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IBM unveils new Rational test tools for SOA quality

New IBM Rational testing technology aims at end-to-end quality management of service-oriented architecture applications.

IBM is introducing two new Rational testing tools today as part of an SOA quality management portfolio including other Rational and Tivoli products to provide end-to-end quality management for service-oriented architecture applications.

Not only am I connecting to the business process, connecting to the requirements, I'm now connecting to actual coders to ensure what they're developing is as designed, as committed.
Dave Locke
Marketing DirectorIBM Rational

The new tools were designed for the maturing SOA market from the ground up and are not reconfigurations of existing Rational technology, insists Fillmore Bowen, IBM director of SOA marketing. IBM Rational designed the tools to meet the needs organizations doing increasingly complex composite applications with Web services, he said.

Among its estimated 3,000 customers doing SOA, IBM is seeing the need for testing that goes beyond what Bowen said were the old QA methods based on finding the number of errors per line of code. Big Blue is also responding to what requirements analysts say must be met if SOA is to mature, far beyond traditional user testing.

"ZapThink put quality management as one of their top 2007 focus items because they see that as SOA artifacts associated with services increase, there is a need to ensure that the services perform the business function they were designed for," Bowen said.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., agrees that IBM is on the right track with today's announcement, which puts IBM in a strong competitive position with testing vendors including Hewlett-Packard Corp.

"IBM has really knocked this one out of the park," the analyst said. "The full service lifecycle story is right on the mark and the combination Rational, Tivoli and professional services offerings position them as a formidable competitor to HP."

The only problem Bloomberg sees for the IBM approach is that traditional Rational users may not be ready for SOA testing.

"Because the Rational installed base is primarily traditional app dev, IBM has to be careful that their SOA story isn't too far ahead of their customers," Bloomberg said.

However, Dave Locke, a marketing director for IBM Rational, said the new tools are based on SOA standards and are not aimed exclusively at Rational users or WebSphere customers. Organizations doing standard based SOA development can use the new tools, he said, whether they are working in Java with a WebSphere competitor or with Microsoft .NET.

While the new IBM SOA quality management portfolio includes Tivoli and WebSphere software as well as consulting services, the two new Rational testing tools make it more than just repackaging of existing technology.

The first new tool, IBM Rational Tester for SOA Quality, provides functional testing for Web service-based applications, Bowen said.

The other new product, IBM Rational Performance Tester Extension for SOA Quality is designed for performance testing of Web service-based applications to ensure scalability. Both products will be available for purchase on March 27.

In additional, the new SOA QA portfolio includes enhancements to IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager. It features new dashboards and monitoring technology to measures the availability, performance and content of Web services in an SOA environment.

Rational's Locke said the two new tools integrated with the Tivoli product provide a range of testing needed to handle the complexity of SOA and make sure it is meeting the business needs that are the main value of the service-oriented approach.

"What's new is the ability to test on several different fronts," he said of the new portfolio. "One is being able to connect the business to the test results, meaning we can specifically read BPEL and create tests from that."

One of the problems the tester faces with SOA is determining what it is that needs to be tested, what the application is supposed to do and determine if it does what business people want it to do, Locke explained.

"A lot of times what testers have to do is reverse engineer what the requirements are going into the testing scenarios," he explained. "With the new tools you can actually leverage the requirements from the requirements management tool as well as the business process workflows that the line of business people defined in the Business Process Modeling (BPM) tool. You can actually read that in and create test scenarios from it."

For more information
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SOA melds design and runtime testing  

The scope of the quality management portfolio includes testing from the business user perspective back to checking on the developer coding the Web services, Locke said.

"There are two forms of testing that have to happen," he explained. "One is at the GUI level where I'm actually testing the application for defects. Second is you have a collection of components, you need to assure that those components work as promised. Not only am I connecting to the business process, connecting to the requirements, I'm now connecting to actual coders to ensure what they're developing is as designed, as committed."

The goal of end-to-end quality management is to make sure the SOA application actually works in the end.

"You want to avoid the user test model," Locke quipped. "We want to test a little earlier than that."

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