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IBM Opens Up Jazz-Based Collaborative Development

IBM on Monday is making Beta 2 of its evolving software development collaboration tool broadly available from its Jazz.net site.

IBM's new Rational Team Concert Express aims to make it easier for development teams -- which are increasingly geographically dispersed-- to work together writing software and better track changes and contributions more efficiently.

The earlier June beta was available just to IBM customers, academicians and partners only; this release will be available to anyone who wants to kick the tires.

The end product will not be, strictly speaking, an open-source play. The final Concert Express product, to be available later this year, will be a commercial "for sale" product, says Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM's Rational group.

IBM will also offer Concert free to "qualified" open source projects for their use, he noted.

Contributors can "get in there and make changes to the code and add requirements, but the difference between this and Eclipse is this is still IBM intellectual property. There is no open source license for Jazz," Hebner said, although he did not rule out that eventuality. "We want other companies to adopt this, just like Eclipse."

The toolset can tie into IBM's DB2; open-source Derby and Oracle databases. And customers can choose to use Sametime or Jabber instant messaging.

Jazz itself, with roots in IBM Research, Rational and Lotus, is a set of tools and capabilities to help development team members better communicate and find relevant expertise in real time. As such it integrates "presence" and chat capabilities to enable a team member in one location with a question about one facet of their work to quickly locate an expert in the relevant area and locate that person online.

"The target audience is professionals in the software delivery business-- project managers, QA people, actual developers, security analysts -- anyone who may be working on a given software project," he said. Increasingly, large software projects are global affairs -- with many U.S. companies, for example, outsourcing chunks of their projects to teams in India, or other venues.

Hebner says more and more of the Jazz technologies will be infused into Rational's group development tools over time.

Much as J2EE capabilities found their way into the Lotus Domino franchise over time, Jazz perks will start showing up in the Rational toolsets. "You'll wake up one day and Build Forge, ClearCase, etc. will all be based on Jazz, and you'll be able to integrate them better then based on how you want them all to integrate -- not on how we think they should integrate," Hebner told Redmond Developer News.

"What Eclipse did five years ago was about integrating technologies at the desktop so they could work better with different tools. Jazz is the integrated server or the integrated hub for that, for the life cycle management at the back end," Hebner said.

Gail Murphy, professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia, is a fan. Jazz streamlines development, she said. For example, its "problem reports are integral with change sets. [Previously,] people have been trying to do some of this work by integrating separate repositories, using Bugzilla or Trac to your problem reports; in those cases the developer has to do something -- put the number in the log or tag it a certain way. Jazz automates all of that," she notes.

IBM is also opening up its Jazz.net site to non-partners. And continuing its embrace of "virtual worlds", it is working on a project to help preserve legacy development knowledge in a venue that suits younger programmers familiar with such venues as Second Life. Project Bluegrass offers users a virtual environment for chatting, collaborating and visualizing projects. Bluegrass will be demonstrated at the IBM Innovation Lab at LotusPhere later this month.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.

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