Mercury pushes into apps mgmt.

FRAMINGHAM (09/25/2003) - Mercury Interactive Corp. last week unveiled a handful of products designed to help customers make better sense of how applications use infrastructure resources and to optimize that infrastructure to support the most important apps.

The company announced about a dozen products and upgrades into what it calls Optimization Centers: IT governance, quality, performance and business availability. Best known for its testing and tuning software and services, Mercury said last year it would expand its products to manage applications and compete with BMC Software Inc., Computer Associates International Inc. (CA), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and IBM Corp.

Among the announcements last week were:

-- Capacity Planning: software in the performance portfolio that can provide "what-if" analysis on infrastructure and software. The software can test existing network resources against the resources a new application requires, such as bandwidth, CPU on servers and response times on network devices. The collected metrics would help network managers make better investments and determine the cost-effectiveness of rolling out that application, Mercury says.

-- Customer Impact: new software in the business availability group that can determine the effect on customers when infrastructure or application performance degrades. The software provides visibility into the availability of applications and systems.

-- Performance Tuning: upgraded software in the quality category that includes the best practices for managing PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems applications.

"Mercury is way beyond its testing beginnings and is approaching managing applications from a higher viewpoint than the other guys," says Glenn O'Donnell, a research director at Meta Group Inc. "It is looking at applications from a service perspective, whereas the big guys [BMC, CA, HP and IBM] started out in infrastructure management and are still working up the stack."

Several of the company's new products can be attributed to a summertime buying spree. Mercury, with its US$22.5 million purchase of Performant in May, picked up performance testing and tuning technology for Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition applications. And with the $225 million Mercury put down for Kintana, the company now can incorporate Kintana's business service management technology into new software products such as Business Process Testing and Topaz Service Level Management.

The former will let business managers participate in the testing of new applications to ensure the business requirements are met, and the latter will in real time track infrastructure and application performance against pre-set service-level agreements, the company says.

While details vary, Mercury products generally use server software and distributed agents. Software agents are distributed throughout the network to collect performance and availability data from operating systems, network services, applications and end users. The server software houses the rules engine, which includes predefined settings and fixes for specific problems. The software comes with rules and data models that network managers can accept or customize. The application performance data can be viewed through a Web-based interface that lets network managers track specific metrics based on customer, service, events or other data.

Virginia Linick, vice president of IT at start-up AutoOne Insurance in Melville, New Jersey, says she saved the company about 10 months of work and $500,000 in getting their new operations up and running. AutoOne used application testing products from Mercury - and professional services for a speedy two-month implementation - to get about 30 Windows, 12 Sun Solaris Unix and two Linux servers up and running to support about 600 end users. The 12 Unix servers support AutoOne's core insurance system, which Linick says would have to have been tested manually without help from Mercury.

"We were looking to minimize our manual testing effort and quickly reload and run through new tests without reconfiguring the product. In start-up mode, time to market is critical," she says.

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