IBM is taking a more holistic approach to ensuring that the key elements in its vast software portfolio are well integrated into ‘stacks’ that solve the problems customers are most commonly tackling, Computer Business Review has learned.
Big Blue has been quietly working on what it calls Federated Integration Testing (FIT) since the start of the year, and has teams in place in several of its R&D centers around the world. Its Raleigh, California lab is the nerve center while its Hursley, UK and Shanghai labs are busy on the program too.
Mick Lickman, stack leader, IBM Federated Integration Testing (FIT) at Hursley said: FIT is different from the kind of integration testing done by each individual product development team in that we are thinking and acting like real customers.
While each individual product has a scenario testing team, we take it to the next level, putting the product together in real-world examples of what customers are typically trying to do with them, said Lickman.
Could these integrated stacks be productized? I would say possibly, Lickman said.
We’ve already put some of these stacks together on a single CD but today our customers for those are solution sales and services people in IBM, that use them to show customers what can be done, Lickman said. That’s not to say that at some point we would not externalize it.
Lickman said the FIT team is guided in the areas it works by IBM Global Services, as well as a number of chosen IBM customers. The stacks have direct customer interaction, so we are getting direct input into simplifying what can be very complex areas, said Lickman.
Lickman’s Hursley FIT team looks at stacks in services-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM); Raleigh handles secure portals, the J2EE core and IBM Service Management (ISM); and Shanghai does content management.
We also then look at stack-to-stack collaboration, looking at best practices integration between different product sets, Lickman explained.
He said that there is a feedback loop with the product development teams, too. So when the FIT team finds that one of its stacks could be improved with a change to the underlying products, a change request is lodged with the relevant product developers.
Having made 70 software acquisitions since 1993, IBM has a vast wealth of software products built using different technologies and various design criteria.
While the individual product teams can do their bit to harmonize development and standards support going forward, an over-arching group that has a view of real customer integration challenges and helps to ease those challenges is a welcome development.
When doing major BPM, collaboration or SOA projects, for instance, customers do not want to have to work out for themselves — or pay IBM services to tell them — how best to combine products from IBM’s Rational, Lotus, FileNet, Tivoli, Telelogic or other brands.
Today the FIT team is helping those services and pre-sales consultants to do just that; but externalizing the work of the FIT team to customers directly might make customers’ lives even more straight-forward, though it might equally leave IBM’s services arm a little less busy.