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  1. Technology
August 20, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

From Software Futures, a sister publication

Indeed, as the above quote from the great US master of the malaprop, Yogi Berra, indicates, haven’t we heard this somewhere before? Our sister publication checked up on the makers of server testing product V-Test.

With the recent surprise merger between Pure Software and configuration management specialist Atria, plus Compuware’s swoop on small UK GUI client/server testing tool company Direct Technology, the temperature in the ASQ (Automated Software Quality) market is still rising. Perhaps the best index of real interest and awareness in testing/ASQ is the fact that the heavy hitters in the analyst community have started to seriously track the market at last. IDC, in a late 1995 report, predicts a compound annual growth rate of 71.3% in the five years between 1994 and 1999 for the GUI and client/server testing segment of this area alone (other tools, presumably character-based or mainframe, will grow by only 2.7%). The total testing tool market grew by 17% in 1994, with the GUI and client/server element doubling. The researchers think the entire market may be over $439m now, set to grow to $558m this year, $704 next, and $1.1bn by the end of the century. In revenue terms, Western Europe is set to grow from $121m in 1994 to $324m by 1999, but its market share will slip slightly as the US and other regions pick up, from nearly 35% to just over 30%. But to put all this activity in context, the undisputed number one testing tool qua testing tools are Witt and Abend-aid. Say what? Witt, from that small company called IBM, and Abend-aid from Compuware – and they are of course mainframe workhorse products. You have to get in quite a revenue elevator, going south, until you start hitting the client/server testing territory where some of the names we’ve been profiling these past few months start to appear on the names of the floors, for example, Mercury Interactive, Performix, SQA and Segue. Still, the market is clearly growing, and is being marked by some fairly rapid changes. Compuware made a fuss about signing up to distribute Mercury’s product, and a few months later it buys a competitor to fold into its own portfolio. No one predicted Reed Hastings of Pure putting the potent combination of testing and configuration management together so quickly, and we wonder where this leaves strategists at CM outfits like Intersolv thinking about ASQ. But for ASQ marketeers, there’s still a ways to go. How much will people be interested in [the testing] area? asks one user we spoke to recently. In the mainframe days, testing just never got talked about – it’s only with client/server and distributed systems that the issue has come to the fore, mainly through the need to deal with the challenge of event-driven programming. Behind that, less visible, was the load testing needs of Unix vendors trying to rack their newer architectures against the host-based transaction processing tin gods of yore.

How to effectively market testing

Software Futures has seen the phenomenon of how to effectively market testing through the lens of UK company Performance Software, which originally made its reputation in the DEC VAX market with its V-Test product line, in June of 1994. At that time, then marketing manager Mike Hudgell – who’d previously driven DEC’s Rdb business in Europe – told us about how important the US market was to Performance, that the company was swiftly moving out of reliance purely on Digital to Unix, had no client solution as yet, and seemed ill-prepared for client/server in general. In fact, we quoted consultant Steven Norman of Ovum, who gave the product a very high rating for VMS or Unix character-based scenarios but who saw it as weaker in netwired applications. Hudgell told us he was about to fix all that. Then, radio silence… and he left six months later for DEC financial software house Ross. Now he’s back in his old job, as of January this year, claiming the company, which stumbled, is locked and loaded. As part of its turnaround Performance’s VCs have brought on fresh management talent in the shape of Trevor Read, whose most recent leadership role was buying the UK operation of the Royal Bank of Canada’s IT operation and growing it to a $22m company, itself later acquired by SHL Systemhouse (now part of MCI). Read replaces the previous administration as the new chief executive of Performance Software. Hudgell reports that while the privately-held company, now 10 years old, made a loss around about the $450,000 mark for its last fiscal, its year (just closed) shows profitability, 25% revenue growth, all in its last three quarters, and revenue in the $9m range. The new messages: server-centric testing and testing solutions are what matters. In product terms, V-Test has always been strong on the volumetric – it can handle up to 32,000 individual terminal sessions. So it’s made sense for the company to stick to its knitting and do back-end stress and load integration stuff mostly, and at the client end partner with SQA, whose Team Test tool is integrated in the product.

Committed to OpenVMS

On the platform question it’s solved that by at last getting to Unixes including HP-UX and Solaris; it remains committed to OpenVMS but now on Alpha, and is working away at a Windows NT port. Commercially the company continues to split business between the US and the UK (its base is in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and it’s recruited John Finch as US boss from Atlanta’s SSI). Professional services now make up 30% of revenues and it’s moving into vertical markets, specifically targeting healthcare. Software Futures spoke to Eric Rocks, manager, QA at Mississauga, Ontario-based Financial Models, a 20-year old global provider of portfolio management software products for the investment industry. Users of its products include large corporations, banks, and governments. Rocks explained how the company had been using V-Test since 1993 under DEC VMS on the server side of its Alpha-based client/server environment, and additionally for some cross-platform testing under IBM’s AIX. This requirement was one of the factors in Financial Models selecting the tool in favor of some of the more PC-based offerings on the market (it is also a user of Mercury’s WinRunner at the client end of its client/server architecture). He says the company has been very satisfied with V-Test, citing the flexibility of its coding language and overall quality. We recently attended a quality conference and were surprised to find many other users of these kinds of tools aren’t very happy with them, he notes. Main areas of utility that Financial Models finds in V-Test are support for integration and regression testing between subsequent versions of its products. If he has any issues in terms of functionality, he is keen on the company delivering support for arrays in the next (version 5) of the coding language, and says there are a couple of things that aren’t intuitive at the coding level.

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What about Performance as a partner? I’d say they were very good. When I came on board I had a lot of issues and questions, which they were very patient about answering. We also had a problem with our configuration that they helped fix quickly. We haven’t heard a lot from them these past couple of months, but that’s because of the version 5 [ramp up]. Premier Solutions Ltd, an asset management software provider based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, originally bought V-Test four years ago to help benchmark a port of its multi-currency financial product lines from the Prime minicomputer platform to DEC VAX/VMS. However, explains the company’s manager for quality control, Howard Becker, and project leader John Shaw, its current main service is as an automated regression testing aid. Our products have 1,200 different activities and reports, says Becker. And in the financial community, quality and regression are very important, so this is financially mission-critical for us. The company has set up libraries of 750 tests scripts which are run on a monthly basis. During a release cycle these scripts are executed multiple times prior to the release being shipped. The V-Test project which took six man years of effort last year has paid off.

Ease of use

Both Shaw and Becker cite V-Test’s versatility as plus points for the tool, with Shaw adding that its ease of use meant training for himself and his team was not time consuming. Premier is satisfied with Performance as a software partner, though in functionality terms Becker would appreciate it if a Windows point-and-click testing solution was available soon. This is currently provided by Performance partnering with companies like SQA, and while Becker wishes he did not have to pay a separate license fee for such a product, he believes Performance working together with SQA is a smart move. But does it matter that the company is a relatively obscure player in the US? We’ve always dealt with the local office, but when we have had a support issue there’s never been more than a 24-hour turnaround time. There has never been any issue that Performance Software is a British-based company, states Becker. Companies that get hairy-chested about their plans, screw up, then come back and try again are plainly up for teasing. However, Performance has always had a strong technology story, but it’s that old saw: Europeans can make software, they can’t sell it. Don’t be too surprised if the company gets acquired, given the current climate, but with the current boom in ASQ they may well make it all the way to IPO. Anyhow – servers, too, are once again hip!

By Gary Flood

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