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IBM offers up best practices for software development

Posted by inet - 2005-10-13

Focusing on best practices in software development, IBM on Wednesday will propose donating a portion of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) to the open source Eclipse Foundation.
 
Roughly 15 percent of RUP content is to be offered to Eclipse in the form of HTML pages. Specifically, IBM will submit materials pertaining to basic guidance for software development.

To be contributed as part of an effort called Project Beacon, the RUP content will become known as the Eclipse Process Framework if the foundation accepts it. A vote is anticipated in a couple of months.

Approximately 500,000 developers have used RUP in software projects of varying sizes, according to IBM. The platform has been around for 20 years. RUP features methods and best practices for promoting quality and efficiency in software development. Factors such as who should be involved in a project as well as activities and artifacts are part of RUP.

"I characterize [RUP] as the de facto standard description of how to build software," said Roger Oberg, vice president for Rational products at IBM.

In addition to basic guidance, IBM's donation will feature tools for process configuration and authoring and a meta model for describing artifacts, actors, and activities in a development process.

"In RUP, we have an enormous amount of advice depending on the type of project you're doing." Oberg said.

"The purpose [of the contribution] is to allow the open source community to be the control point for the basic framework for development processes," he said.

An Eclipse official noted the contribution is in line with Eclipse goals. "This is a new project proposal that IBM's putting forth. It's about frameworks for building process tools, so it's in our mantra for making it as easy as possible to create software," said Ian Skerrett, director of marketing at Eclipse.

Content that is not part of the donation and that remains in IBM's jurisdiction includes enterprise distributed development guidance. IBM will continue to offer this commercially.

Sold for $395 plus ancillary services, RUP has been equipped with the Rational Process Workbench, which features tools for authoring and customizing.

The open source community has not had anything like RUP, said analyst Liz Barnett, a vice president at Forrester Research. "I think it's good for the industry."

IBM acknowledges that submitting part of RUP could take away some business from the company and that more RUP content could be contributed to Eclipse over time. The effort, however, is intended to help companies and software practitioners share best practices.

A lack of standards in core development activities such as requirements setting and analysis and design has increased overhead, requiring that organizations reproduce processes, plans, and compliance documents, IBM said. Best practices sometimes remain siloed within individual parts of an organization.

The donation is intended to advance an industry effort to share and automate best practices. If the RUP practices within Eclipse are widely adopted, development practices could be improved.

Other vendors will be able to build on top of the RUP practices through provision of commercial products, as IBM has done. A consortium of software vendors -- including Capgemini, BearingPoint, Unisys, Wind River and Object Management Group -- is joining IBM in the open source project.

"Part of this [donation] is that for developers, they can say that this is a widely [accepted] set of best practices anyway, so now we can use and extend it and third party developers can build on it as well," Barnett said.

"What remains to be seen is how many other people will contribute" to RUP, she said. The academic world is likely to use the open source RUP offerings, which means students will already be familiar with it upon graduation, she said.

IBM closed its Rational acquisition in February 2003.



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