IBM: Software SmorgasbordBy Baselinemag | Posted 2005-08-04 Email Print
IBM covers the waterfront like nobody else now that it's digested Rational, though customers see room for improvement in some tools.
Two years ago, IBM wolfed down Rational Software, a major provider of tools to manage the software development process. Rational has been comfortably digested, customers say, and now Big Blue offers the most generous spread of application development products in the business.
"IBM is right on, in terms of its strategy," says Sara Garrison, senior vice president of network and open systems at Visa USA, which uses several Rational products.
She adds, however, that IBM's grand visionof being able to tie the application development process into the broader life cycle of an information-technology projectisn't fully realized yet. Also, she says, Visa doesn't ever expect to rely on one vendor for everything; for example, the company occasionally uses Microsoft development software. "There will always be a need for us to wrap multiple tools from multiple vendors together," Garrison says.
Some customers say IBM was able to preserve the best of what Rational had to offer. "The transition from Rational to IBM was pretty seamless," says David Haas, lead information-technology methodologist at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a financial services company. "From my perspective, that was a good thing."
Tom Sawyer, software manager at Moog, a manufacturer of airplane parts, says IBM, with its greater resources, has improved technical support. "I had to train the tech support guys at Rational to understand where I was coming from," he says. "As part of IBM, they're more structured in their processes."
Not everyone believes the change has all been for the better. After IBM bought Rational, "the help desk went downhill," says Elizabeth Honig, application manager for drug company Novartis. Now, instead of being able to call one of Rational's engineers directly, she must call IBM's main technical support lineso it takes longer to get answers.
And some pieces of IBM's product lineup could be beefed up, customers say. Nandan Dasgupta, an e-business systems consultant in Wells Fargo's mortgage division, says neither IBM's nor Rational's Java development environments have been extremely strong, but that newer offerings, like Rational Software Architect, show promise. "IBM and Rational should come up with more tools to aid developers," Dasgupta says.
IBM operating results*
* Fiscal year ends Dec. 31; YTD reflects first six months
Source: Company reports
Total assets - $103.39B
Stockholders' - equity $30.13B
Cash and equivalents - $8.66B
Investments - $48.67B
Long-term debt - $17.58B
Short-term debt - $6.13B
Shares outstanding - 1.63B
Market value, 7/25 - $136.23B
**As of June 30, 2005, except as noted