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Analysts Find a Lot to Like in HP's Upgraded, Cross-Platform ALM 11 Suite

Hewlett Packard on Tuesday unveiled new and upgraded components for its Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) suite, including a new service virtualization solution, an ALM intelligence module and an upgrade of its Agile Accelerator project management tool.

The HP ALM suite is essentially a common platform for a group of integrated tools focused on managing core app lifecycle activities, from design through delivery and ops. The current version, HP ALM 11, includes tools for requirements management, functional and performance testing, developer management and defect management.

With Service Virtualization 1.0, HP adds the ability to create a virtual instance of a service for testing purposes. According to the company, using a simulated environment enhancse performance testing of composite applications and eliminates the need to build a redundant test environment, access production systems or recreate a proxy to mimic service behaviors.

"For people testing services, this is massive," said Dave West, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "The amount of time spent building false interfaces and creating environments is a big overhead for most developers. This [component] removes that step, replacing it with an automated solution. A huge help. And because software is increasingly going to be composite in nature, being able to virtualize those tests really helps."

Theresa Lanowitz, founder and principal analyst at market research firm Voke, calls this expansion of the HP ALM suite "one of the biggest announcements we've seen in the ALM space in a while." The new Application Lifecycle Intelligence (ALI) component in particular is a major advance, she says.

HP describes the new ALI component as "an enterprise-technology-agnostic solution that turns disparate data into actionable intelligence." The component is designed to provide a real-time view of changes made to source code from within the developers' favorite tool.

"HP has been a leader in [platform] neutrality when it comes to testing," she said. "With ALI, they're doing the same thing on the developer side. ALI allows developers to work in Java or .NET or with TFS or Clearcase -- wherever they want to work. If you look at ALM from a developer perspective, it's not about providing a new tool or platform, it's about embracing neutrality, and that's exactly what HP is doing."

"This is a big, big step," she added. "Most app lifecycle tools want to tie you to one platform or another. HP is offering something profoundly new and important to developers."

Lanowitz also agrees that the service-virtualization component is an important ALM innovation.

"The ability to virtualize the entire lifecycle, like HP is allowing here, is something the ALM space has needed for a long, long time," she said. "Having it built into a major app lifecycle solution like this is a very big plus."

HP also released Agile Accelerator 5.0, which comes with a new scheduling tool for viewing deliverables in development. HP says it provides "real-time visibility across the application life cycle for rapid response to changing business requirements."

HP is expanding its ALM suite in response to key trends in the marketplace, said Kelly Emo, director of product marketing in HP's enterprise software group.

"The pressure to deliver applications effectively has been building over the last few years," Emo said. "There's the push to get into the cloud, the rapid proliferation of composite application architecture, and a hockey-stick adoption of Agile methodologies. All of these pressures are hitting our customer base, and we've given them this platform with lots of additional capabilities that will make them more effective."

Lanowitz agrees with Emo's assessment, but would add the business need for modernization to that list.

"If you look at what businesses are doing, regardless of the vertical market, when they think about revenue generating activities, it always involves software of some type," she said. "Software is now the business, and it has to work, because it's now part of the brand promise. Essentially, solutions like HP ALM allow enterprises to recognize the business value of applications."

West is impressed with HP's continued investment in its ALM platform, and the strong focus here on integration that allows "the complex world of developer tools to be integrated into an ALM platform."

"HP really only started being very vocal about their ALM offering last November with ALM 11," he said. "Since then they continue to broaden their ALM platform, providing better integration, reporting, and project management—and they've doubled down on testing and service-based integration. HP are very strong in the areas of testing, and continue to be the market leader in that space. For many organizations who have invested in their testing and operations tools, ALM is a natural progression."

"There is a real fight between the big three of HP, Microsoft and IBM (and Serena) in the area of ALM," he added, "which is great for customers and the market in general. There are interesting times ahead"

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