ALM Q&A: Micro Focus

Stuart McGill, Chief Technology Officer at Micro Focus, discusses the company's new direction and priorities.

Less than a year ago, Micro Focus was known as an ALM provider focused on legacy software improvement, including market-leading Cobol refactoring solutions. That was, until the U.K.-based company purchased both Borland Software and the quality tools business of Compuware. Nine months later, Micro Focus is beginning to roll out an evolved suite of products and services that reflect its broadened mission.

We posed questions to Micro Focus CTO Stuart McGill about the state of the company following the Borland and Compuware acquisitions, the increasing importance of mobile and cloud development, and trends developers can expect in the ALM space in the next year.

It's been nearly a year since Micro Focus shook up the ALM space with its acquisitions of Borland and the quality tools business at Compuware. Can you describe briefly where the effort to integrate and leverage those acquisitions stands today?
We have made great progress in bringing the acquisitions into the Micro Focus company. We are now one team working in global development centers focused on delivering the communicated roadmaps around our product lines. The first products from the new combined company are being rolled out to coincide with the Microsoft launch of Visual Studio 2010, with significant deliveries continuing through the year.

We have spent significant time to communicate our product plans with all our customers. Whereas it is our intent to combine products where they overlap, we believe it is just as important to ensure customers are supported with their current technologies, and then our challenge is to offer significant added value in new releases to earn the right to continue to work with customers into the future. As we start the rollout of these releases, we believe we are well placed to deliver on our commitments and to excite the market with our direction.

How does Micro Focus' background in application modernization dovetail with the technology brought in from Borland and Compuware?
The intent in creating the new Micro Focus company is to be able to offer customers the ability to transform their business by modernizing the enterprise applications that are critical to their operating model, delivering faster and with less risk than other approaches, and with a significant decrease in operating cost. Most significant IT projects involve ‘modernization' -- and any such project needs end-to-end tooling to ensure the most rapid and efficient delivery to the customer or user.

The new Micro Focus combines both the capability, understanding and experience to re-deploy existing IT software assets with the Application Lifecycle Management expertise from the acquisitions. We believe the combination of transformation improvement with application modernization and continuous improvement from application management brings unique value to the market.

How is Micro Focus executing against the Open ALM strategy that Borland had committed to? What role does ALM interoperability have in MicroFocus' story to dev shops?
We start from a different perspective. Borland announced an Open ALM framework, but then delivered products that only integrated with other Borland products. Micro Focus takes a different approach. Firstly, we believe we have to deliver best-of-breed components of the SDLC (software development lifecycle) -- customers do not want a suite of second-rate technologies no matter how well they integrate.

Therefore we have placed significant investment behind keeping our products lines around Caliber, Silk, etc. at the forefront on customer requirements. Next we believe Open ALM has to mean integrating with the existing frameworks that customers are using today -- Microsoft's VSTS for example. Therefore you will see our announcements about our support for the latest versions. Finally, we have to create an open framework that means that we can integrate our own product lines successfully, but that our customers can integrate any component that is important to them from any partner.

Our mantra is to leverage existing investments, to add significant value and deliver the business benefit for our customers. And we live and breathe this across our own technology portfolio.

So as you can see, we are committed to Open ALM, but our execution plan is significantly changed.

What products or solutions can we expect to see from Micro Focus over the next six months?
The first products are rolling out as we speak. DevPartner and SilkTest versions are available immediately for use alongside Visual Studio 2010. DevPartner is a very interesting proposition -- we believe that every programmer should have a copy alongside Visual Studio. We have focused on 2010 support and functionality, and at the same time introduced new pricing to make it appealing to the whole development community. In terms of helping performance and improving quality, it is a fantastic piece of technology.

New versions of Silk combining the best features of the QA and TestPartner lines are also being introduced, and new releases of Caliber are due later this year.

What does Micro Focus see as the two or three most important trends emerging in the ALM space for 2010-2011?
We have already touched on Open ALM, but a true integration across the SDLC is fundamental to the market.

The next trend is a move to address speed and quality of delivery, but focusing more energy and effort around the early stages of the SDLC. Requirements elicitation and management is becoming more significant as application development changes. There are two threads here. First, enterprises want to do more with existing investments -- retaining competitive advantage and keeping what already works. So there is less ‘new' new development and requirements are around what needs to happen to modernize the IT portfolio, while at the same time Web enabling.

Secondly, Web-based applications development is transitioning and moving to ‘mash-up' frameworks. Once again, taking advantage of what already exists, including open source, to deliver to customers faster. A critical part of this trend is ensuring that developers only produce what is really required -- what will be used. The drive to agile methodologies is critical is this. And requirements management becomes far more important in the constant prioritization that has to take place.

The final trend is the move to cloud. Yes, there is lots of hype. But yes, it really is going to happen. Development in the cloud will be a reality for most programmers over the next couple of years, with deployment following. Micro Focus is fully committed to moving into cloud as fast as possible, [that is] in weeks.

How has customer demand for ALM changed, given the economic pressures of the past three years? Are dev shops changing the way they assess, procure and deploy ALM tooling, and if so, how?
Yes, it has changed. Value has to be delivered. The business benefit of new tooling must be proven and met. This may make the purchasing process more rigorous but it leads to better decisions. Great technology should, and does, deliver better results. So this has actually benefited Micro Focus in many ways.

What impact (if any) is the rapid platform growth in the mobile/phone space having on the ALM space Micro Focus serves?
One of the key strengths of the Micro Focus product lines, and with Silk in particular, has been the breadth of support for mobile platforms. As mobile Internet applications become the norm, become larger and more sophisticated, we see demand increasing across other product areas. This is very significant in supporting new groups of developers across the ALM cycle.

Same question, but for cloud application development. What unique solutions or approaches might cloud development require from an ALM standpoint?
Some elements of cloud bring new capabilities to ALM. Performance testing of Web applications, for example. This has often been a challenge for many organizations with limited on-premises infrastructure available when needed. Normally only required for a few cycles, the elasticity of the cloud has huge benefits in this area. Using off-premises infrastructure to stress-test applications will improve quality and service levels for Web-based systems.

We are of the view that cloud represents a great platform to allow programmers to use an end-to-end development process with all the tooling when they need it, supporting the development of new applications for the Web, and for cloud deployment. Therefore ALM in the cloud will be a reality in the short term


About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.