Rational Adds Quality to Rapid App Development

Application development vendors are finally getting the idea. Rapid Application Development (RAD) for the Web means development right now, without losing quality along the line.

Microsoft’s Windows DNA has been highly publicized, but development companies that have their own expertise in the market, such as Rational Software Corp. (www.rational.com), are providing developers with tools for building solid applications that meet the Web's robust needs and streamlined timeline to development.

Rational announced the updates to Rational Suite 1.5 and Rational ClearCase 4.0. Both products will take advantage of Unified Change Management (UCM), a new workflow process that automates the software lifecycle from design, to development, to testing, and back again.

Eric Schurr, vice president of marketing and general manager of suite products at Rational, says developers are facing an "e-paradox": delivering applications at a higher quality while rolling out quicker, with no trade off on either end. Schurr says the answer is to deliver a set of tools that help developers track the development lifecycle, and provide services that will help them along the way.

In addition to UCM adoption, enhancements to the core of Rational Suite 1.5 include support for non-English operating systems, and tighter integration between Rational Rose and Rational RequisitePro using Rational's Integrated Use Case Management technology (IUCM). IUCM enables central management and shared access to use-case information for the entire development team to provide a common view of use-case artifacts, such as requirements documents and attributes, with complete traceability throughout the development lifecycle.

The four versions of Rational Suite -- AnalystStudio, DevelopmentStudio, TestStudio, and PerformanceStudio -- include their own enhancements, as well.

AnalystStudio is for the developer charged with defining application requirements before a project begins. Enhancements in version 1.5 include integration between ClearQuest, which is used to submit requests, and RequisitePro, which is used to create requirements. Associations are maintained between the two, providing an audit trail between enhancement requests, requirements, models, and test cases. Other upgrades include metrics reporting, improved scalability through support for Oracle and SQL Server databases, and a choice of using a Windows GUI or Web interface to Rational RequisitePro to access and modify requirements data.

DevelopmentStudio is for the developer who writes the application. New features include tighter integration with Microsoft Visual Studio to make it easier to generate Visual C++ or Microsoft Interface Definition Language (MIDL) code from Microsoft Active Template Library (ATL) objects. Also added was enhanced support for Java Development Kit 1.2 class libraries, enhanced integration between Rational Purify and Rational PureCoverage, and enhanced integration between Rational Rose and Rational ClearCase – which lets Rose support query options available from the ClearCase menu, thus providing improved version control and parallel development.

TestStudio is for the person who tests an application. Enhancements include support for IBM VisualAge for Java 3.0, an open Java extensibility API that facilitates full-object oriented recording and testing of custom and third-party Java class libraries; support for Microsoft Visual J++, Symantec Visual Café, and KL Group Java controls; support for testing Web applications in Netscape Navigator; and automated test generation capabilities for Java and C++ applications using the Rational Testfactory, an automated test generation tool.

PerformanceStudio is for testing applications that will be placed in large, advanced configurations. Enhancements include support for new standard and advanced editions of IBM WebSphere Application Server, IBM DB/2 Universal Database, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, ODBC, IP aliasing, and line-speed control -- which simulates Web users accessing the system at different modem speeds.

It's no coincidence that ClearCase 4.0 is being released in conjunction with Rational Suite 1.5. Improvements to the latest release of ClearCase take advantage of the new UCM technology, which makes changes to an application easy and quick.

By having the knowledge of what everyone involved with a project is doing, team leaders can balance the workload among individuals and recognize the gaps in production. Project members can also get an idea of how others are doing on the project through a universal access to common project information. They can also access group to-do lists, look up new requests that have been made, and see if any have been dropped.

ClearCase 4.0 allows multiple content authors to work in parallel on XML and HTML content, automatically reconcile changes, and then merge the two. A universal Web client allows team members to access the project with just a Web browser. The new version also provides tighter integration with Microsoft Visual InterDev and FrontPage for broader editing tools.

Most importantly, Schurr says, ClearCase supports parallel development so people can make changes to the same object, and, "When you put it back together, you want to know where the conflicts are and how to merge those changes together," Schurr explains. "ClearCase provides an invisible facility to ensure as people make changes they are synchronized to the end."