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Analysis: IBM Acquires a Green Hat

IBM Corp.’s recent acquisition of Green Hat Software Ltd. seems like a head-scratcher on a couple of levels, starting with the comparative obscurity of the acquisition -- Green Hat, a UK-based purveyor of software testing tools.

Big Blue’s latest buy invites head-scratching in at least one other respect, however. Nine years ago, IBM acquired one of the biggest and best-known names in the software development business, the former Rational Software Corp. Rational, too, marketed (and continues to market) a wide range of software testing technologies.

What does Green Hat bring to the table that IBM Rational doesn’t?

A good deal, IBM officials say, starting with its focus on testing for cloud, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and highly virtualized environments.

“Green Hat’s virtualization testing technology addresses the entire development lifecycle and helps accelerate the delivery of business-critical software at a lower cost to the business,” said IBM Rational General Manager Kristof Kloeckner, in a statement released just one week after Big Blue first announced -- and subsequently closed on -- the Green Hat deal.

In a “Technology Audit” published last year, Ovum Research analyst Rob Hailstone described Green Hat’s GH Tester as “the most comprehensive testing solution” in the SOA or cloud market. “Most SOA, BPM, and emerging cloud platforms offer limited testing functionality that might be adequate for early-stage deployments, but will not help the organization to prepare for a dynamic environment of end-to-end processes with constant change and heavy mission-critical workloads,” Hailstone wrote.

Industry veteran Paul Herzlich, a principal with Creative Intellect Consulting, acknowledges that Big Blue’s acquisition of Green Hat seems like a textbook headscratcher. After all, he points out, “[IBM] already has its own suite of Jazz-based IBM Rational tools covering test execution, test management and test lab management.” That being said, Herzlich argues, Green Hat focuses on an ill-served or neglected aspect of test automation.

“[T]he development world is embracing numerous ‘agile’ methodologies [and] the current generation of QA tools simply can‘t keep pace,” he maintains. “Agile processes require early testing and frequent, if not continuous, integration. Slavishly following the old V-model of testing is inefficient, and postponing serious QA until system testing is a recipe for usually unwelcome, often expensive surprises.”

GH Tester permits programmers to build a virtual test environment in which to simulate external interfaces or resources, along with conflicts, dependencies, and other potential monkey-wrenches. Although it’s possible to do this informally using VMWare or other virtual sandbox tools, and although many software development and testing tools provide some support for virtual sandboxing, GH Tester offers native support for cloud, SOA, or business process management (BPM) offerings from Software AG, TibCo Software, IBM, Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., SAP AG, and Progress Software.

“Think about the difference between provisioning a physical test environment with, for example, a full instance of SAP versus a simulator which mimics the traffic in a SAP instance. In essence, Green Hat‘s approach is lightweight, quick to provision, provides good control, is simple to reset and can be made to test error conditions easily,” explains Herzlich.

For this reason, Herzlich argues, Big Blue’s acquisition of Green Hat could well turn out to be a Very Big Deal. “Green Hat is a good acquisition for IBM, if for no other reason than it shows that IBM recognises that today‘s testing tool suites -- majoring, as they do, in test management and test execution -- look tired in an increasingly agile world and ineffectual in the face of the complexity storm raging out there,” he writes.

That said, Herzlich concludes, Big Blue’s quick closing on its acquisition of Green Hat belies a disappointingly long integration path.

“[T]he roadmap for integration is disappointingly long. The Green Hat software is already certified to interoperate with the Rational test suite,” he concludes. “For a company that promotes 'agile' so much, requiring a year from closing seems a long time to integrate with the Rational portfolio and to brand a release of Green Hat products as IBM.”

-- Stephen Swoyer
Contributing Editor, ESJ

Posted by Stephen Swoyer on 01/23/2012 at 11:53 AM