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IBM R&D Labs in Israel

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Keeping up with today's challenges in application development

By Gabi Zodik, MobileFirst Leader for Research and Research Relationship Manager for Rational

Today, developing applications for businesses means increased agility, new skill sets, distributed teams, and more complex engineering methods. Keeping pace with new trends such as mobile, big data analytics, and the growing move towards cloud-based systems has brought new and more challenging issues to the forefront of application development.

Developing applications for mobile devices involves dealing with a plethora of platforms, devices, operating systems, and form factors. All these need to be secure and connect to the enterprise back end systems. Beyond the challenges inherent to mobile applications, the adoption of 'bring your own device to work' has introduced new management and security issues. My laptop is owned and managed by IBM but my smartphone belongs to me. How do we secure a personal device? Innovative mobile platforms from IBM Research are helping developers address these problems and ease the way for mobile transformation in the enterprise.

A new avenue for tackling some of the challenges associated with cloud computing is known as DevOps – a software development method that focuses on streamlining the deployment process, via a more formal communication between the development and operation teams. With the 'old way' of doing thing, developers would create the software and the operations experts would deploy it. But operation teams really need details on how the software should be deployed—to decide what kind of hardware it will run on, and under what conditions—in order to design correctly and prevent bugs during initial deployment. DevOps streamlines the handover process by ensuring that developers and operations people work together to include a description of how the applications will run and on what machines. Researchers from IBM are helping our clients provide a more formal, consistent description of the deployment, together with tools from the recently acquired UrbanCode.

The devops challenge is also impacting complex system engineering systems. This is especially true in the aerospace and defense sectors where it's vital that designs take into account the costs of running and maintaining the system during its entire lifecycle. Say, for example, a company is building a plane. Ideally, engineers should take into account the costs for maintenance and development of this plane over the next 10 years, and incorporate it during design. Using this methodology, we can take information from the design team and provide it to the operations experts so they are better informed and better equipped to maintain, repair, and use the system most efficiently.

Another challenge being addressed by IBM researchers is how to help managers and project leaders identify potential problems before they occur. For example, new tools being developed will alert leaders about issues that are likely to cause delays and prevent the project from progressing as planned. The new tools analyze the results of agile development and use the insight gained to can help discover potential problems and eliminate them before damage is done.

Another fascinating trend is the slow but steady move towards smarter infrastructure. More of our systems are now both digital and physical. Take, for example, a submarine, which includes both physical and digital elements. Ideally, engineers should be able to simulate and test the design – and how all the elements work together – early on. The same holds true for cars and other complex systems. IBM researchers are developing new ways to carry out hybrid simulation, combining the physical, digital, and mechanical elements. Our ultimate goal is to orchestrate this simulation and ensure that the basic elements of the design work correctly – even before building the code that binds them all together.

IBM Research experts will introduce new solutions for these challenges and more during Research Day at Innovate 2013 on Sunday June 2. I invite you to join us for an exciting day of innovation and a peek into the future of application development.

Research Day at Innovate 2013 will also offer a panel discussion with the audience on emerging trends in software development and how they are affecting our industry—and us. Panelists Jerry Cuomo, Chet Murthy, Rodric Rabbah, Patrick Wagstrom and Steve Abrams are sure to bring a fascinating perspective to what's in store just over the horizon.


About IBM

As the biggest information technology, software and services company in the world, IBM has been helping organizations to renew themselves as a leader for over 100 years. IBM has been delivering technology solutions to meet the needs of customers from every sector, thus helping them to be successful in the changing world and market conditions.