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IBM Rational Tools and Learning Showcase
1. IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software V6.0
2. IBM Rational Performance Tester V6.1
3. IBM Rational Software Architect V6.0
4. IBM Rational Software Modeler V6.0
5. IBM Rational Functional Tester V6.1
IBM Rational Tools and Learning Update

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How the Eclipse Framework Makes Rational's "Role-Based Development" Strategy Actually Work
IBM Rational's reworking of its extensive tools offerings onto the Eclipse framework is more than just a marketing gimmick. The new level of integration of data and user interface makes practical, as well as useful, the "role-based development" strategy critical to modern software developers.  

In the complex symphony that is modern-day software development, everyone has a role. Under the enlightened guidance of a talented development conductor, the efforts of analysts, architects, developers, testers, and deployment specialists can all come to life like a Carnegie Hall orchestra. Making these notes ring true has never been more difficult, however. The complexity of software development has increased markedly since the days when IDEs consisted of command-line compilers and buggy debuggers. New technologies, such as Enterprise Java, have raised the bar on technical competence. Fortunately, innovations in Rational Software's development tools have kept pace with these advances, and can enable developers to succeed despite the hurdles.

Pioneering Integration—But More Was Needed
It was only a few years ago that Rational delivered the first version of Rational Suite, an amalgamation of the most popular Rational tools. Although quaint by contemporary standards, this suite at the time set new standards for interoperability and integration—instead of developers integrating their own set of disparate tools, Rational offered an integrated suite of the best of its development tools. For the first time, for example, requirements, code, and defects could all be managed as one entity. This concept was revolutionary for its time—and it set the benchmark for future development by helping bring complex software projects together. Rational's success prompted the competition, including Borland and Microsoft, to follow in its footsteps and offer suites of developer tools.

Now make no mistake—the Rational Suite was not perfect. With many of its tools the product of acquisitions, the technical challenge of integrating tools built on disparate software platforms was daunting—and integration was achieved mostly by point-to-point data conversion among the tools. The UIs also varied to a greater or lesser extent from tool to tool, adding to the learning curve (and even the using curve!).

Completely Rebuilt On Top of Eclipse
The world changed when the Eclipse platform was introduced, although few realized it at the time. While initially envisioned as a handy way to build Java IDEs, the Eclipse platform became the de facto platform for other software tool vendors. Rational was there at the beginning, even before its acquisition by Eclipse inaugural member IBM. For Rational, Eclipse offered the opportunity truly to offer seamlessly integrated development tools.

This was no empty promise. Many of the Rational tools have already been completely rebuilt on top of the Eclipse platform. Those tools include Rational Software Architect, Software Modeler, Web Developer, Application Developer, Functional Tester, Manual Tester, and Performance Tester. The remaining tools, including Requisite Pro, ClearQuest, and ClearCase, achieve their seamless integration by using the Eclipse plug-in architecture.

It's More Than Packaging
Rational has completely transformed its original suite of loosely integrated tools into a groundbreaking platform for role-based development. While many a software vendor has simply repackaged and re-branded its existing tools as "All New: Role-based Development Solutions Inside!," Rational has gone to a new level by delivering on the integration promise of the Eclipse platform.

Instead of relying on point-to-point tool integrations, as in the past, the Rational tools are now role-specific viewers into a common database of development artifacts. This role orientation around the common data store, and the common Eclipse-based interface for all tools, provides a seamless experience for developers: I'm an analyst today, an architect tomorrow, a developer, and then a tester. The Rational tools make transitions among such roles effortless, both for different team members, and for each member who handles different roles at different points in the development lifecycle. And the common UI lowers the learning and the using curves.

Role-based tools are also appreciated by bean counters because it is now clearer which tools are needed for each role. This clarity of purpose can result in significant cost savings, as there is no need to buy an entire suite of tools when you just need one. At the same time, when you need an additional tool, you know it will integrate cleanly both in its developer interface and in its underlying data system.

Model—Or Don't!
Rational is of course synonymous with UML and software modeling. Nearly every software architect has had experience with Rational Rose. Just as Rose was pivotal in introducing modeling to the architect, the latest generation of Rational modeling tools similarly benefits a wider audience.
  • Software architects fluent in UML will find themselves at home with Rational Software Architect.
  • Application developers who don't need full-scale UML modeling capabilities or who aren't using UML at all, will find Rational Application Developer an ideal fit.
  • Visually-driven Web developers, and those who utilize services, such as Java Server Faces and the Struts application framework, should consider the visual development capabilities of Rational Web Developer.
  • Analysts or anyone who simply needs to model stuff will also find Rational Software Modeler the right solution.
Useful Across Methodologies
Rational tools even bring a role-based approach to process. While most everyone has heard of the Rational Unified Process (RUP), what many don't know is that the benefits of RUP are just as apparent, regardless of whether you use extreme programming, or feature-driven development, or the waterfall method, or any number of methodologies.

RUP is highly adaptable to your role and your process. Rational has the process that goes with the tools and the tools support however you've chosen to adapt RUP to your organization.

Productivity and Quality—Keys to the Future
Complex undertakings like large-scale software development require forward-thinking individuals who can operate at peak efficiency and produce the highest quality results without wasting time. To succeed in this role requires state-of-the-art development tools that provide the best and most flexible framework to implement your finest ideas. Rational was the first to introduce productivity-enhancing, role-based development tools, and has continued that leadership today with its totally revamped suite of Eclipse-based tools.
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Allan McNaughton, a veteran developer and long-time writer, is the principal at Technical Insight LLC, a firm specializing in the composition of high-technology white papers.