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IBM tools look to fill development cracks

New Rational tools are designed to draw on Tivoli management software to more quickly spot and communicate application glitches.

IBM's Rational tools division has detailed early products to come out of an initiative to improve communication among people involved in corporate software development.

At the Rational customer conference in Las Vegas, company executives on Monday displayed tools that will let companies more quickly pinpoint the source of application errors.

The new Rational tools draw on IBM's Tivoli systems management software to spot and report failures to software programmers.

Also at the conference, the former general manager and co-founder of Rational, Mike Devlin, officially retired, handing over his responsibilities to incoming general manager Danny Sabbah.

IBM debuted two new offerings designed to foster communication among software programmers, application testers and systems administrators who maintain applications in operation.

With the tools, called IBM Problem Resolution Toolkit for Rational Application Developer and IBM Performance Optimization Toolkit for Rational Performance Tester, a software programmer or application tester is supposed to be able to more quickly locate--and correct--glitches in code that cause application failure, according to IBM. A Tivoli program helps isolate problems and then reports that information in the same data format, directly into Rational tools.

"We'll continue to try to break down stove pipes between people," said Dave West, group manager for industry solutions at IBM Rational, who noted that the products are available now. "It's not about optimizing individual roles anymore--people can write code fast. What we need to do is optimize the collaboration between the different roles."

IBM rival Microsoft is planning later this year to release its own entrant into so-called application lifecycle tool suites, called Visual Studio Team System, which will have separate tools designed for different tasks. Borland Software, too, has taken a role-based approach to its development suite.

To improve communication between programmers and business managers who oversee development projects, IBM introduced a "portfolio management" product that it gained through the acquisition of Systemcorp last year.

With the project management application integrated with other Rational tools, managers can view the progress and costs of ongoing projects to make decisions on which jobs to prioritize, West said.