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IBM donates open source development framework to Eclipse

IBM will seed the proposed Eclipse project with a subset of the Rational Unified Process methodology and a tool set for using, adding and customizing processes

IBM announced yesterday it is donating a subset of the IBM Rational Unified Process (RUP) to the Eclipse Foundation and proposing a project to develop an open industry framework and ecosystem around software development. IBM's donation will include a foundation architecture with Web-based tools for engineering, sharing and reusing software development best practices.

According to Per Kroll, manager of methods for IBM Rational Software, one of the goals of the proposed project is to gain industrywide collaboration around software development best practices. He said IBM will seed the proposed project with "about 15% of the content in RUP -- 300,000 lines of code -- and tooling that allows you to capture the process, package it into chunks of content, distribute the process and put together best practices." Kroll said the donation represents a simplified version of RUP, making it "easy to get up to speed on. There are only six roles and about 200 pages of content, so people can wrap their heads around it. It captures the essence of RUP's approach to software development."

With a transparent open source process, if you do innovation you can capture that know-how and make it publicly available, and that will feed new innovation.
Per Kroll
Manager of MethodsIBM Rational Software

The RUP methodology takes an iterative approach to software development. Its roots go back to 1996 with the Rational Objectory Process. Renamed RUP in 1998, the methodology has an underlying object-oriented model, using Unified Modeling Language (UML).

Kroll said IBM is spending a lot of effort to make this an industrywide project. Joining IBM initially in this proposal are Capgemini, BearingPoint, Covansys, Number Six Software, Ivar Jacobson International, Armstrong Process Group, AmbySoft, Object Mentor and Bedarra Research Labs, as well as Unisys, NTT Comware, Sogeti, Wind River, Jaczone and the Object Management Group. Kroll said it typically takes one to two months for the Eclipse community to review and critique a proposal; once the proposal is accepted, IBM will donate the basic unified process.

"What we're enabling is meaningful collaboration around software best practices; what is produced by one organization can be leveraged and improved upon by another," Kroll said. "It will change the dynamics in the software process area. Today, we have a lot of different pockets; it encourages people to reinvent the wheel. With a transparent open source process, if you do innovation you can capture that know-how and make it publicly available, and that will feed new innovation. It will mature the software industry. We'll be better at testing, better at building secure applications, and so on."

IBM's proposal is a first in the open source arena, said Liz Barnett, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

"There's nothing like it in the open source community. IBM is giving both RUP content and also a tool set so you can use and customize those processes," she said. "Companies that don't have a tool set and want to use this as a starting base can start in the Eclipse environment. If you go back years, there were many consultants that partnered with Rational before it was bought by IBM. There's a lot of RUP out there anyway; this makes it accessible to people."

Barnett said it will be easy for third parties to add on to the framework. "They can use the open source tool and extend it with their own processes. So you don't need to start from scratch, and you can base it on a unified process."

An open source process framework can also help address a need in service-oriented architecture (SOA) development, Kroll said. "One of the glaring holes in SOA has been there is no process standard. With this effort, we're expecting to drive a de facto process framework that can express best practices around SOA."

Over the past year and a half or so, IBM has expanded RUP beyond the software development process, Kroll said, "to cover legacy evolution, package application development, as well as content around the business model, tying the business modeling to the identification services."

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These expansions include the RUP Plug-In for SOA V1.0, which integrates support for SOA and service-oriented solutions into the RUP framework. This plug-in will remain part of IBM's commercial offering, Kroll said.

If this open source process framework is successful, "it's good for IBM, and it grows the ecosystem," Kroll said. "There is tremendous value for current RUP users -- they get access to a broader ecosystem, and we can then focus the commercial team on what is of higher value to our customers, rather than on a core set of best practices we think the community can do a fantastic job evolving."

There is also potential benefit to the university community, and ultimately to IT shops, Barnett said. "A lot schools teach RUP in their courses, and now you can use an open environment. So kids can come to work knowing both the Eclipse environment and RUP. It's a good growth strategy for IT shops."

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