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IBM Rational unveils RAD tool

Like others, IBM’s Rational Software Division is coming back to a concept from an earlier computing era -- the Rapid Application Development, or RAD, tool. As enterprise Java skills remain in somewhat short supply, and as more Java projects get the go-ahead, tools such as these draw interest.

Big Blue is categorizing its new Rational Rapid Developer as “an architected rapid application development” environment or “ARAD.” The visual, model-driven development environment is designed to make life easier for developers working on Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) business applications, according to company representatives.

The new ARAD tool targets enterprise developers, enabling them to build applications that have a strong underlying architecture, reps said, and making it easier for them to build high-quality, standards-based applications that can scale.

Forrester analyst Liz Barnett sees the new tool as part of an ongoing trend to provide programmers with model-based development environments. “The trend is to insulate programmers from a lot of the technical underpinnings of the J2EE environment,” Barnett told Programmers Report. “The focus today is on model-based development, which has the potential to provide some real productivity gains.”

Ever-increasing time pressures and ever-present budgetary concerns have been driving software development toward tools that emphasize productivity, Barnett noted. “Managing costs and timing are absolutely critical today,” she said. “Tools like this are addressing those issues in a very direct way by automating the development of a lot of code.”

Widely seen as the first fruits of IBM’s recent purchase of Rational Software, the ARAD tool has actually been in development since before that acquisition, initially under the aegis of a Shelton, Conn.-based company called NeuVis Inc. NeuVis’s flagship product was a model-driven application development tool for creating agile, enterprise-class, n-tier applications that Rational felt complemented its existing product line. Rational acquired NeuVis in 2002.

“This [tool] has been in the works for a long time,” said Forrester’s Barnett, “both at NeuVis and at Rational. And it has been in the hands of beta testers for a while. I think it’s safe to say that it has been fully baked.”

IBM is pricing its new Rational Rapid Developer tool at $5,995 (U.S.) per user license.

IBM Rational also expanded its “Extended Development Experience” for testers and developers with a new product called IBM Rational XDE Tester, as well as with enhancements to IBM Rational XDE Developer. The big idea here is to provide developers with a “seamless design and development environment by tightly integrating the IBM Rational XDE product family into IBM WebSphere Studio, Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET,” allowing developers to work directly within their IDEs.

The Rational XDE Tester is a new test automation solution designed to provide functional testing of Java clients and Web-based applications. It is based on Eclipse and runs inside IBM WebSphere Studio 5.0 and Eclipse 2.0, according to company representatives.

Rational XDE Developer Plus (formerly called Rational XDE Professional Plus), has a new debugging capability called visual trace that is designed to allow users to see application runtime errors and create associated UML models. This edition of Rational XDE integrates with Rational PurifyPlus, IBM officials said, and allows developers to work in supported versions of Java, Visual C# and Visual Basic .NET.

The Rational Unified Process (RUP), a flexible software development process created by Rational, is intended to provide developers with customized yet consistent process guidance to development teams. IBM’s latest enhancements to RUP are designed to make it more configurable for a broader audience, according to the officials.

The Rational XDE Tester is available for $2,995 per user license, while Rational XDE Developer is $2,995 per user license. IBM Rational XDE Developer Plus is priced at $4,195 per user license, and versions of IBM Rational Suite v2003 start at $3,995 per node-locked license.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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