Using IBM Rational Jazz for the Development of Mechatronics

PLM & PDM research and analysis firm CPDA takes a close look at the use of IBM’s tools for systems development for advancing the union of software development into product development, also known as mechatronics.

Embedded systems have been growing in complexity for decades. Given their interactions with the physical world, they face inherent constraints in their reliance on host environments that are not traditional servers or PCs. Engineers rely increasingly on efficient tools and processes to manage these interactions and provide systems engineering solutions that regularly cross domain boundaries. These Mechatronic systems integrate the mechanical, electronic, and embedded software disciplines in a synergistic manner to create features and functions that were previously either impossible or, at minimum, too difficult or expensive to implement. This rising complexity drives the need for efficient and effective processes and tools.

As numerous end-users confirmed in interviews with Collaborative Product Development Associates (CPDA), IBM Rational tools solve many issues in systems development. Leading users from six different companies, who are leveraging IBM Rational solutions for the execution of embedded systems development, confirm the strength and potential for the platform. The attention to collaboration throughout the entire lifecycle establishes a key strength of the Rational tool suite—and especially for Rational Team Concert.

For integration and interaction between tools, the Jazz platform and the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) standards—when they are fully developed—will support framework solutions that forego the massive need today to duplicate data across the enterprise. Jazz is IBM Rational’s open enterprise platform for data integration and collaboration among tools. OSLC is a community effort to create standards-based definitions of interfaces to data leveraged throughout the software development lifecycle. We found the capability of Rational Team Concert, supported by the open integration of the Jazz platform and OSLC definitions, to be an impressive move in the right direction.

The in-depth discussions covered six companies that represent the telecommunications, industrial automation, aerospace and defense, and application development industries. Especially noteworthy discussions with a global telecommunications equipment provider, a major aerospace and defense component manufacturer, and a European electronics company are highlighted in this report. Through a combination of scorecard discussions and targeted interviews, CPDA assessed the usage of IBM Rational tools within each company.

Overall, the group concentrated on the eight areas outlined in the table below with the highest priority accorded to the first three:

Collaboration drives a common shared approach that gets diverse design groups to target the same objectives and rely on the same language. To achieve that goal, status tracking and data sharing must represent an automatic part of the collaborative process itself.

Process Support
Process Support, as provided out of the box with Team Concert minimizes the need for base tool customization. Since every company uses different processes to design, test, and implement embedded systems, this flexibility represents a major payoff.

Integration of data across multiple applications enables any team member to assess the context of their work by tracing any change, specification, or requirement back to its source. Based on the Jazz platform and Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC), the infrastructure links data sets supported by the individual tools, and avoids the duplication of data into a single, monolithic solution.

Requirements Management
Requirements Management benefits dramatically from the full integration with operations to identify the impact and criticality of proposed changes. Rational DOORS, a leader in requirements management for systems, and Rational Requirements Composer, a newer Jazz-based product, provide requirements solutions.

Modeling the system validates behavior and functionality early in the development cycle. Rational Rhapsody fully supports models that use Systems Modeling Language (SysML).

Testing of the system must confirm code functionality and performance. Rational Quality Manager supports the benefits of integration, monitoring, change control, and collaboration as the product builds on the Jazz platform.

Re-Use is promoted through search capabilities, which identify existing products with targeted functionality. The ability of the Rational suite to link requirements, designs, architecture, and testing elements greatly reduces the effort necessary to identify all re-usable data.

Configuration and Change Management
Configuration and Change Management present very different challenges for software development compared to mechanical or electronic efforts. Tremendous value can be gained by leveraging OSLC standards to manage content changes for cross-domain Mechatronic systems.

Overall, embedded systems development represents a highly complex effort requiring the proper alignment of iterative processes and integrated tool suites to be competitive in today’s market. Through the advantage of IBM Rational offerings, centered on Rational Team Concert, companies are able to perform full impact analysis, global work sharing, and detailed collaboration, all within a single environment built on the Jazz framework. Rational Team Concert, Rational Quality Manager, Rational Requirements Composer, and Rational Project Conductor—all based on the Jazz platform—strengthen the benefits of iterative development by fully supporting traceability and integration across all development activities. The Rational offerings clearly support frequent communication and collaboration across global teams, and distribution of ownership of work items. A low IT footprint and moderate implementation effort reinforces the value proposition for Rational Team Concert and the associated Rational offerings.

Issues do remain, however, with the lack of standards-based interfaces to incorporate PLM systems and other modeling and simulation packages, leaving gaps in the integration landscape. All companies interviewed reported disconnects between the software development environment and the product data management (PDM) and bill of material (BOM) environments. Large solution providers are encouraged to build OSLC-based connections to their tools, which will bridge these gaps. The largest hurdle relates to the transition from existing tools to new offerings, as this transition comes at a cost. With the increase in globally distributed workgroups, the benefits of collaboration should encourage companies to begin piloting collaborative tools suites with out-of-the-box functionality that was only available previously in the form of highly customized and expensive implementations.

This text was taken from the executive summary. The complete document is available for download from CPDA at:

Will Poirier

Will Poirier is Mechatronics Program Director for Collaborative Product Development Associates LLC (CPDA). He has 19 years of industry experience in test development, vehicle dynamics, chassis controls, and IT program, project, and requirements management. Prior to joining CPDA, Poirier led several IT projects at General Motors Information Systems & Services, where he specialized in requirements management and requirements visualization.