Rational deepens ties to IBM's mainframe business

IBM to announce Rational software aimed at modernizing applications running on Big Blue's flagship System Z mainframes

IBM on Wednesday is expected to announce a set of Rational software products for modernizing applications running on its flagship System Z mainframes.

Rational, which IBM bought in 2003, has been best known for its integrated development environment and testing tools, but has broadened its scope over time. The company's decision to push mainframe modernization under the Rational banner holds a certain significance, according to one analyst.

"This is one of the final steps in turning the Rational Corporation into a true unit of IBM," said Forrester Research senior analyst Jeffrey Hammond, a former Rational employee. "When you take mainframes and System Z into that environment, that's really entering IBM's history. That's the crown jewel."

The mainframe modernization announcements Wednesday are set to be the first in a series of releases over the next six months, said Rational's vice president of marketing, Scott Hebner.

IBM moved its modernization tooling, which had been spread around the company, under the Rational banner earlier this year. "The goal here is to integrate them into Rational's software life-cycle platform," Hebner said.

"We're hearing loud and clear from our customers that modernization is a huge priority," Hebner said. "You'll be hearing a drumbeat of these types of announcements over the next six months."

The products announced Wednesday are expected to include:

-- Rational Developer for System zv7.1, which provides a simplified development environment for programming mainframe applications. This consists of "somewhat of a repackaging of existing IBM technologies," Hebner said. "It is a new product, in that we haven't had a Rational developer for System Z before."

-- Rational Business Developer Extension v7.0, an update of a product released in April. Users can program against mainframes through IBM's highly abstracted Enterprise Generation Language, avoiding the need to learn traditional mainframe languages such as Cobol.

-- Rational Transformation Workbench v3.1. To be released in December, the product provides a conduit between mainframe applications and the business processes powered by them.

IBM also is to release updated Cobol and PL/I compilers, for integrating System Z applications with Web-oriented business processes and to help componentize Cobol and PL/I applications.

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