First of all, the transition from WSAD to RAD was purely a naming one. WSAD was delivered prior to IBM's acquisition of Rational, and RAD 6.0 was simply the next version of "WSAD" released under the Rational brand. RAD is entitled as a free upgrade to all active WSAD customers; there is no new cost - describing the transition from WSAD to RAD as complex or costly is either uninformed, or intentionally misleading.
The plumbing that formed the core of both WSAD and RAD was donated by IBM to the eclipse WTP project, to provide a defacto standard interface that others could extend - meaning that any tool extensions will work correctly and naturally with RAD. MyEclipse uses this base, so the basic project structure is the same - but the vast majority of the components that form RAD are not part of WTP; they are only available in the IBM offerings. Those value add components and functional areas are where we're spending most of our time and energy on, and that's where the real benefit of RAD comes from.
That said, simply providing spec level support is not really a differentiator today; that's why we donated the code we did to WTP. The RAD value proposition is it's ability to improve the productivity of developers across the entire development life cycle. Some examples:
- Some other products provide simplistic support of UML, that requires iterative generation of java code, followed by import actions to keep the diagrams and code in sync. This round trip engineering approach was available back in Rational Rose, and is a long way from state of the art now. RAD provides much more than that - for example, we provide UML visualization, which allows you to view, edit, and update Java code using UML views. There's no separate model to get out of sync; you're editing the live code, but in UML.
- All modern IDEs include support for database interaction and definition, but RAD has the benefit of working with the DB2 developers to provide exceptional support (for all major databases); RAD includes graphical views of your data topology, a SQL scrapbook, impact analysis tools, the ability to write user-defined functions (UDFs) & stored procedures, and phenomenal support for embedded SQLJ.
- RAD has in-depth support for application profiling, analysis & testing; you can execute, monitor, and trace the flow and performance of your application, right out of the box.
Of course, we also have the benefit of working hand in hand with our IBM colleagues, to provide the very tightest integration with WebSphere. It's not hard to deploy an application to WebSphere Application Server, but only RAD includes copies of three versions of WAS, to simplify your unit testing on a "real" WebSphere server, at no additional cost. Because we actually embed the WAS server, we support both remote application deployment and local application deployment, which gives you better deployment performance because there's no copying of files necessary. RAD also includes complete support for WebSphere Portal Server, including creation wizards, views, and editors that enable you to develop, test, debug, and deploy portal and portlet applications.
When it comes to production application deployment, RAD includes an advanced Jython editor, designed to simplify the task of developing and testing WebSphere automation scripts. We also offer unique integration with the WebSphere admin console, allowing you to capture key actions in the admin console and turn them into the equivalent Jython script commands. Finally, there's an embedded Jython debugger, that will let you single step through the admin script, examine variable values, etc.
IBM remains strongly committed to RAD; the next version of RAD (7.5) has been available as an open beta since late last year; you can find more details here: http://webspherecommunity.blogspot.com/2007/11/rational-application-developer.html. As you'll see if you try this code, RAD 7.5 provides many compelling features that focus on developer efficiency such as JEE refactoring and quickfix operations, while offering enhanced integration with products from all IBM brands, but especially Rational, WebSphere, and DB2. As I said in my blog entry, I'm really pleased with the progress the team has made on RAD 7.5; even though this is just a beta, the code is great quality, the performance is good, and all early reports are extremely positive - come check it out!
WebSphere Tools & RAD Chief Architect