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March 4, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:54pm

TESTING TIMES AS SOFTWARE TESTING FIRMS JOSTLE FOR POSITION

By CBR Staff Writer

In CI No 3,108 we set the scene in the software testing tools industry. Computer Business Review highlighs four of the major players.

From its inception in 1991, SQA Inc has dominated the testing market for development tools such as PowerBuilder, Visual Basic and Delphi, where almost all of the resulting code runs on a Windows client. Despite being limited to Windows, growing up in that environment has given SQA a good advantage, since Windows programming was one of the first areas of software to embrace component-based development, with much of the resulting application – particularly the graphical interface – constructed by plugging together object modules. The level of testing required for an involved Visual Basic application on Windows 95 talking to distributed objects can be far greater than an old character-based application on, say, VMS. It was SQA’s strength in component-based testing that caught the eye of Unix programming and design tools powerhouse Rational Software Inc, which late last year agreed to buy SQA for $320m (CI No 3,043), more than 15 times SQA’s projected 1996 revenues of $21m. This means Rational’s testing tools portfolio is now looking well rounded. Alongside the SQA Suite of repository-based integrated test creation, management and load testing software, Rational has a Unix-oriented test tool, and last year it also took over Microsoft Visual Test products (CI No 3,013). With SQA, Rational will have a dominant market share in user interface testing tools. Next target is Oracle applications, with a version of the SQA tools suite for Oracle Developer/2000, and it is leading the charge to Internet/intranet software testing with object scripting capabilities, the recording of HTML and Java objects, ActiveX components and hyperlinks, testing of downloadable components or applets, and Web server load testing.

Mercury Rising

Like client-server, the Internet will also fuel the testing market, adding a new level of complexity but taking many steps backwards in terms of the maturity of the environment. Mercury Interactive Corp, the Israeli born but now US based software supplier, claims to have been the first into client-server testing tools in 1989. The early start has given it an enviable position: Moshe Egert, vice president of marketing, says if his company lost one percentage point of market share every year to 2000, he would be happy. After all, Mercury claims to have a 38% to 39% share of a business which is forecast to grow six-fold in four years. Chief executive Aryeh Finegold set the company on a course which led to the release of a succession of market leading products, the establishment of a US headquarters, and its flotation on the US Nasdaq stock market in 1993 as the only significant supplier of personal computer and client-server testing tools. By the time it went back for a further round of funding in 1995, raising $95m, it had a 40% market share and revenue of $40m, with 1996 revenue likely to be more than $50m. Mercury has added to its original portfolio of interface and load testing, and now has a comprehensive suite, branded under the name TestSuite Enterprise, covering database middleware, Web software stress testing, test planning and management. Mercury could perhaps be more accurately described as a ‘Microsoft’ applications tester. Its dramatic growth can be directly mapped to the growth of Windows and Windows NT as serious applications development environments. With Microsoft losing interest in providing testing software of its own, Mercury is poised to reap the rewards of the dramatic shift to NT. However, with competition in the test tools market now hotting up, Mercury’s TestSuite is considered by some analysts to be vulnerable, especially at the high end, where a number of newer rivals have products of greater technical sophistication. Mercury’s arch rival, and the other key player laying claim to leadership in the software testing tools market, is Pure Atria Corp, the company formed by the merger of Pure Software and Atria Software Inc in June last year (CI No 2,987). Pure, which was set up in 1991 and floated in 1995, initially sold Purify, a specialist tool used by programmers to test for Unix memory leaks, and over the past two years has been expanding into other testing areas, often by acquisition. Kicking off with the acquisition of Qualtrak, supplier of a quality assurance testing product, Pure went on to add Performix Inc for its Empower volume and load testing product, and then Atria for its ClearCase configuration management suite, in exchange for 55% of shares in the combined company. As a result, Pure Atria now has a market capitalization of $1.7bn, a customer base in excess of 4,000 users and more than 600 staff worldwide. It concentrates on multi-site support and development environments for more than 100 users. According to IDC, at the end of 1995, prior to the Atria merger, Pure accounted for 10% of the total software testing tools market. In 1996, that share is likely to have risen considerably, with revenue up 57% at $132.5m. For 1997, analysts are predicting growth of around 40%, although half its revenue is still derived from the Purify Unix error checking products, leading competitors to dismiss it as a niche vendor, without the most active software testing discipline, graphical interface testing. In November last year, Pure Atria addressed this by buying nine-month old graphical user interface testing specialist Integrity QA Software Inc for $43m (CI No 3,046). Its first interface testing tools are expected to ship later this year.

Segue testing in-situ

While the acquisition of Integrity plugs an important product gap for Pure Atria, it also takes the company deep into the territory of SQA, Mercury and Segue Software Inc. From a distance, Segue’s software family, QualityWorks, looks similar to rivals, but the company says it focuses on testing distributed applications in their working environment – an approach which entails testing the effect of a new piece of software on the programs with which it must interact. Unless you can test the entire application, end to end, and meet the approach of the business processes, you’re not really testing at all, says Gary Taube, vice president of marketing. Achieving this is not easy. While many rival programs operate primarily within the NT or mainstream Unix environments, Segue offers ‘programmable agents’ which can record the effect of new client-server software on, for example, IBM AS/400 or mainframe MVS programs, as well as those on Unix and NT. Segue’s term for its approach is ‘Day in a life’ testing, meaning it simulates all the possible effects of a new piece of software on a multi-vendor, multi-system, multi-application environment. The rapid growth of the company in the past three years supports the argument. Sales in 1993 were $3.4m. After nine months of this year, they had soared to $11.4m, enabling it to go for a public offering on Nasdaq, raising $23m, earmarked for building visibility and funding acquisitions.

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