A Rational Approach to Sorting through Reusable Code

It's a no-brainer that reusable code and components make the lives ofdevelopers far less stressful and greatly increase the sophistication and powerof today's applications. But identifying the right components from vast andgrowing application-building libraries is another matter.

Rational Software unveiled a modeling toolkit and specification thatprovides a single, standard way to describe reusable assets. The product,Rational e-development Accelerators, supports the Reusable Asset Specification.The spec establishes a universal definition for a programming asset, theproblem it addresses, its metatags, and application rules. Rational Software isgoing to propose parts of the specification for adoption as a standard by theObject Management Group (OMG), company sources say.

Several application development heavyweights have joined RationalSoftware in supporting the standard, including Microsoft, IBM, andComponentSource. "I'm convinced that successful reuse is the key togreater productivity in our industry," says Andrew Watson, vice presidentand technical director at the OMG. "In due course, I hope to see a reuseframework like this adopted as an OMG specification to provide standardizationto the marketplace."

Rational Software says widespread adoption of the new specification wouldenable faster development and effective reuse, since developers would havegreater access to standards-based component solutions and advanced toolautomation. Plus, greater reuse of code could increase software quality byreducing the reliance on hand-crafted lifecycle artifacts, such as requirements,designs, code, and tests.

The tool and specification incorporate the Unified Modeling Language(UML), first published by the OMG in 1997 as an industry standard language forthe visual modeling of applications and systems. Using a UML-based approach,developers can employ reusable assets from Rational Software, its customers,and partners, as well as capture their own reusable assets and reapply them tosubsequent development projects. Rational Rose, a popular modeling tool, isalso based on UML.

Rational e-development Accelerators consist of three major components:reuse standards, reusable frameworks, and automation. Rational Software and itsindustry partners are creating the first set of practical reuse standards usingUML and UML profiles. Once an organization captures software assets in theReusable Asset Specification format, it will be able to catalogue and reusethese assets in new development projects.

Rational Software is also creating technology- and domain-specificframeworks that include reusable requirements, designs, implementations, andtests based on the Reusable Asset Specification. These reusable frameworks willinclude best practices information to provide guidance on how to integrate anddeploy the frameworks. Rational Software began delivering reusable frameworkswith the May 2000 release of Rational Suite, which supports applications builton the Microsoft WinDNA framework, as well as business-to-business e-marketapplications.

Rational Software is re-engineering its products to support automation,particularly harvesting, cataloging, and reusing software artifacts across thelifecycle, including requirements, design, implementation, and test assets.

In separate announcements, Rational Software unveiled version 4.1 ofClearCase, its software configuration management toolkit. Rational Softwaredisclosed that more features are now compatible with IBM's VisualAge for Java,including unified change management functions and improved help files.

The company also announced that its Rational Suite Performance Studio nowsupports testing of wireless applications, including those using the WirelessApplication Protocol.

Rational Software Corp., Cupertino, Calif.,www.rational.com
Object Management Group Inc., Needham, Mass., www.omg.org