In my prior job at IBM, I was, on more than one occasion, reminded of the pains of dealing with software development tools. It seemed to be a constant battle to keep up with licenses, install critical fixes, and update to the latest version of whatever tool I happened to be using. Since I often worked on projects across multiple machines, I had to ensure that versions of the tool on different machines were reasonably close and that any code formatting settings were consistent across the different tool instances. On top of this, the tools were sometimes so CPU intensive that multitasking on the same machine running the tool was impossible.
All of the above pains were a direct function of the tools being installed on my local machine, so you can imagine my interest in a recent announcement by IBM signaling the launch of a pilot program offering Tools as a Service. The program, initially offered to students and faculty of selected universities, delivers hosted software development tools to developers. Users of the development tools do not install, maintain, or run the products on their local machine, instead they access them through a cloud maintained by IBM. The tools can be accessed from any machine with an internet connection, and a developer's sandbox is persisted across multiple sessions. The developer simply logs in, does work, and at some point saves his/her changes and logs out. The saved changes can be accessed at some point in the future from the same machine or an entirely different one.
This is exactly what I needed! Like many developers, I wanted to focus on writing code not maintaining a suite of tools. I for one hope this eventually extends beyond a pilot program and becomes a mainstream practice. You can read more about IBM's Tools as a Service initiative here.
Sandboxes in the cloud