Q&A: Rational targets IT compliance needs, GM says

Jazz project will integrate product portfolio, aid in audits, says Danny Sabbah

Danny Sabbah, a 32-year veteran of IBM, has overseen the company's Rational software unit since May 2005. In an interview with Computerworld this week, he spoke about the increasing pressure on development organizations to implement mechanisms that can trace activities throughout the software development life cycle. Without such capabilities, users could fail audits for compliance with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Sabbah, Rational's general manager, also discussed the unit's new Eclipse-based project, code-named Jazz, which aims to link the various components of the software development life cycle and will eventually become a framework for future Rational products.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

What is Rational doing to meet corporate demand for tools that can link disparate development tools and include portfolio management capabilities? There was an era for a while focusing around client/server computing, around individual developer productivity. Those are necessary conditions, but at the end of the day, they are not sufficient conditions.

If you start looking at the pressures on software development in terms of compliance and flexibility and its ability to integrate and be managed as a business process, in many organizations you find that it's a mess. Some people are just trying to survive. They are failing audits in financial organizations because they can't show that the requirements that came in from the business analysts were traced and documented all the way through the development to deployment or running of code. When you multiply those problems with a development team that is geographically distributed, those problems are even more intense.

We have been trying to revamp our product portfolio to strengthen it along the lines of governance, geographically distributed development and compliance so it is auditable. Then developers don't have to worry about that. They can let the tools deal with it.

What types of changes have you made to address these issues? We introduced a bunch of enhancements to things like RequisitePro [a requirements management tool] for things like compliance. We now have a workflow and a process that manages quality, as opposed to just doing the automation of testing. We're using our products together and continuing to put in integration across our portfolio and our existing capabilities so they work together for end-to-end life-cycle traceability and ease of development. The traceability allows you to draw a path across the entire development life cycle that satisfies audits.

What enhancements will you be making to your products? We have a demonstration project, called Jazz, that has been under way for 18 months, built by the same team that built Eclipse. It is focused on an integrated view of the life cycle of software and system development. It shows what you could do if you had a fully integrated life cycle. You could flow information from any particular change that you make in requirements or code construction or test cases. Using an underlying common view of development metadata, whenever a change is made, it flows through the entire life cycle, and anyone who needs to be notified is notified instantly. We're using that project as a design pattern for the evolution of our existing architecture.

When do you expect the Jazz capabilities to be added to other products? It will start to manifest benefits next year. We're trying to take the architecture we have built around a coherent view of collaboration and Web-centric clients and use that to unify all of our Web interfaces to all of our products. The Rational ClearCase [version control tool] and ClearQuest [defect-tracking tool] Web interfaces are being unified using this architecture.

The next time that you see us release [a version of Rational's suite of tools for development teams], we will be talking about how our experience with Jazz morphs even more capabilities in our products and the way we interface to construction and modeling tools. Every time we release something, we will talk about how we are moving closer to that [Jazz] vision.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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