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IBM expanding its backing for Eclipse with the release of an open source application lifecycle management (ALM) platform serving its Rational tools.

IBM is today expected to throw open code to Jazz, a two-year internal IBM project geared towards improving collaboration between application development team members working in distributed environments.

IBM will kick-off its annual Rational users' conference in Orlando, Florida, releasing four Jazz incubator projects. These target authoring of stories in Agile development, team reporting for monitoring the health of projects, analysis of code in both development and deployment environments, and process authoring.

Also expected is an IBM Rational Team Concert beta, a Jazz portal for Agile developers in mid-to-large companies. Rational Team Concert provides the ability to communicate and edit code in real time to ClearCase and ClearQuest, according to IBM. It is planning a family of Team Concert offerings and extensions down the line.

The Jazz news will debut along with updates to Rational Portfolio Manager, Method Composer, ClearCase, ClearQuest, Build Forge and Requisite Pro. Also expected is Rational Asset Manager, a registry for development and design-time assets like code, patterns and tests that integrates with Eclipse.

But it is Jazz that promises to be the most interesting announcement in terms of implications for Rational and in IBM's attempt to differentiate its own Eclipse-based applications and services from those of partners and competitors.

Jazz means IBM is turning to the open source community to quickly add timely updates to Rational - it's notable that early outings target Agile, a methodology thriving thanks to Web 2.0 and which is finding favor with other ALM providers.

By opening Jazz, IBM incurs the long-term risk taht developers could use it not just to extend Rational, but to also build compelling, low-priced versions of Rational products such as ClearCase and ClearQuest. For years, IBM has pushed these as core to its ALM initiative against vendors like Borland. The logical conclusion to such a scenario is that IBM could be forced to re-consider the future of Rational tools.

Dave Locke, director of offerings for IBM Rational, told The Register that Jazz is not meant as a replacement for ClearCase and other Rational tools. But he added: "If, down the road, the community asks us to move, we'd consider that."

IBM is gambling that it can beat non-IBM Jazz offerings by supplying customers with the safety blanket of support for open source. However, it has yet to work out either pricing or the kinds of support package customers and developers can expect.

Picking through some careful marketing positioning, Locke called Jazz an "open commercial community" calling open source "unregulated and unsupported." "We could see variants that are unsupported, but what we learned from Eclipse is there are lots of people doing this and that with Eclipse customers really want to rely on supported products," Locke said.®

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