is also expected to release its DB2 Information Integrator product for searching multiple data sources, an effort to add industry-specific features to its WebSphere Business Integration line, and to unveil a stripped-down e-mail client for its corporate portal software.

In other news from the Rational division, the group is entering the market for testing tools with the introduction Monday of IBM Rational XDE Tester, a Java-specific tool designed to test whether an application is bug-free. It is designed to work in conjunction with products of Eclipse, an open-source development tool effort spearheaded by IBM.

Both IBM's Rational Rapid Developer and IBM's Rational XDE Tester are expected to be available at the end of June this year.

 

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