HP's new ALM service puts sticky notes in the cloud

HP's new application life-cycle management service aims to compete with sticky notes

Betting that it can help agile development teams finally rid themselves of messy hand-written sticky notes, Hewlett-Packard is launching a new hosted service focused on providing easily accessible application life-cycle management (ALM) capabilities from the cloud.

"We wanted to provide an easy way to mimic how agile teams work in person," said HP's Subbu Lyer, vice president for application products and strategy, describing the new Agile Manager service. The company has also launched an application performance monitoring service in beta, called Performance Anywhere.

These services are the first in a number of hosted offerings that HP plans to introduce, services that will cover a range of development and operational management functionality. The company is focusing on making the services easy to use and procure, said Matt Morgan, HP vice president of hybrid IT and cloud product marketing.

Agile development breaks traditional large-scale software development into smaller incremental steps, allowing business managers and potential users to review the software as it is being developed. "Agile is based on short, tight iterations," Morgan said. ALM has also caught the attention of Microsoft, which offers the Team Foundation Server and Team Foundation Service.

HP's ALM group, which grew out of the company's acquisition of Mercury Interactive in 2006, already has a number of products for software project management. The difference between HP's flagship ALM software and the newly launched Agile Manager is that the new service was "written for an agile environment," Morgan said.

"We're seeing agile development largely being embraced by project teams that may not necessarily have a classic IT structure," Morgan said. Agile teams tend to be self-forming, and have little in the way of IT support. With a cloud-based service, they can procure ALM support on a credit card. It also offers a neutral location for two or more organizations collaborating on a project.

Like other ALM software packages, Agile Manager can be used to define requirements, assign developers specific parts of a project, and collect and monitor metrics on the progress that each team or developer is making on the project.

Agile Manager was also designed to do away with sticky notes, which many agile development teams use to define requirements, Morgan said. The interface has a virtual sticky board, where requirements can be posted and linked to specific work groups. Unlike traditional sticky notes, HP's virtual sticky board can be seen by all members of a project team, regardless of their location.

HP's service can interface with most major source control and build management systems, so it can report on how much code has been submitted, and how successful the automated builds and tests were. It can also synchronize data with HP's in-house ALM software.

Agile Manager went through a two month beta period and goes live Monday. The service starts at US$39 per user per month, with a minimum three-month term.

HP's other new service, Performance Anywhere, monitors the performance of a network application from any end-user location. An organization might use the service to see how quickly its application is responding from a branch office, for example.

To monitor a network application, an organization first records all the typical steps of a user interaction with the system, such as an online transaction, or a log-in routine. Those steps are captured in a script, which then can be automatically executed from any location. When the script is run, HP's service will measure the time it takes for the program to execute the routine. The organization can also set metrics for minimum performance thresholds, so that administrators can be alerted whenever the application takes too long to respond.

Performance Anywhere can also provide additional troubleshooting information for applications running on either the Java Enterprise Edition or the Microsoft .Net platforms, using the diagnostic information provided by the platform. An administrator can send a detailed bug report of an application directly to the developers who manage the program. "You are able to triage an issue much faster," Lyer said.

Performance Anywhere will be offered as a full commercial service in March. Pricing has not been established yet.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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