Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My notes from the IBM Rational 5 year celebration

I quickly jotted down some notes during the speech and Q&A Grady Booch (the bearded guy, right) gave at the IBM Rational 5 year celebration. Enjoy!

Read the instructions, please!
First, an observation in advance. For this event, you had to dial a toll free number in order to get the audio stream. Clear instructions on how to do this, were provided in email. And yet, even when Grady has been up on the stage speaking for minutes already, people are still IMming about why they have no sound, where's the sound, has the speaker already begun, can anyone hear something, etcetera.. Huh? Why don't these people read the (very clear) instructions that were sent out by email??

Rational History
After Grady hit the stage, he relates how Rational was founded: in the 1970s, a group of air force guys thinks about starting computer hardware company, which, in 1981, they finally do. Today IBM Rational is about software, but in those days, the early eighties, Rational was about hardware which they mainly sold to the DoD. Their first machine wasn't cheap; it sold for 1 million dollars, Grady said towards the end of the presentation. To which he added: "We're much cheaper now"!

In the early 1990's, software started to play a role at Rational. They were working on Modeling, Rational Rose was developed, and Microsoft became an important partner, as did IBM. By the mid 1990's, Rational became a publicly traded company, and they made several aquisitions of other software companies. UML was created, and Windows became an important platform for Rational. At around 2001, Rational suffered from the dot com crash, but they were strong enough to survive, with 4000 employees and a yearly turnover of 1 billion dollars. At the end of 2002, IBM made an offer to acquire Rational for a cool 2.1 billion dollars. The deal was effectuated in february 2003: five years ago.

IBM and Rational
Grady tells about the powerful combination of IBM and Rational: IBM got access to markets they hadn't really had a presence in, and Rational got access to the enteprise market. Together, they have been innovative in so many ways, with regards to high end tooling and the tooling market. Grady sees a change here, from individual tooling to team oriented tooling, where geographically dispersed teams can still cooperate on development projects.

Here, Grady mentions Jazz and starts to talk about other virtual worlds. IBM owns several islands in Second Life, but is also in Active Worlds and working with Torque. "There are clear opportunities to do some really fascinating things".

Grady finishes with talking about his friends in IBM, Rational and those who left. "It's been an amazing ride." After that it's time for a Q&A session.

The first question: what will happen to Rational in the next 5 years?
Says Grady: IBM Rational has some very smart people who are thinking about that, in terms of 3 or 5 years from now. The Eclipse based Jazz is very important. It's the next generation team platform. The Torque based Bluegrass was a test for this kind of environment, which facilitates stuff like watercooler type interactions, that you don't have in other environments. Take for instance this event, by having it in a virtual environment, it extends my reach in a way that's very cost effective and it saves time. This can also be true for teams that work together!

Another question: what can companies with virtual world presences do to draw attention to their efforts?
Grady: Many companies came in Second Life, built this big box like buildings that contained very little in terms of digital verions of RL products, and then they wondered why no one came to visit them. You can compare it with the music industry, where record companies applied old business models to a new digital world. It didn't work. So what does work? Here, Grady tells about how IBM uses Second Life for internal trainings, for meetings with teams from Brazil or China, how he's using SL for customer meetings. It's not a storefront, it's a place to meet people. What the ultimate business value is or will be is hard to say, the technology it still new and not finished. For instance, if I move my head, my avatar doesn't move along automatically. But, Second Life has come a long way, and open sourcing the software undoubtedly helps drive development.

A third question: Grady, what Second Life features do you use when presenting?
Grady explains how he uses his breakdancing moves, as he's unable to do those in real life! But other than that, it's the voice and 3D audio that's very useful; as are the virtual boards used to present slides. Bluegrass also generated some interesting things in terms of tooling, but that's not here yet. There are other advantages as well: it's free, and voice really gives you the watercooler experience. Having virtual meetings also allows for the participants to multitask if the meeting isn't really interesting..

After a couple of more questions, the meeting was wrapped up.

It was interesting to listen to Grady. Getting the history lesson from someone who was actually there when it happened was nice as well. Given the audience, a bit more focus on current developments with Bluegrass and Jazz would have been interesting, though.

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