IBM Opens Up Collaborative Development

IBM is set to open its much anticipated Jazz Project to the outside world today (June 11) at its annual Rational Software Development Conference in Orlando, Fla. Jazz is a roughly two-year-old internal project, a joint effort of IBM's Rational and Research divisions to build a scalable, extensible team-collaboration platform for seamlessly integrating tasks across the software lifecycle. With the official launch of the community portal, IBM hopes to foster an "open transparent approach to community development" that will improve team agility and collaboration.

The Jazz Project is open, but not open source. IBM is essentially opening the platform to its partner community and customers. Rational marketing director Dave Locke describes as an "open commercial community" designed to leverage the high intellectual bandwidth of an open source project to produce commercially viable software.

"We're going to show the source code, the bugs, the architecture -- the whole nine yards," Locke said. "The goal is to have a community approach driving the project forward, but to strike a balance between open source and commercial, to have a transparent software supply chain that will drive the evolution of standards and common components that will be incorporated in future IBM software releases."

The Web portal is designed to enable IBM partners and customers to collaborate with Big Blue and with each other. It provides input on requirements and bugs and ultimately contributes to the development of tools for geographically disbursed software teams.

"The interesting thing about collaboration technologies is that they are inherently strengthened by a collaborative development approach," said Melinda Ballou, program director of IDC's application life-cycle management group. "This approach sort of feeds on itself."

The Jazz Project is built on the Eclipse framework -- in more ways than one. It's the technology underlying the collaboration platform itself, but it was also IBM's experience developing and then open sourcing Eclipse that led to this open-commercial model.

"We learned a lot from Eclipse," Locke said. "It was a great project that has reshaped the industry. But the downside is, it's completely open, and a lot of customers want a commercially available product."

"Jazz is built on Eclipse, but it's completely new code," said Liz Barnett, principal analyst at EZ Insight. "It's the first really new product from IBM in a while. There's significantly new functionality here, and there's a lot of value added for partners who want to extend the platform."

To jump-start the collaborative development process on, IBM has posted an "incubator project" focused on defining requirements management in agile software development projects. IBM is encouraging the greater software development community to collaborate on this project, and bring forward commercial plug-ins.

IBM plans to unveil the first product developed on the Jazz platform at the Orlando developer event: IBM Rational Team Concert. Currently in beta, Team Concert is a collaborative portal designed to improve software-delivery-team productivity. The new software is optimized for agile development teams in mid- and large-size businesses, IBM said. In the future, the company expects to deliver a family of IBM Rational Team Concert offerings.

The company is also expected to show off upgraded version of several collaboration tools to go with the Jazz launch, including:

  • IBM Rational Portfolio Manager 7.1. The latest version of this project and portfolio management tool, now available, has a new AJAX-based Web interface designed to allow team members to manage their work, and submit time and expense reports. 
  • IBM Rational Asset Manager. This is new tool, available on June 29, is designed to provide visible intelligence into software assets and how they are consumed in a collaborative environment. 
  • IBM Rational ClearCase.7.01. The latest version of this venerable tool helps manage and control the assets needed when developing software, and helps clients isolate data based on the location of a user. 
  • A new plug-in focused on geographically distributed development for IBM Rational Method Composer 7.2.

"I think opening the Jazz Project to IBM's partner community is going to help drive both the quality and the acceptance of the platform more than if it had been kept in-house, which would have been the approach of most companies with something as strategic as Jazz is likely to be, and more than if it had been completely open," Ballou said. "It looks like a very exciting opportunity, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].